The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one.
Initial period of stay in the United States: Up to 3 years (1 year for new office petitions). Extensions possible in up to 2 year increments. Maximum period of stay: 7 years for managers and executives; 5 years for specialized knowledge workers.
General Qualifications of the Employer and Employee
To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
- Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1. While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.
To qualify, the named employee must also:
- Generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States; and
- Be seeking to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Specialized knowledge means either:
- special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or
- an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
Qualifying relationship means organization abroad related to the U.S. organization as a “parent”, “branch”, “subsidiary”, or “affiliate”.
“Parent” means a firm, corporation, or other legal entity which has subsidiaries.
“Branch” means an operating division or office of the same organization housed in a different location.
“Subsidiary” means a firm, corporation, or other legal entity of which a parent owns, directly or indirectly, more than half of the entity and controls the entity; or owns, directly or indirectly, half of the entity and controls the entity; or owns, directly or indirectly, 50 percent of a 50-50 joint venture and has equal control and veto power over the entity; or owns, directly or indirectly, less than half of the entity, but in fact controls the entity.
- One of two subsidiaries both of which are owned and controlled by the same parent or individual, or
- One of two legal entities owned and controlled by the same group of individuals, each individual owning and controlling approximately the same share or proportion of each entity, or
- In the case of a partnership that is organized in the United States to provide accounting services along with managerial and/or consulting services and that markets its accounting services under an internationally recognized name under an agreement with a worldwide coordinating organization that is owned and controlled by the member accounting firms, a partnership (or similar organization) that is organized outside the United States to provide accounting services shall be considered to be an affiliate of the United States partnership if it markets its accounting services under the same internationally recognized name under the agreement with the worldwide coordinating organization of which the United States partnership is also a member.
L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004
The L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004 applies to all petitions filed on or after June 6, 2005, and is directed particularly to those filed on behalf of L-1B employees who will be stationed primarily at the worksite of an of an employer other than the petitioning employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent. In order for the employee to qualify for L-1B classification in this situation, the petitioning employer must show that:
- The employee will NOT be principally controlled or supervised by such an unaffiliated employer; and
- The work being provided by the employee is not considered to be labor for hire by such an unaffiliated employer.