L-1 visas enable multinational companies to temporarily transfer their managers and executives from their foreign companies to their U.S. operations. Due to the nuanced definitions and strict requirements, L-1 visas are traditionally complex and difficult applications. However, with proper evidence and well-structured arguments, L-1 visas serve as a tool for multinational companies to bring their best and most qualified employees to the United States. At Colombo & Hurd, our experienced Tampa L1 Visa Attorneys have extensive experience representing managers, executives and their employers obtain the L1 Visa.
General Requirements for the L1 Visa:
- The foreign entity and the United States entity must have a qualifying relationship (such as a branch, subsidiary, parent, or affiliate). The foreign company must also show that they control the U.S. operations either by the company owning at least 51% of the U.S. operations or by both entities having the same or similar ownership structure amongst them.
- The Beneficiary of the L-1 must have worked for the foreign operations for at least 1 year in the last 3 years in a managerial or executive capacity and must be coming to the United States to work in a managerial or executive capacity.
- Both the foreign entity and the U.S. entity must be in existence and operating. If the U.S. entity is a new office, the L-1 beneficiary will only receive one year on the visa and must show that the U.S. operations has hired employees and conducted business in order to obtain a renewal of the L-1.
Key Benefits of the L1 visa:
- Extended Validity: The L-1 is initially valid for up to 3 years and can be extended until a Beneficiary reaches a total of 7 years. If the company is opening a new office, the initial period of stay is for one year, with extensions that total up to 7 years.
- Ability to Live and Work in the United States along with spouse and unmarried children under 21
- Dual Intent Visa: A Beneficiary can have the intent to remain permanently in the U.S. and apply for a green card
- No Set Wage Requirements: the L-1 visa does not require that the employer pay a certain wage amount
- Premium Processing: An optional service that enables a Petitioning company to receive a response from USCIS within 15 days of filing the application
The L-1 visa remains an excellent immigration option for companies and individuals. While it is a nonimmigrant visa option, it can also lead to a green card for the beneficiary in the future, enabling the company to make the employment permanent for its key executives and managers. Additionally, if a petitioning company may qualify for a Blanket L-1 visa, if the company has received at least 10 L-1 approvals, has US operations with combined sales of at least $25 million, or has at least 1,000 US employees, making it significantly easier for companies to transfer employees within its operations.
Issues with the L1 Visa:
L-1 visa requirements are fairly rigid and unforgiving in that they do not take into account the technological advances and demands of modern businesses. The definition of a qualifying relationship is limited to the four options listed above, which are not necessarily applicable to complex business structures and models. Additionally, the L-1 visa does not account for remote or virtual offices for existing and new businesses that may not require an actual office. For example, under the current L-1 regulations, it would be difficult to receive an approval for a thriving and multinational business consulting company where the executive or manager will need to be at the client site more often than inside of the actual office location.
L1 Visa Adjudications under the Trump Administration:
Under the current administration, L-1 visa rejections have increased to 70%. Much of the rejections focus on the definition of managerial and executive capacity. As USCIS gives very little weight of the job title of the beneficiary, merely hiring an individual to serve as an Executive Director or Operations Manager is insufficient. The Petitioning company must provide an extensive list of job duties along with percentages per duty indicating how much of the Beneficiary’s time will be allocated to each duty. The job duties must be specific enough to indicate what the beneficiary has been doing abroad and will be doing in the United States on a day to day basis to ensure that there are sufficiently complex and high-level job duties to warrant the transfer. As the regulations note, Beneficiary cannot be a first line supervisor, unless he or she is managing a function of the business as opposed to individuals. USCIS is looking for several tiers of hierarchy in the organizational structure to show that the Beneficiary will be serving as a high-level manager as opposed to handling the administrative or day to day tasks of the business. Often, even when the Petitioner provides detailed job duties, USCIS notes that they are vague, too generalized, or indicate that the beneficiary will be doing nonqualifying duties more than qualifying duties. Through thorough analysis and proper documentation, this issue can be overcome.
The difficulty that L-1 visa applicants face under the current administration is of particular interest to Tampa, the birthplace of some of the most creative companies, such as Wikipedia. In recent years, Tampa has become one of the hotspot locations for startup and technology companies. The city has plans become one of the key U.S. technological hubs. The recent development in L-1 visa rejection rates will harm creativity and collaboration with other countries and may potentially lead key companies to establish their operations in countries with more lax policies, such as Canada.
We believe while the administration has been increasingly tough, creative lawyering and strong supporting documentation can help companies overcome the arguments presented by USCIS. At Colombo & Hurd, we have years of experience with L-1 visas and our team of qualified professionals has been able to successfully overcome difficult L-1 applications.
Some Frequently Asked Questions about the L-1:
Q: Is there a wage requirement for the L-1?
A: No, there is no prevailing wage determination for an L-1 application. However, the wages must meet federal/state laws.
Q: Can I change jobs under the L-1?
A: As the L-1 is dependent upon the company’s qualifying relationship and your position within the company as managerial/executive, if you wish to change jobs within the same company, you must file an amended application showing you still qualify and meet the requirements. If you wish to change employers, then the new employer and new position must qualify under the regulations, and the new employer must file a new L-1 application on your behalf.
Q: Can my employer file a green card application for me while I am on the L-1 visa?
A: Yes, as the L-1 is a dual intent visa, your employer may file a green card application on your behalf.
Q: Can my dependents join me, and if so, what are they allowed to do under their dependent status?
A: Yes, your dependents may join you and receive L2 status. Under L2 status, they will be eligible to study and apply for work permits. Their L-2 status is only valid as long as your L-1 status.
WHY CHOOSE COLOMBO & HURD?
We have an excellent record representing managers, executives as well as employees with specialized knowledge who wish to obtain a US visa to conduct business, manage their investments, or work for a US branch or subsidiary. Our law firm handles all corporate and international work on behalf of the client to ensure that not only the initial visa is approved but also to maximize the chances of approval for a renewal as well as the path to a green card. Please contact our knowledgeable and experienced L-1 attorneys in Tampa at (813) 444-1114 for a consultation today.