The L-1 nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive, manager or specialized knowledge worker from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. This L-1 classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.
For foreign employers seeking to send executive or manager or an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States to be employed in a qualifying new office, the employer must show that:
- The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office ;
- The employee has been employed as an executive or manager or specialized knowledge employee for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and
- The employer has the financial ability to compensate the employee and begin doing business in the United States; or
- The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.
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 [periods spent in the United States in lawful status for a branch of the same employer or a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof and brief trips to the United States for business or pleasure shall not be interruptive of the one year of continuous employment abroad but such periods shall not be counted towards fulfillment of that requirement]; and
- Be seeking to enter the United States to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. Executive capacity specifically means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:
- Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
- Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
- Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
- Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
Managerial capacity generally refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others. Managerial capacity specifically means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily:
- Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees; or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
- Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised; if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
- Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity merely by virtue of the supervisor’s supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
Period of Stay
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.
L-2, Family of L-1 Workers
The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee.