L-1 VISAS FOR MANAGERS, EXECUTIVES AND SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE WORKERS
Managers, executives and specialized knowledge workers who have been working for at least one year for a company overseas may be able to obtain temporary immigration status in the U.S. as an L-1 if their company transfers them to a branch or subsidiary already existing in the U.S., or if the executive or specialized knowledge worker is coming to the U.S. to establish a branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the parent overseas company.
Either the parent company must have majority stock ownership of the subsidiary in the U.S., or the overseas company and the U.S. company must have the same owners. In some cases where the overseas company has less than majority ownership, one may still qualify if one can show that the overseas company has control over the U.S. company.
The person seeking to come to the U. S. must be working in an executive or managerial capacity, or in a capacity involving specialized knowledge. Moreover, the individual must have worked in the foreign company as a manager, executive or specialized knowledge personnel for at least one year in the past three years.
To be considered a manager or executive, an individual must show that he or she has directed the organization, supervised and controlled the work of other supervisory employees and exercised discretion in day to day management. Alternatively, a manager or executive may manage an essential function of the business rather than manage other employees. For example, an individual can qualify as a manager of a small enterprise if he or she manages the business marketing or sales. It has become much more difficult for foreign businesspersons to obtain L-1A status, especially for those with small companies and few employees.
Specialized knowledge workers include those with special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or who have an advanced knowledge of the processes and procedures of the company. He or she must have an advanced level of expertise of the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, and management, which knowledge is not available in the US labor market. It has become much more difficult to obtain L-1B status, and the employee’s job duties and special knowledge of the company’s products and procedures must be described in detail.
A manager or specialized knowledge worker of a foreign company may enter the United States to set up a branch office or a subsidiary in the U.S. When a new company is being established, an L-1 petition will only be approved for one year. The USCIS will look at whether the parent company is genuine, as well as the employee’s position in that company. At the end of the one year period, the company will have to show that it will be financially successful in order to obtain an extension for its employee. The company must have enough business to support a manager or executive.
The maximum period of time an executive or manager may remain in L-1 status is seven years. The maximum period of time for a specialized knowledge employee is five years.
The US entity can apply for lawful permanent residency on behalf of its executive or manager. However, specialized knowledge employees cannot obtain permanent residency based on their transfer to the U.S. company. In order to obtain a green card based on their position, the U.S. company would have to sponsor them for labor certification.
Additionally, an employee will not be barred from temporary L-1 visa status by the filing of an immigrant visa petition.
Spouses and minor children of L-1 visa holders may enter the United States on L-2 visas. The spouse and children of an executive or manager may obtain permanent residency at the same time as the principal. Additionally, spouses of L visa-holders may now obtain work authorization.