L-1A/B – Intra-company Transferees
Companies which operate both in the U.S. and abroad may seek to transfer certain classes of employees from their foreign operations to their U.S. operations by petitioning for the employee to obtain L-1A or L‑1B status. The U.S. entity must be a parent, subsidiary, sister or other affiliated company of the foreign company. The employee must have worked for the foreign affiliate of the U.S. company outside the U.S. for at least 1 year out of the last 3 years in a managerial or executive role, or a position requiring specialized knowledge.
REQUIREMENTS FOR L-1 STATUS
Employers can sponsor two classes of employees for L-1 status:
Manager/Executives: The legal definition of management and executive roles for the purpose of the L-1 is quite specific. The executive or manager must have supervisory responsibility for professional staff or have management responsibilities over at least two levels of staff. Additionally, he or she must have hiring and firing authority. Legally, L-1s are also available for individuals who manage a key department or function of the employer. However, absent actual management of people, it is quite difficult to obtain an L-1 for a manager.
Individuals eligible for the L-1 as a manager or executive are issued L-1A status initially for a 3‑year period. The employer can then apply to extend that status and an individual can be in the U.S. in L-1A status for a maximum of 7 years.
It is important to note that a company abroad can apply for an L-1A for a manager or executive to open a new office where that company does not yet have an affiliate entity in the U.S. The requirements for a new office L-1 are more rigorous than those for a company with an established business in the U.S. The employer must present a detailed business plan demonstrating how it plans to grow the U.S. business. If approved, a new office L-1 is only granted for a single year after which the employer can apply to extend that status but must show how the business has grown since originally establishing the office.
Specialized knowledge staff: Employees with specific knowledge of a company’s products, services, research, systems, proprietary techniques, management or procedures may be eligible for L-1B status as an employee with specialized knowledge. The employee must not only have specialized knowledge but must have been working abroad in a position that required the specialized knowledge and be coming to work in the U.S. in a position that requires the specialized knowledge. Individuals who qualify for this category obtain L-1B status, initially for 3 years. The employer can then apply to extend that status for 2 years and the employee can be in the U.S. in L-1B status for a maximum of 5 years.
L-1 APPLICATION PROCESS
There are several processes through which employers can apply for an L-1A or L-1B for an employee.
Through petition: Employers can individually petition for qualifying employee abroad to obtain L-1A or L-1B status with USCIS. Upon approval, the employee abroad uses the approval notice to apply for the appropriate L-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate and uses the visa to travel to the U.S.
Canadian citizens are eligible to apply for their first L-1 directly at a U.S. port of entry (at the Canadian/U.S. border). The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) adjudicates the application and if approved allows the individual to enter the U.S. in L-1A or L-1B status, stamping the individual’s passport as such and creating an I‑94 entry document in the USCBP computer system. After entering the U.S. the individual can retrieve the I‑94 entry document. The USCBP official sends the petition to USCIS which then completes its own adjudication of the petition. Under the Trump administration, a new policy was implemented requiring that all applications for L-1 renewals for Canadian citizens be submitted via the petition process to the USCIS rather than presented at a U.S. port of entry.
BLANKET L: A UNIQUE PROCESS
Another option for larger employers is the blanket L. A U.S. company can apply for a blanket L if it has an office and has been actively doing business in the U.S. for at least a year, has at least three affiliated entities in the U.S. and abroad which are engaged commercial trade or services, and the company, together with its U.S. affiliates, meets one of the following requirements:
- has annual sales of $25 million,
- employs at least 1,000 people in the U.S., or
- Has received approval on at least ten petitions for L-1 petitions in the prior year.
The company submits a petition to USCIS with documentation to show that it meets specific requirements and can include as many subsidiaries as it desires in the blanket application. If approved, the USCIS issues a blanket L for 3 years. Upon renewing the blanket L, the subsequent approval is issued for an indefinite term.
The benefit of the blanket L is that in applying to transfer an individual employee, the requisite affiliation of the companies has already been determined. Once the blanket is in place the prospective intracompany transferee submits the appropriate documentation to a consular officer and applies for an L-1 visa. The employee will have to demonstrate that he or she:
- has been employed at an affiliate abroad for at least one of the last three years,
- in managerial or executive position, or a position requiring specialized knowledge, and
- is being transferred to the U.S. as a manager or executive, or an individual with specialized knowledge.
Note that only that for individuals with specialized knowledge, only degreed professionals are eligible for the L-1B under a blanket L.
Once the qualifying employee obtains an L-1A or L‑1B visa he or she uses that to travel to the U.S.
The advantage of the blanket L is that once the blanket is in place it is usually faster to transfer employees to the U.S. than through the individual petition process.
Processing times vary greatly depending on which type of process is being used. With a blanket in place, obviously the process is quicker since usually the only information needed is related to the employee and the employee makes an appointment at a consulate abroad. Waiting times for consular appointments vary widely and tend to be much longer in the summer or near the year-end holidays.
The time is takes to prepare initial individual petitions varies greatly because it depends on how quickly the employer and the individual gather information and documents and how thorough the information and documentation is. Once filed with the USCIS, the time for adjudication of an L-1 petition also varies greatly. At times USCIS turns them around quickly in a couple of months. At other times adjudication extends over many months. While premium processing is available for L-1 petitions filed with the USCIS, whether it is advisable will depend on the particular case. It is important to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of premium processing with your attorney since it is extremely common for the USCIS to issue requests for evidence on L-1 petitions which are filed with premium processing. This is particularly true for L-1B petitions.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE L-1
What are some advantages of L-1 status.?
One of the main advantages of the L-1 status is that spouses of those in L-1 status can enter in L-2 status and are then eligible to apply for an employment authorization document which allows them to work for any employer in the U.S.
Another advantage is that employees who worked as a manager or executive abroad and come to the U.S. on an L-1A to work as a manager or executive can apply for employment-based permanent residence as multinational managers which does not require a labor certification. As such, these employees can seek permanent residence through a two-step rather than a three-step process.
Can an L-1A or L-1B transfer to another employer?
In general, an individual with L‑1 status can only work for the U.S. employer who petitioned for him or her. However, another employer who also meets the affiliate requirements for the same family of companies may file an amended petition to transfer the employee to the new affiliated employer or apply to “transfer” the L-1A or L-1B petition for the employee to work for the affiliated entity. If an amended petition is filed, then the employee can start working at the new affiliated company once the amended petition is filed. Unlike the H-1B, there is no portability for those holding L-1 status and the employee cannot work for the new entity until the L-1 for the new entity is approved.
What is the Difference between L-1A and L-1B status?
L-1A status is for those coming to the U.S. to work as a manager or executive. The individual could have worked in a managerial or executive role for the foreign affiliate, or in a role requiring specialized knowledge.
L-1B status is for key employees with specialized knowledge of the company’s products or procedures. The individual must have worked for the foreign affiliate in a role requiring specialized knowledge and be coming to work for the U.S. entity in a role requiring specialized knowledge.