THE L-1A VISA: IN GENERAL
The L-1 visa program contains two main subcategories. The first, the L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a multinational employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. The second category the L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States
The L-1A program centers on the job duties an guest worker holds within a company focusing on managerial or executive capacity, in that the employee being transferred must exercise a key position within the organization. The L1-A is often relied on in instances where a multinational company seeks to establish new offices within the U.S. In this scenario, a multinational company would use a manager or executive to spearhead new operations within the U.S., as such the L-1A visa would enable the expanding company to staff and manage its new offices appropriately.
The basic requirements for L-1A visa classification are:
- a qualifying relationship between a U.S. and foreign employer;
- both entities must be engaged in “doing business”;
- the transferring employee must have been employed abroad for one year; both the foreign employment and the proposed U.S. employment must be in a managerial or executive, capacity, and
- the employment in the U.S. employment must be temporary.
The question of whether an employee has served in a managerial or executive capacity can provide a number of pitfalls and traps.
An employee serving in executive capacity refers to the amount of authority over decision-making the employee possesses. According to this definition, an employee exercising “executive capacity” holds job duties involved with management, goals and policies and are able to exercise a wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and receives only general supervision or direction from superiors.
Managerial capacity primarily involves the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization, 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.
It is important to note here that the number of staff being managed by the transferring employee is not always a consideration; the USCIS adopts a flexible approach in that the number of staff being supervised is not the final consideration in approving a petition. New offices in which there are few staff temporarily will not generally be grounds for a denial, or situations in which the nature of operations requires a low staff to supervisor ratio.
As a nonimmigrant visa program, an L-1A visa holder must intend to depart the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay. An initial L-1A visa may be granted for up to 3 years, with a petition connected to establishing a new office limited to 1 year. The initial authorized stay may be extended to a maximum of 7 years for L-1A “managerial” or “executive” capacity workers.
Next: L-1A Visas: How to Qualify