Global multinational corporations are constantly transferring their staff from abroad to their U.S. workplaces. Congress created the L1 visa to enable this transfer of personnel. To qualify for this visa, applicants must have been employed with the foreign branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliated company for at least one year within the past three years before applying for the L-1 visa. The applicant must be coming to the U.S. to continue providing services for this same employer.
One benefit to the L-1 program is that it permits large companies to apply for a “blanket” L-1, which avoids having to file individual applications for each employee it wishes to transfer to the U.S. With a blanket L-1, the employees can apply directly at the nearby U.S. consulate to obtain an L-1 visa stamp in his or her passport. Also, the L-1 visa can be used by foreign companies to transfer executives and owners to establish a branch office (‘new office”), regardless of company size.
There are two basic job capacities that an L-1 can work in, as a manager/executive or as a “specialized knowledge worker.”
An executive or managerial capacity requires a certain level of authority and an appropriate mix of job duties. Managers and executives primarily plan, organize, direct, and control an organization's major functions and work through other employees to achieve the organization's goals.
A specialized knowledge worker possesses a type of knowledge and advanced level of expertise that are different from the ordinary or usual in a particular field, process, or function. Knowledge which is widely held or related to common practices or techniques and which is readily available in the United States job market is not specialized for purposes of L classification.
The application for an L-1 visa must include information about the company and the foreign national employee. Information concerning the company will detail the nature of the business and the relationship it has with its U.S. affiliate company. Information regarding the employee will provide a job description and discuss how the position is either a manager, executive or specialized worker position.
Basic requirements for the L-1 visa are:
- There must be a qualifying relationship between the business entity in the United States and the foreign operation that employs the foreign national abroad.
- For the L-1 employee's entire stay in the United States, the company must continue to do business both in the United States and in at least one other country, either directly or through a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.
- The employee must have been employed abroad continuously by the foreign operation for the immediate prior year to the L-1 application.
- The employee's prior year of employment abroad must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. The prospective employment in the United States must also be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. However, the employee does not have to be transferred to the United States in the same capacity in which he or she was employed abroad. For example, a manager abroad could be transferred to the United States in a specialized knowledge capacity or vice versa.
- The company and the employee must have the intent for the employee to return abroad at the end of the authorized stay, unless the he or she becomes a permanent resident of the United States during the authorized stay.
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