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. This classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States to help establish one. The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the employee.
General Qualifications of the Employer and Employee
To qualify for L-1 classification in this category, the employer must
Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad.
Also to qualify, the named employee must
Specialized knowledge means 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 expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D).) Such knowledge is beyond the ordinary and not commonplace within the industry or the petitioning organization. In other words, the employee must be more than simply skilled or familiar with the employer’s interests.
L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004
The L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004 applies to all petitions filed on or after June 6, 2005, and is directed particularly to those filed on behalf of L-1B employees who will be stationed primarily at the worksite of an unaffiliated employer. In order for the employee to qualify for L-1B classification in this situation, the petitioning employer must show that
For foreign employers who are seeking to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the United States in order to be employed in a qualifying new office, it must also be shown that
See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(3)(vi) for details.
Period of Stay
Qualified employees entering the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.
Family of L-1 Workers
The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission in L-2 nonimmigrant classification and, if approved, generally will be granted the same period of stay as the employee. If these family members are already in the United States and seeking change of status to or extension of stay in L-2 classification, they may apply collectively, with fee, on Form I-539. Spouses of L-1 workers may apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765 with fee. If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the L-2 spouse may work.
Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. In order to establish eligibility for blanket L certification, the employer
In order to qualify under the blanket petitioning process, the employee having specialized knowledge must also be a professional. See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(E).
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1B classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States quickly and with short notice without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. In most cases, once the blanket petition has been approved, the employer need only complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and send it abroad to the employee along with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other required evidence, so that he or she may present it to a consular officer.
Last updated: 05/19/2010