The L-1A visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer a manager or executive from a company abroad to a U.S. branch office or to a U.S. company that has a qualifying relationship with the company abroad. The L-1A also enables a foreign company which does not yet have a U.S. office to send a manager or executive to the United States to set up a new office.
In order to qualify for an L-1A visa, the applicant must demonstrate that they held a managerial/executive or specialized knowledge role at the company abroad for at least one year within the past 3 years. The applicant must also demonstrate that they are coming to the U.S. to hold a managerial or executive role. If the applicant will hold a specialized knowledge role in the U.S., they can apply for an L-1B visa rather than an L-1A. You can read more about L-1B visas here.
The L-1A executive category is appropriate for applicants who will have significant decision-making responsibility for the U.S. operation and will be responsible for directing either the entire operation or a major part of the operation. Often executives will have C-level titles (although not always) and will either be the final authority in their area of responsibility or they may answer to the CEO or a Board of Directors.
The L-1A managerial category is appropriate for applicants who will manage the entire organization or manage departments or components within that organization. Often this involves managing teams of employees, particularly employees who are supervisors or managers themselves or professional employees performing complex tasks. The managerial category also applies to applicants who will not manage individuals but will manage an essential function within an organization.
What is a Function Manager?
Within the regulatory definition of an L-1A manager is a section stating that an applicant can qualify as an L-1A manager if they manage an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization. To qualify as a function manager, the applicant must prove some additional elements as outlined in a USCIS policy memo released in 2017.
- Define the function. You must determine what activities are within the manager’s purview. What function do they manage and how does this function impact the larger organization? Why is this function needed and what does it involve on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis? Clearly defining the activity is a critical part of the case.
- Demonstrate that the function is essential to the organization. Now that you have an idea of what the function involves, you must demonstrate that it is essential to the organization. This analysis involves looking at what the organization does, what products and services it offers, how it operates, what it needs to be successful and explaining how the function that was defined is critical to the organization’s needs and continued success.
- Explain the applicant’s role, showing that they will primarily manage the function, as opposed to perform the function. This requirement is tricky, as there can be a fine line between managing a function and performing the function, particularly when there are very few employees working with the manager on this function. It is important to include a detailed job description and supplementary supporting documents that demonstrate that the manager is planning and directing the activities that will be carried out to execute the function, as opposed to doing the work themselves. For example, if the function requires an analytical report to be prepared the function manager would not necessarily be the one creating the report, but would be in charge of deciding what type of report needed to be prepared, giving assignments to get the relevant content for the report and then making decisions about how the information in the report should be used to assist with the essential function.
- Show that the applicant will act at a senior level within the company and within the function they are managing. This can be shown by using organizational charts that show the reporting lines within the company. It may also be helpful to provide context about the company’s internal structure and procedures regarding promotions and job titles. You may also include evidence of who the applicant frequently works with, especially if the applicant’s peers are largely senior managers and executives.
- Demonstrate that the applicant exercises discretion over daily operations for the essential function that they manage. To meet this requirement, it is helpful to show that the applicant will set and enforce the policies, procedures and processes related to the function. You can also focus on identifying the main operational activities and then include evidence to demonstrate that the applicant will be the one making the decisions about how to carry these out.
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