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Do I meet the 1-year foreign employment for L-1 visa?

A business man on an L-1 working in his office

The L-1 visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests or a manager/executive from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.

One of the L-1 visa requirements is that the employee coming to the U.S. must have been working for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States.

Example

For example, if you are applying for an L-1 visa in August 2022, then the relevant 3-year period to meet the foreign employment requirement would be from August 2019-August 2022. You will need to show that you worked for the foreign entity for 1 continuous year in this 3-year period. You can submit evidence such as the foreign equivalent of the US W-2s, payroll/paystubs, or bank statements showing the receipt of salary payments during this 1-year period.

However, sometimes it happens that the foreign employee who is being sponsored for the L-1 visa is already working in the U.S. for the sponsoring US entity on some other non-employment visa (such as TN, H-1B, or E-2 employee visa). What happens in this situation? Can the employee still be sponsored/how is the 3-year period calculated in this case?

If the employee that is being sponsored for the L-1 visa is working for the U.S. entity on some other non-immigrant status, then the 3-year period for the foreign employment will be adjusted. The time the employee spends in the US working for the US does not count towards the foreign employment and the time period for the 3-year period will be adjusted.

Example

You have been working for a US company on a TN status for the past 3 years in the U.S. The US entity is now sponsoring you for an L1 visa, but you are wondering if you will meet the foreign employment requirement -how will you prove that you worked for the foreign entity for 1 continuous year in the past 3 year if you have been working in the U.S. for the past 3 years and not for the foreign entity.

In this case, the one-year foreign employment period will be adjusted. For example, if you came to the US on a TN status on August 1, 2019, the relevant employment period for the foreign employment in this case would be July 31, 2019-July 31, 2016. Therefore, as long as you can show that you worked for the foreign entity for one continuous year in this period, you should meet the requirement.

Please see our blog post discussing whether it’s better to file the L1 petition as Change of Status or Consular Processing here.

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