The L-1A visa is available to foreign nationals who have worked outside of the United States as a “manager” or “executive” for at least one year out of the past three years and who are coming to the United States to perform managerial or executive services for an affiliate of a United States company. The L-1B visa is available to foreign nationals who have worked outside of the United States in a position that requires "specialized knowledge" for at least one year out of the past three years and who are coming to the United States to work in a position for an affiliated United States employer that requires "specialized knowledge."
“Manager” 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
•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.
“Executive” 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
•Receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
"Specialized knowledge" means special knowledge of the company products and their application in international markets or an advanced level of knowledge of the processes and procedures and of the company.
•The overseas employer must be an “affiliate” of the United States employer
•The foreign national who will receive the L-1 must have worked for the overseas employer for at least a one year continuous year out of the past three years as a “manager,” “executive” or "specialized knowledge" employee
•The United States employer must do business in the United States and have an “affiliate” that does business abroad during the term of the L-1 visa
Period of Stay
The L-1A visa may be granted to managers and executives for an initial period of three years. Managers and executives may extend their visas for an additional three years. Specialized knowledge employees (L-1B) may extend their visas for an additional two years. The total period of stay allowed for an executive or manager is seven years. The total period of stay allowed for a specialized knowledge employee is five years. However, if the L-1 visa holder is only in the United States infrequently, the L-1 visa may be extended indefinitely. If the maximum permitted period of stay is used, reentry to the United States is only permitted after residing abroad for a one-year period.
New Office in the United States
The L-1 employee may also come to the United States to open a new affiliated entity. In this case, the L-1 visa is granted for a one-year period. The L-1 visa may be extended at the end of the one-year period if the new United States affiliate can be shown to be viable.
Large international organizations can obtain a "blanket" approval for L-1 visas to facilitate movement of key personnel within the organization. If the organization obtains "blanket" approval, only the employee must show his or her qualifications to obtain the L-1 visa.
Blanket Petition Qualifications
In order to qualify for blanket approval, the international organization must:
• perform commercial trade or services
• have a United States office that has been doing business for at least one year
• have at least three distinct related entities
• have at least one of the following:
> at least ten prior L-1 approvals
> sales in the United States totaling $25 million
> at least 1,000 employees in the United States
Spouses and minor unmarried children of the L-1 visa beneficiary may apply for an L-2 visa that allows them to accompany the L-1 visa beneficiary to the United States. L-2 visas should be issued for the same time period as the L-1 visa. An L-2 visa holder may apply for employment authorization to work in the United States and may study in the United States.
Special Note on Permanent Residence
Generally, the beneficiary of an L-1A visa will qualify to adjust status in the United States to permanent residence (obtain a "green card") if the United States employer gives them an offer for full-time, permanent employment.