The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released a policy memorandum that clarifies certain requirements for the L-1 visa. In particular, the clarifications address the more specific details of the one-year employment pre-requisite.
The L-1 visa is granted to foreign employees working at a US company’s foreign office and intending to transfer to the same company’s US office. In other words, it is an intra-company employment visa. There are two types of overseas employees that may come to the US with an L-1 visa: executive or manager employees (L-1A) and specialized knowledge employees (L-1B). In either case, the employer must be the one to submit the visa application for the employee.
A primary requirement in applying for this visa is that the employee must have physically worked outside of the US for at least one year within the three years preceding the petition.
The new memorandum of the USCIS specifies that the visa requires “one continuous year of employment” at the foreign office. If the employee spends time in the US, even if it was at the request of the petitioning employer, that time will not be counted in the one-year employment requirement. However, the US trip would not halt nor reset the qualifying year. This means that after the US trip, the counting of the “continuous year” would resume instead of starting over.
In an example given by the memo, if the US company employed the foreign worker on January 1, 2016, and the worker then made a 60-day trip to the US, that worker would have to work an additional 60 days outside of the US after January 1, 2017.
Another clarification in the memorandum suggests that this particular requirement is retroactive. In a footnote, the memo states that if a petitioner requests an extension of the L-1 visa for their employee, they must have met the one-year requirement at the time of their initial petition. It is then possible that a request for an extension will be denied if the original visa application does not meet this new, stricter one-year rule of the USCIS.
If you are an employer aiming to bring your foreign employee to the US, or if you are a foreign employee hoping for a US transfer, these small changes can greatly affect your visa petition. Consult with a visa attorney from Richards and Jurusik for up-to-date guidance in pursuing a successful visa application.