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January 23, 2012


IMMIGRATION AND POLICY: The L-1 Visa Category: January 23, 2011 Posted by Norka M. Schell, Esq. The L nonimmigrant visa category is one of the most useful tools available to internati...

The L-1 Visa Category

January 23, 2011

Posted by Norka M. Schell, Esq.

The L nonimmigrant visa category is one of the most useful tools available to international companies needing to bring foreign employees to the United States.  If a few basic requirements can be met, many advantages exist to using the L category.

The L nonimmigrant visa category enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee who are in managerial or executive roles, and specialized knowledge personnel relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. It 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 questions then are: Is the employee to be transferred currently working in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity with the company abroad? Will he or she work in one of these capacity with your company in the United States?  

Which of the three capacities is to be filled by the employee in the United States is very important for two reasons:

(1) different limits on stay apply to executive and managers (seven years of    stay) and on specialized knowledge personnel (five years of stay); and

(2) managers and executives have a fast route to permanent residence, unavailable to specialized knowledge personnel, based on the creation of a new preference by the 1990 Act for L-1 types managers and executives.

With regard who qualifies as 'specialized knowledge" employee, the 1990 Act states that an alien is considered to be serving in a capacity involving specialized knowledge with respect to a company if the alien:

-- has a specialized knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets, or

-- has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.

An important note. If the U.S. company and the company abroad have no legal corporate relationship-one, it is not an L-1 situation.

Family members of the L-1, such as the spouse and minor unmarried children under the age of 21, are also entitled to admission in the United States. Once they are admitted, they receive a classification as L-2 status. The L-2 nonimmigrants can undertake courses of study in the U.S. and the spouses can apply and obtain employment authorization.