Immigration Options for Foreign Managers and Executives

Categories: Immigration Lawyer Blog San Diego

Let’s say you are the CEO of a top international company and now want to come to the U.S. to oversee a new U.S. branch office that just opened up in San Diego, California. Sounds like a legitimate reason to come to the U.S. but determining the best immigration strategy may not always be easy. For example, many people will think that the U.S. company can just petition an H-1B visa for the CEO. However, it is a little known fact that many CEOs do not actually qualify for an H-1B visa. In fact, many executives and managers will not qualify for a H-1B visa because being a CEO/Manager is viewed as a more of a managerial occupation than a “specialty occupation”, which requires a college degree. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would not even qualify for an H-1B visa because he did not graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. Others may think the executive can come on a B-1 visa but a B-1 visa holder is not allowed to work in the U.S.

So what type of visa would be the best to bring over a multi-national executive or manager? Many companies and executives/managers go with the L visa. The L non-immigrant visa category is useful for international companies to bring foreign executives and managers to the United States on a temporary basis. The L visa is used to transfer employees from a foreign company to a “related” U.S. company. The maximum time period for L-1 classification is 7 years. It can be used for executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge. Family members are eligible for L-2 classification and the spouse may also apply for an open-market work permit.

One of the major advantages of the L-1 visa is that executive and managers who come to the U.S. in this category can file an EB-1 petition for permanent residency if the position later becomes permanent. This is one of the easiest ways to obtain permanent residency without labor certification. Also, priority dates for the EB-1 category are currently current, meaning there is no long wait to get your greencard.

The general requirements for an L visa are:

General Requirements are:
1. The foreign worker must have worked full-time for the foreign company for a period of one (1) year out of the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the Petition.
2. The U.S. company must be “related” to foreign company. (this can be achieved through the satisfaction of various legal tests).
3. Employee to be transferred must have been employed abroad as an executive, manager or individual with specialized knowledge in foreign company.
4. Employee must be coming to the U.S. Company to fill an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position.
5. Foreign company must continue to operate while the foreign worker is transferred to U.S. company (i.e. alien can’t just “transfer” self from the foreign business and shut that business down).
6. Employee must be qualified for a position in the U.S. Company by virtue of his or her education and/or experience. A bachelor’s degree is not required however, unlike the H-1B program.
7. L-1 alien must intend to depart U.S. upon completion of authorized stay (up to 7 years) but may pursue permanent residence at the same time. However, if the position becomes permanent, the company can file for a greencard for the executive or manager.

The L-1 visa can also be used when a company is opening up a “new office” in the U.S. but special rules will apply.

Feldman Feldman & Associates assists Executives and Managers with the L-1 visa application and has performed successful L-1 petitions for a multitude of companies.