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Who Qualifies for L-1 Classfication? By: Betty Chu and Kelly O’Reilly

An L-1 applicant may be employed in the United States in any one of the three defined capacities: Managerial, Executive, or "Specialized Knowledge" Employee. Whatever the capacity of employment abroad, a foreign national admitted to do managerial or executive work is classified L-1A; if admitted in a specialized knowledge capacity, he or she is classified L-1B.

L-1 status is available only to an applicant who has been employed: (1) abroad continuously for one year during the three years prior to entering the United States, (2) by a firm or corporation or other legal entity, (3) in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A) or a capacity that involves specialized knowledge (B-1B), and (4) now seeks admission to the United States to be employed in either capacity by a qualifying organization that is a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the foreign employer.

The foreign and U.S. employers must be branches of the same entity or be related as parent/subsidiary or as affiliates. For example, Amy was previously employed as General Manager for the parent company in China who import/export auto parts; she subsequently was transferred to the United States to pursue other business ventures in the United States and to start an affiliate or branch office. An affiliate is one that is owned and controlled by the same parent, individual, or group of individuals. However, affiliates need not do business with each other or even be in the same line of business.

Although Amy's employment for the U.S. affiliate need not be full-time, it must be significant, and she must remain a full-time employee of the petitioner's parent company. L-1 employees must qualify by employment abroad and employment in the United States in one of three capacities defined:

Managerial: The L-1A employee primarily manages the organization, or a department, or key function of the company. For example, if Amy is qualifying as a manager of personnel, she must supervise and control the work of other supervisory, managerial, or professional personnel and have the authority to hire and fire them or make effective recommendations regarding key personnel decisions.

Executive: The L-1A employee primarily directs management of the organization or controls a major function of the organization, establishes its goals and policies, exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making, and works under only the general direction of higher-level executives, members of the board of directors, or stockholders.

Specialized Knowledge: The L-1B employee must have knowledge that is special to the organization and not general knowledge commonly held throughout the industry. The employee must possess advanced level of knowledge or expertise regarding the organization's product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interest and its application in international markets.

Given the complexities of such petitions, it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of a lawyer you can trust to help you navigate through the L-1A, L-1B channels.

BIOGRAPHY: Betty Chu, Esq. is an Associate at Wilner & O'Reilly, a firm specializing in Immigration Law. She is a member of the Los Angeles and Orange County Bar Associations and has been admitted to practice law in the Central and Southern Districts of California. Ms. Chu received her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from UCLA. She previously served on the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competitions Committee. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

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