Q. Who may obtain L–1 status?
A. L–1 status is available to a person who has worked abroad for one continuous year within the preceding three years in an executive or managerial capacity (L-1A) or as an employee with specialized knowledge (L-1B) and is being transferred temporarily to the US to work in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity for a parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch in the US.
Q. Who qualifies as an L–1A executive?
A. An executive is an employee who primarily:
- Directs the management of an 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 direction from more senior executives, the board of directors, or the organization’s shareholders.
Q. Who qualifies as an L–1A manager?
A. A manager is an employee who primarily:
- Manages the organization, or a department, sub–division, 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 where directly supervising one or more employees to hire and fire, or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization).
- Manages an essential function instead of supervising other employees and operates at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function being managed.
- Exercises discretion over the day–to–day operations of that function.
- Spends most of his or her time performing managerial or executive duties rather than producing a product or providing a service.
- Supervises professionals, if the beneficiary is a first–line supervisor.
Q. Who qualifies as an L-1B employee with specialized knowledge?
A. An employee can qualify as an L-1B employee with specialized knowledge if he or she:
- Has an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures or in the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its application in international markets.
- Specialized knowledge does not need to be proprietary or unique, but it must be advanced, “noteworthy” or “uncommon.” It should be different from that generally found in the particular industry or within the petitioning employer.
- Even though the legal requirement is that the beneficiary must have one year of experience with the foreign affiliate to obtain L–1 status, an employee with only one year of experience is unlikely to qualify for L status based on specialized knowledge.
Q. How do you file for L–1 status?
A. The employer must file an L–1 petition (Form I–129 and L Supplement) with the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Upon approval by the USCIS, the transferee, if outside the United States, may apply for an L–1 visa at a US Consulate. Certain large employers may obtain a “Blanket” L–1 petition. An approved blanket petition allows intracompany transferees to apply for the L–1 visa directly at a consulate, without first obtaining an approved individual L–1 petition from USCIS. In some circumstances, the employee may be able to change his or her status in the US without needing to travel abroad and seek a new visa stamp.
Q. What are the fees for filing an L–1 petition?
A. The USCIS filing fee is currently $460. Employers must also pay a $500 “Anti–Fraud Fee” for the initial petition filed on behalf of any particular employee. Petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the US with more than 50% of those employees in H-1B or L status must also pay an additional fee of $4500 for each L-1 petition filed.
Q. What documents does the USCIS require for the L–1 petition?
A. The basic documentation will always include:
- Documentation that establishes a qualifying corporate relationship exists between the foreign entity and the US petitioner.
- Documentation that establishes that the transferee was employed by the foreign entity in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity for at least one continuous year within the past three years.
- Documentation that establishes transferee will be employed in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity by a related company in the US.
Q. How long does this process take?
A. Although the USCIS is supposed to adjudicate L petitions in 30 days, it often takes far longer. Premium processing (for an additional $1225 filing fee) is available and ensures that within 15 days of the submission, the USCIS will either adjudicate the case (approve or deny the petition) or issue a request for evidence or a notice of intent to deny the petition. Upon approval of the L petition by the USCIS, the employee will seek a visa from a US consulate if the employee was not in the US when the petition was filed or was not eligible for a change of status. Obtaining an L visa at a US consulate can take a few days or several months depending upon the US consulate where the application is made and the country of citizenship of the applicant. Increased security checks are slowing down visa issuance around the world.
Q. How long may an individual remain in L–1 status?
A. A manager or executive may remain in the US for up to seven years. An employee with specialized knowledge may remain in the US for up to five years.
Q. Is there a certain salary that must be paid to an L–1 employee?
A. The regulations do not impose any specific salary requirements.
Q. May an L–1 employee be employed by more than one company in the US?
A. The employee may work for another company as long as the company has the required qualifying relationship with the prior overseas employer and each employing entity has obtained approved L–1 petitions on behalf of the particular employee.
Q. What is the immigration status of an L–1 employee’s family in the US?
A. A spouse and dependent children (unmarried children under the age of 21) of an L–1 employee are generally eligible for L–2 status. The spouse may obtain permission to work by filing the appropriate paperwork with the US Citizenship & Immigration Services, but the children may not.