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What is the L-1A?

L-1A is a nonimmigrant classification that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the U.S. or to establish a new office in the U.S.

What employer qualifies for L-1A?

The employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, meaning a parent, a subsidiary, a branch, an affiliate or a sister company; and 
  • Will be doing business in both the U.S. and at least one other country for the duration of the employee’s stay in the U.S. as an L-1.

Is there any difference between the L-1A granted to work for an established office in the U.S. and the L-1A granted to open a new office in the U.S.?

Yes. The L-1A employee who is sent to open a new office in the U.S. is allowed a maximum initial stay of one year only, whereas other L-1A employees are allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. 

What employee qualifies for L-1A?

An intracompany transferee executive or manager qualifies for L-1A. The employee must:

  • Have been working for the company abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately before admission to the U.S.; and
  • Will work in an executive or managerial capacity for the same company in the U.S.

What is an “executive” capacity?

An executive is someone who has a wide latitude to make decisions. For example, a Vice President of Finance or Director of Operations.

What is a “managerial” capacity?

There are two types of managers, people manager (meaning you have professional employees directly reported to you in the organizational chart) and functional manager (meaning that you do not have direct reports, but you manage a critical function for the company). You can qualify for the L-1A by being either a people manager or a functional manager. 

Do I need to perform the same work in the U.S. as abroad?

No. The L-1A depends on your position in the U.S. only. You must be offered either a managerial or executive role for the company in the U.S. to qualify for the L-1A.  You do not need to have been a manager or executive while employed for the company abroad. For example, you could potentially still qualify for the L-1A if you were a Software Engineer for the company abroad for at least one year, and are now offered a Software Manager (a managerial role) for the same company in the U.S.

What if my job title does not include manager or executive? 

The evaluation is based on your job duties, not necessarily your job title. Even though it may help if you have “manager” in your title, the government is supposed to review your actual job duties to evaluate whether you are in a manager or executive role. Depending on your job duties, you would potentially still qualify for the L-1A even if your title does not include manager or executive.

Is there a minimum degree requirement?

No. There is no education requirement for L-1A classification.

What is a blanket petition?

A blanket petition allows the employer to seek L-1A classification for multiple intracompany transferees quickly and eliminates the need for individual petitions. The blanket petition can list multiple qualifying organizations. 

How can an employer be eligible for a blanket L certification?

The employer must:

  • Engage in commercial trade or services;
  • Have an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for more than one year;
  • Have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals in the last 12 months;
    • Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

How do I apply for L-1A?

Individual L-1A petitions: If the employee is abroad, the employer should first file an L-1A petition for the employee with USCIS. Once approved, the employee may present the approval notice with supporting documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an L-1A visa stamp, following which he/she may seek admission into the U.S. in L-1A status. 

If the employee resides in the U.S., the employer should file a change-of-status L-1A petition for the employee with USCIS. 

Blanket L1-A Petition: If abroad, the employee may present the company’s blanket petition approval notice, a completed and employer-signed I-129S, and supporting documents at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an L-1A visa stamp, following which he/she may seek admission into the U.S. in L-1A status. 

Canadian citizens: Exempt from L-1 visa requirements, a Canadian citizen may present a completed and employer-signed L-1A petition, along with supporting documents and a blanket petition approval, if applicable, at the port of entry to seek initial admission in L-1A.

Is L-1A eligible for premium processing?

Yes. Premium processing is an expedited service which allows you to receive a final decision within 15 days of filing for eligible case types, unless a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is issued. L-1A petitions are eligible for premium processing. 

How long can I stay in the U.S. in L-1A status?

For initial entry, an L-1A employee can stay up to one year to open a new office in the U.S. or stay up to three years to work at an established office. Afterwards, all L-1A employees can request extension of stay in two-year increments, not exceeding seven years in total. 

Can I go to school in L-1A? 

Yes. You may attend school provided that it is incidental to your employment in the U.S. In other words, study cannot be your primary purpose for staying in the U.S.

Can I work for multiple employers in L-1A status or change employer?

No. You can only work for your L-1A employer in L-1A status. The L-1A is an intracompany transfer, and you must only work for the qualifying employer. For example, if you are in L-1A status sponsored by Google, you cannot work for a startup you just founded on the side. You cannot also change L-1A sponsor from Google to your startup.

What if I change to a different job but still work for the same employer in L-1A status?

If there is a material change in your role, such as significant changes to your job duties, your employer must file an L-1A “Amendment” to amend your job with the same employer. 

What if I am terminated in L-1A status?

If this happens, you have a 60-day grace period or until the end of your authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, to find a new job, change status, or depart the U.S.

Can I change from L-1A to O1 status?

Yes, you may file an O-1 change-of-status petition with USCIS. You dependents should seek to change status to O-3 by filing I-539 with USCIS.

Can my family join me in the U.S.?

Yes. Your spouse and unmarried children under age of 21 are eligible for L-2 nonimmigrant classification. They could either apply for L-2 at a U.S. embassy or consulate if abroad or file I-539 with USCIS for a change of status to L-2 if within the U.S. 

Can my dependents work or study in the U.S.?

Before April 2022, L-2 spouses could apply for work authorization once physically present in the U.S and begin work once the Employment Authorization Document is approved. As a result of a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit based on processing delays, starting in April 2022, L-2 spouses will benefit from automatic work authorization without needing an EAD, with some limitations. EADs will also automatically renew. There are no specific restrictions on how or where your spouse may work in the U.S. Both your spouse and children can go to school in the U.S.

Once I am admitted in L-1A status, does it mean that I am qualified for EB-1C multinational manager? 

Your L-1A status does not guarantee an EB-1C approval, as USCIS adopts a more stringent standard in adjudicating immigrant petitions. To be eligible for the L-1A, you must show that you were employed for the qualifying entity abroad for at least one year (employment did not need to have been as a manager or executive), and that you are now offered a managerial or executive role for the same company in the U.S. The EB-1C has a higher standard. To qualify for an EB-1C, both your employment abroad AND in the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive role. For example, someone who was a Software Engineer for the company abroad and is now a Software Manager for the company in the U.S. may qualify for the L-1A, but not necessarily the EB-1C. Please reach out to Legalpad for more information if you think you qualify for the EB-1C! 

Can I apply for a green card in L-1A status?

Yes. An L-1A nonimmigrant classification comes with dual intent, which allows you to be temporarily present in the U.S. with lawful status and have immigrant intent. If you have an immigrant petition, you may file an I-485 “green card” application when your priority date is current. You can still travel internationally while your green card application is pending.

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.