USCIS recently published a policy memorandum to clarify the ambiguous “one continuous year out of three years” requirement for L-1 category visas, explaining that the clause refers to the period of time before an individual’s filing.
The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to move a noncitizen executive or manager from one of the company’s affiliated foreign offices to an office on American soil. L-1 visa holders may stay for a period of three months (for Iranian nationals) to up to five years (for Indian, Japanese, and German nationals) with a maximum stay of seven years, should one apply for ample extension.
L-1 visas are typically only offered to employees who provide service in an executive or managerial capacity to multinational companies. Such organizations must have physical offices both in the U.S. and abroad to qualify for L-1 application. As such, these are used mostly for intra-company transfers, to the benefit of several Indian technology services companies.
While this much is clear, a widely argued and misinterpreted provision on determining whether an organization qualifies is the “one continuous year out of three years” requirement. USCIS has explained that the rule is “employ a principal L-1 beneficiary abroad for one continuous year out of the three years before the time of petition filing.”
The policy memo expounded on the provision further, clarifying that the reference point for determining the one-year mark in the one year in three years requirement is not the date of admission but the date the petitioner files the initial L-1 petition.
Additionally, USCIS acknowledged that certain foreign workers may be working for multiple companies and may be legally working in the U.S. through other worker visas. For these L-1 applicants, the L-1 reference point will adopt the date of an applicant’s initial entry in the other status.
There are also instances wherein an L-1 applicant may have already resided and legally worked in the US as a dependent, on a student visa, or any status other status that is not sponsored by a qualifying organization. The L-1 reference point will not be adjusted for these applicants.
To filter L-1 visa applications, USCIS will be rejecting the applications of prospective beneficiaries who have been found to have taken a break in employment with the qualifying organization for over two years during the three-year period preceding the petition filing.
These conditions, however, do not mean that L-1 aspirants are completely barred from entering the U.S. throughout the three-year period. They may make brief trips to the U.S. for business or pleasure..
If you want to learn more about the L-1 visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials