Who may obtain L-1 status?

The L-1 status is available to a person who has worked abroad for one continuous year within the preceding three years in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity and is being transferred temporarily to the U.S. to work in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity for a parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch in the U.S.

Who qualifies as an L-1A executive?

An executive is an employee who primarily:
1. Directs the management of an organization or a major component or function of the organization.
2. Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function.
3. Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making and receives only general direction from more senior executives, the board of directors or the organization’s shareholders.

Who qualifies as an L-1A manager?

A manager is an employee who primarily:
1. Manages the organization, or a department, sub-division, function, or component of the organization.
2. 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.
3. Has the authority where directly supervising one or more employees to hire and fire, or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization).
4. Manages an essential function instead of supervising other employees and operates at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function being managed.
5. Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of that function.
6. Spends most of his or her time performing managerial or executive duties rather than producing a product or providing a service.
7. Supervises professionals if a first-line supervisor.

Who qualifies as an employee with specialized knowledge?

An employee who possesses special knowledge of:
1. The organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management or other interests and its application in international markets.
2. Has advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.
3. The specialized or advanced knowledge possessed should be different from that generally found in the particular industry.
4. Specialized knowledge described in 1. above should be noteworthy or uncommon.
5. Specialized knowledge does not need to be proprietary or unique, but knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures must be advanced.

What is involved in applying for L-1 status?

The employer must file an L-1 petition (Form I-129 and L Supplement) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the transferee at the Service Center having jurisdiction over the place where the L-1 will work. Upon approval, the transferee, if outside the United States, may apply for an L-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate. Certain large employers may obtain a “Blanket” L-1 petition. This enables executives, managers and specialized knowledge professionals employed outside the United States by a qualifying organization to apply for the L-1 visa directly at a consulate, without first obtaining an approved individual L-1 petition from USCIS. Canadian citizens may apply at the border for admission to the United States as L nonimmigrants by filing an L-1 petition with the Immigration Inspector at the border or at Pre-Flight Inspection Unit at an international airport in Canada. A petition previously approved by a USCIS Service Center is not required for Canadian citizens.

What are the fees for filing an L-1 petition?

The USCIS filing fee is U.S. $460.

What documentation should be submitted in support of an L-1 petition?

The employer must document that a qualifying corporate relationship exists between the overseas company and the U.S. company, that the transferee was employed by the overseas company in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity for at least one continuous year within the past three years, and that the transferee will be employed in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity by a related company in the U.S.

Is there a certain salary that must be paid to an L-1 employee?

There is no specific required salary.

How long does this process take?

Regular processing with USCIS typically takes at least two months. Premium processing (for an additional $1225 fee) is available and processing is to be completed in 15 days or less. Also, the Premium Processing Unit may be contacted directly by phone and e-mail. Because of mandated security checks, obtaining an L visa at a U.S. Consulate can vary from as little as one day to months depending upon the U.S. Consulate where the application is made and the country of citizenship of the applicant.

How long may an individual remain in L-1 status?

A manager or executive may remain in the U.S. for up to seven years. A specialized knowledge employee may remain in the U.S. for up to five years. A specialized knowledge (L-1B) transferee who has held a managerial position in the U.S. for more than six months before the expiration of the five years may change to managerial (L-1A) status and obtain a further extension up to the seven year maximum. The initial approval is for up to three years (except for start up companies or new offices of overseas companies, for which first approval is limited to one year). Extensions are granted in increments of up to two years.

May an employee in L-1 status travel outside the U.S.?

Yes, an L-1 nonimmigrant employee may travel outside the U.S. if he or she is maintaining valid status and has a valid L-1 visa in his or her passport. If the employee does not have a valid L-1 visa, or his or her visa has expired, then the employee must obtain an L-1 visa abroad.

How may an individual in a valid L status obtain an L visa in his or her passport or renew an expired L visa?

An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved L petition wishing to apply for an L nonimmigrant visa must make an appointment and appear in person before a U.S. consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Most applicants apply in their home country. In certain instances, an individual may have his or her visa issued in Canada or Mexico, or in another country than his or her home country.

May an individual in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant visa status change to L-1 without leaving the U.S.?

Yes, if he or she is eligible for change of status and meets all of the criteria for L‑1 status.

What happens if an L-1 employee wants to switch employers?

 If the employee wants to switch to an employer which does not have the required qualifying relationship with his or her prior overseas employer, the employee must seek to qualify in some other nonimmigrant category, such as H-1B.

May an L-1 employee be employed by more than one company in the U.S.?

Yes, as long as all companies for which the employee will work have the required qualifying relationship with the prior overseas employer and each has obtained approved L-1 petitions on behalf of this employee.

What is the immigration status of an L-1 employee’s family in the U.S.?

A spouse and dependent children (unmarried children under the age of 21) of an L-1 employee are entitled to L-2 status. The spouse may work once he or she has obtained an employment authorization document, but the minor children may not.

May a spouse and/or dependent children in L-2 status obtain a Social Security Card(s)?

An L-2 spouse may apply for a Social Security Card by presenting either: (i) an employment authorization document issued by USCIS; or (ii) a marriage certificate and I-94 Arrival/Departure record showing current L-2 status. Other dependents may apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in some circumstances. This application is filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Is an individual with a pending or approved immigrant petition and an application to adjust status pending with USCIS eligible for L status?

Yes, an L nonimmigrant may have the dual intent of becoming an immigrant, if permitted to do so, and at the same time have a present intent to be an L nonimmigrant. He or she is not required to maintain a foreign residence abroad during his or her stay in the U.S. as an L nonimmigrant.