The L-1 visa allows companies that maintain both international offices and U.S. offices to transfer their executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge from offices that are located abroad to their U.S. locations. The L-1 is divided into the L-1A, which is reserved for managers and executives, and the L-1B, which is reserved for workers who possess specialized knowledge of the company’s operations, its services, and its products. To qualify for an L-1A visa, both the employee and the company must meet certain requirements. These can be complex, so you should consult an experienced immigration attorney to learn more about the process. At Midwest Green Card LLC, Spiro Nicolet has assisted many Wisconsin and foreign entities with pursuing L-1A visas.Requirements for the L-1A Visa
The basis of the L-1A visa is to facilitate intra-company transfers to allow businesses with a U.S. presence to grow and contribute to the national economy and workforce. Therefore, the domestic company and the foreign company must maintain one of the following business relationships: parent/subsidiary, branch, or affiliate.
A parent/subsidiary arrangement means that one of the companies owns at least 50% of the stock of the other company. A branch arrangement means that one company is operating an office of the same corporate organization but happens to be housed in a different geographical location. Finally, in an affiliate relationship, the same people own the same or similar amount of shares in two or more companies.
Once it is determined that the foreign company and the U.S. company are maintaining one of these qualifying relationships, the next step is to see whether the employee is eligible for the L-1A visa. He or she must have been employed by the foreign company outside the U.S. for at least one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding the application. The individual also must have been working for the foreign company as a manager or executive during that one continuous year.Qualifying as a Manager or Executive
When deciding if a person qualifies for the L-1A visa, the government doesn’t solely rely on job titles. Instead, it looks to the duties performed by the individual. Immigration regulations define a “manager” as a worker who performs the following duties:
- Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
- 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;
- Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions, such as promotion and leave authorization, if another employee or other employees are directly supervised;
- Functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed, if no other employee is directly supervised; and
- Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity merely by virtue of his or her supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
Similarly, USCIS looks to the duties performed by the worker to determine if someone qualifies as an executive for L-1A visa purposes. This is defined as a worker who directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization, establishes goals and policies, exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making, and receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.Options for L-1A Visa Holders
L-1A workers can reside in the U.S. for a maximum period of seven years. However, if the individual spends any time in the U.S. in H-1B status, that time is included in the seven-year maximum. Additionally, their spouses and children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 can accompany them to the U.S. as L-2 dependents. Importantly, unlike over dependent visa classifications, the L-2 allows spouses to obtain work authorization in the U.S.
The L-1A visa can also be used by a foreign company to transfer a manager or executive to the U.S. for the purpose of opening and beginning the operations of a new office. The employee and company must meet all of the aforementioned requirements as well as the additional requirement of documenting that the foreign company has already formed the new office and secured its physical premises.Consult a Wisconsin Attorney for Your Immigration Needs
Proving to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that an employee fits into the manager or executive description can be difficult. This often requires complex legal reasoning and thorough knowledge concerning the applicable regulations, guidance, and case law. Working with a skilled immigration lawyer can make the process smoother and maximize a Wisconsin company’s chances of securing an L-1A visa for a worker. Spiro Nicolet is experienced in these matters, and his qualified team of professionals at Midwest Green Card LLC is available to answer questions about L-1s or related visas. Call our office today at 773-562-6884, or set up a free consultation through our online form.