One question that can arise for L-1 applicants is whether they must live and work full-time in the United States. Although full-time employment while physically residing in the U.S. is the most common scenario, part-time employment (or full-time employment while residing outside the U.S.) is also allowed for L-1 employees and this can come up in a few scenarios as described below.
What are the L-1 visa requirements?
First, we will do a brief review of the L-1 requirements and purpose of the L-1 visa. 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. The foreign company and the U.S. company must have a qualifying relationship, meaning they be related as a parent, subsidiary, affiliate or branch office. The L-1 classification also enables a foreign company which does not yet have a U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee or manager/executive to the United States to set up a new office.
Working for the U.S. Company full-time while residing outside the U.S.
It is possible for L-1 employees to work for the U.S. company full-time while also residing outside the U.S. and visiting the U.S. intermittently or occasionally to perform their work. For example, if an L-1 employee primarily lived in Mexico but came to the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial role for a U.S. affiliate or branch office, this would be allowed on the L-1, even if the bulk of the full-time work for the U.S. company was performed outside the U.S. However, it would not be appropriate for the L-1 employee to live in the U.S. full-time on the L-1 and primarily work for the office in Mexico, while only occasionally doing work in the U.S. for the U.S. company.
Working for the U.S. company part-time while residing outside the U.S.
Another scenario is where an L-1 employee lives outside the U.S. and splits their time working for two branch offices, one located in the U.S. and one in a foreign country where they reside. For L-1 employees who live outside the U.S. and commute to the U.S. only to engage in part-time employment or who only work in the U.S. intermittently (meaning they spend less than 6 months in the U.S.), they are not subject to the five and seven year L-1 limits and may renew their L-1 visas indefinitely as long as they meet one of the exceptions.
An important thing to consider in either scenario is that when the L-1 employee visits the U.S., the primary purpose of the visit must be to perform work for the U.S. company that is consistent with the L-1 role that was described in the L-1 petition.
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