L1A Visa –Transferring Specialized Managers & Executives to the USA
What you need to know about the L1A visa
If you are in a senior managerial or executive role and are planning to transfer to a US part of your company, you may be looking at the L-1A visa.
The L-1A category is for foreign national employees coming to the US to perform services in either a managerial or executive capacity, whereas the L-1B serves specialized knowledge professional capacity.
To be eligible for L1 status, a candidate must have been employed for one continuous year, from the three-year period preceding admission in L status, with a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the U.S. petitioner.
Key benefits of the L-1A visa
Under the L-1A visa, you will be permitted to continue to work for your current employer (petitioner) in either a US branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary.
Initial petitions are granted for three years if joining an established US operation, or for one year if the US company is newly-established.
L-1A visa holders may apply to extend their status in two-year increments, for up to a maximum of seven years.
In addition, it is also possible for L1 holders to apply for US permanent residence. A further benefit is that L1 visa holder dependents can join them and their spouse can apply for US work authorization.
Who qualifies as an L-1A specialized manager or executive?
To be eligible, you must have been employed with a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the US petitioner for a minimum one continuous year in the three years immediately prior to submitting your L1 petition.
Under L1 status, managerial capacity is defined as remit within the petitioning organization that includes:
- Managing the organization, or a department, subdivision, function or component of the organization.
- Supervising and controlling 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.
- Having the authority to carry out key personnel requirements such as to employ, dismiss.
- Operating at a senior level in respect of the function where other employees are directly supervised.
- Exercising discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
It will be important to take an objective assessment of whether the individual applicant meets these criteria. The petition will be tested thoroughly during the petitioning process. For example, a first line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity by virtue of the supervisor’s supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
Take professional advice on your circumstances to understand if you would meet the L1 criteria.
L1 executive classification requires the following responsibilities within the petitioning organization:
- Directing the management of the organization or a significant function or component of the organization.
- Establishing the goals and policies of the organization, or relevant function or component.
- Exercising broad reach in discretionary decision-making.
- Subject to general, ‘lite’ supervision or direction from higher level.
Job roles that meet the L-1A executive requirements are usually company executives, employees that sit on the board of directors or shareholders of the organization.
Filing your L1 Petition
The following, in addition to filing USCIS Form I-129, along with the Form I-129L supplement should be provided to demonstrate your eligibility for the L1 program:
- evidence that the petitioner and the organization which employed you or will employ you are qualifying organizations;
- evidence that the employee will be employed in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity;
- evidence that the employee will have one continuous year of full-time employment abroad with a qualifying organization within three years preceding the filing of the petition;
- evidence that the employee’s prior year of employment abroad was in a position that was managerial, executive, or involved specialized knowledge; and
- evidence that the employee’s prior education, training and employment qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States.
The L2 visa is available for the spouse and children under the age of 21 oof L1 visa holders. Spouses with L2 status are also permitted to apply for US work authorization (Employment Authorization Document, EAD).
Blanket L Applications
Employers who regularly send employees to the US on an intracompany transfer basis usually hold Blanket L Petition Approval.
In this case, the L1 visa regulations allow U.S. petitioners who frequently use the L1 visa category for intracompany transfers to apply for and obtain a Blanket L Petition Approval. The advantage of a Blanket L Petition Approval is that instead of waiting for a USCIS petition approval, L1 candidates can apply directly for the L visa stamp at a U.S. consulate.
Without Blanket L, a petitioning employer must file USCIS L1 petitions for their L1 candidates.
L-1A to EB-1C Green Card
Whereas the L-1A is a non-immigrant visa (NIV), permitting temporary stay for specified permitted activities and duration, the EB-1C is an immigrant visa (IV), allowing the holder to remain in the US permanently.
The EB-1C category is an employment-based visa, aimed at multinational managers and executives who have already transferred to a US operation within a specialist managerial or executive role. L-1A visa holders generally have a high prospect of success with transfer to the EB-1C status.
EB-1C visas can only be applied for an individual basis; there is no blanket option unlike with the L-1A. There is no significant investment required to apply for the EB-1C, and no “conditional” green card period applies.
The qualification requirements are similar to those of the L-1A. Specifically, applicants must have been employed in the US as an executive or manager for at least one year with a sister, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the intended US employer.
The US operation must have been active for more than 12 months, and the overseas employer must make regular business transactions with the US and other countries.
The individual must have a job offer in the US in order to petition, although a valuable benefit is that EB-1C applications are exempt from the PERM Labor Certification.
Put briefly, the process of applying for EB-1C Green Card requires:
- Your employer files I-140 form
- Checking the Department of State visa bulletin for your priority date
- Filing for an adjustment of status or Consular processing to obtain legal permanent residency as soon as petition approved:
- Consular processing: applicants outside the US will be required to attend an interview at a local embassy.
- Adjusting your status: applicants in the US, file form I-485 with USCIS. Expect this to take 6 months. Note there is no option for premium processing.
There may be cases where an employer does not sponsor you for the EB-1C. You may have other options, such as the EB-1A for Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. Take professional advice on your circumstances to ensure you proceed with the most appropriate category for you.
On completion of the L-1A allowable period
If you opt not to apply for US permanent residence, you are required to leave the US on completion of the maximum L1 visa allowable period for at least one year before a new application can be made for L1 (or H) status.
NNU Immigration can help with your L-1A visa petition
The US immigration attorneys at NNU Immigration are specialists in the L1 visa scheme. We help employers and individuals, guiding through the petitioning process. We also support with successive petitions for extensions and change of status applications.
If you have a question about the L1-A visa, or any other US immigration related matter, please contact us for advice.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.