THE L-1B VISA: IN GENERAL
The L-1 visa program contains two main subcategories. The first, the L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated 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 foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States
The basic requirements for L-1B 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 possess the required specialized knowledge can present challenges to the applicant.
Unlike other visa programs which rely on the applicant’s education as proof of extraordinary skill or professional qualification. The L1-B visa program’s criteria rely primarily on the applicants training and functional knowledge of the employer’s business operations. According to Federal Regulations covering the L1-B program, specialized knowledge means “either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.” (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D)).
Because of reforms to the L1-B program, specialized knowledge visas will not be approved if the employee’s job description does not involve using their specialized knowledge as part of their employment. This type of situation can arise if (1) the employee will be principally controlled and supervised by the client, or (2) the work does not involve the provision of a product or service that requires specialized knowledge specific to the L-1 sponsoring employer. The reasons underlying this rule rest in the fact that the L1_b program provides a specific allotment of guest worker visas for individuals benefitting a multinational employer through a transfer of knowledge to the United States. If the transferring worker’s employment with the company does not provide for the use of this knowledge as part of his duties then the goal of the visa program is effectively negated.
Additionally, an individual applying for an L-1B specialty knowledge visa under a blanket L program must be a “professional” based on education qualification in that the occupation must require at least a bachelor’s degree in a particular field and the foreign national must hold such a degree (See 8 C.F.R. §214.2(l)(l)(i)(E)).
As a nonimmigrant visa program, an L-1B visa holder must intend to depart the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay. An initial L-1 visa may be granted for up to 3 year, with a petition connected to establishing a new office limited to 1 year. The initial authorized stay may be extended to a maximum of 5 years for L-1B “specialized knowledge” capacity workers.
Next: Learn the qualifications required for the L-1B Visa