The L-1 visa category, which is designated for intra-company transferees, is divided into two categories, the L-1A visa category for multinational managers or executives, and the L-1B category for specialized knowledge personnel. To qualify for L-1 status, both L-1A and L-1B candidates must have been employed abroad by a foreign parent, branch or subsidiary of a U.S. corporation for a continuous period of at least one year of the preceding three years.
In order for a foreign national to obtain L-1 status, the candidate must be sponsored by a U.S. employer. With the exception of L-1 classification for Canadian citizens, the employer is required to file a petition with USCIS. Canadian citizens can file an L-1 petition directly at a Class A port of entry or U.S. preclearance/pre-flight station in Canada.
The USCIS filing fees for an initial/new L-1 petition total $825. (This includes a $500 fraud prevention and detection fee, which is not applicable to extensions filed by the same employer.) Under Public Law 111-230, employers are required to pay an additional $2,250 fee for each initial/new L-1 petition if: (1) the employer employs ≥ 50 individuals in the U.S.; (2) More than 50% of those employees are in H-1B or L status; and, (3) the petition is filed before October 1, 2014. Premium processing service is available for L-1 petitions. This requires an additional $1,225 filing fee and guarantees a 15 calendar day processing of the petition. Within 15 calendar days, USCIS will issue an approval notice, or if appropriate, a Request for Evidence. A request for premium processing service can be made either at the time of the initial filing or after the petition has been filed.
Certain employers are permitted to file L-1 petitions under a special fast-track program called the “Blanket L-1″program. In order to qualify for the L-1 Blanket program, an employer must satisfy four conditions: (1) The employer must have a U.S. office that has been doing business for at least one year; (2) The employer must have at least three foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates and satisfy specific common ownership and control requirements; (3) The employer must be engaged in commercial trade or services; and, (4) the employer must have at least $25 million in annual sales (individually or when combined with three foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates), 10 L-1 petitions approved within one year, or a minimum U.S. workforce of 1,000 employees.
To utilize the Blanket L-1 program, an L-1 employer must file an initial Blanket L petition with USCIS. Once an L-1 employer has filed an initial petition which has been approved, the employer can usually transfer its employees to the U.S. without filing a new petition for each employee. The employee must have been employed at an entity listed on the Blanket L petition. However, an employer can file an amended Blanket L petition to add new entities. The L-1 candidate can apply for an L-1 visa directly at the consulate.
Both L-1A and L-1B petitions may be approved for initial periods of up to three years and extended in two-year increments. L-1A employees are entitled to a total of seven years of stay in the U.S. L-1B employees are entitled to a total of five years.
Once an L-1 employee has exhausted his or her permissible period of stay, the employee must reside outside of the U.S. for one year before becoming eligible for a new period of L-1 stay. In calculating an L-1 employee’s time in L-1 status, only the time that the employee spent in the U.S. should be counted.
Special rules apply to L-1 employees who come to the U.S. to a open a new office, which is defined as an organization that has been doing business in the U.S. through a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary for less than one year. An L-1 petition for an employee who is coming to the U.S. to open a new office may be approved for an initial period of up to one year. To extend the L-1 employee’s stay, the employer must file a new petition with evidence that the new office has become an established business.
To qualify for L-1A classification as a multinational manager, the U.S. employer must employ the candidate in a “managerial capacity”. Managerial capacity is defined as an assignment in which the candidate:
To qualify for L-1A classification as a multinational executive, the U.S. employer must employ the candidate in an “executive capacity”. Executive capacity is defined as an assignment in which the candidate:
To qualify for L-1B classification as a “specialized knowledge”employee, the candidate must have job knowledge which is specific to the organization. Specialized knowledge is defined to include knowledge about a company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets. Specialized knowledge may also include an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the company’s processes and procedures.
The spouses and children of L-1 employees are eligible for a dependent visa, the L-2 visa. To obtain L-2 status, the dependent must either file an application with USCIS or apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. L-2 spouses, but not children, may apply for employment authorization.