The L-1 nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. It also allows a foreign company which does not have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of setting one up.
To qualify for L-1 classification, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, and currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country. Doing business means the “regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.”
To qualify, the 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 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. 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.
For foreign employers seeking to send an employee to the United States as an executive or manager to establish a new office, the employer must also show that: (1) The employer has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office; (2) The employee has been employed as an executive or manager for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition; and (3) The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition.
Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1 employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted for 2 year periods, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.
An L-1 visa recipient may be accompanied by his or her spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years, who may enter the United Stated as L-2 nonimmigrants and will generally be granted the same length of stay as the L-1 recipient.
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