Currently, US Citizenship and Immigration Service is considering suggestions to reform guidelines for agency officers processing petitions for L-1B intracompany transferees. Specifically the reformed guidelines would address the intended meaning of “specialized knowledge.” In response, Senators Grassley (Iowa) and Durbin (Illinois) sent a letter on March 7, 2012 to Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services, requesting that USCIS not “propose changes that would undermine the L visa program.”
The senators claim that “the L-1B visa program allows companies to transfer employees with ‘specialized knowledge’ from their foreign facilities to their U.S. offices for up to seven years.” (emphasis added). This is incorrect. The L-1B visa program per the regulations only allows a U.S. enterprise to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge from a foreign affiliated enterprise for up to five years, not seven. Initially, an L-1B visa may be valid up to three years, and may then be extended, depending on the needs of the company, for up to 2 years in addition. However, a transferee may not extend her L-1B beyond five years. The transferee would have to remain outside of the United States for at least one year before she could reapply for L-1B status, with some exceptions for “intermittent” employees.
The regulations for the L-1 visa program also include an L-1A visa available for managers, executives, and foreign nationals coming to the US to set up a new office. An employee of a foreign affiliate with an established office in the United States may receive an L-1A visa valid initially for up to three years. He may later extend the L-1A status in two year increments for up to seven years. A foreign national with an established enterprise outside of the United States may receive an L-1A visa valid initially for up to one year to organize an affiliate operation in the United States. If certain requisites are met, the L-1A for a new office may be extended in two year increments up to seven years. However, similar to the L-1B, once a foreign national manager reaches the maximum of seven years, he must remain outside of the United States for at least one year before reapplying to return to the United States in L-1A status.
In limited cases, an employee who entered in L-1B status may be able to change to L-1A status, and therefore may be eligible to remain in the U.S. for up to seven years, but only if the change of status to L-1A is approved. The petitioner must provide evidence that the L-1B transferee gained at least six months of experience in a management position prior to filing the change of status petition. However, certain limitations apply to an L-1B changing status to an L-1A. For example, a manager or executive who enters the U.S. initially in L-1A status may be eligible to adjust his status to permanent residence without the employer filing an alien labor certification with the Department of Labor, as a “multinational manager.” However, the L-1A manager or executive must demonstrate at least one year of experience in a management position with the foreign affiliate of the U.S. enterprise prior to his initial admission in L-1A status in order to adjust status as a multinational manager. If the L-1B transferee turned L-1A manager only gained experience in a management role while working in the United States, he is not eligible to apply for permanent residence without the employer first filing an alien labor certification.
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