U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memo this week to add clarification to the L-1 Intracompany Transfer status one year of employment abroad requirement. The memo states that:
- The L-1 beneficiary must be physically outside the United States during the required one continuous year of employment, except for brief trips to the United States for business or pleasure; and
- The petitioner and the beneficiary must meet all requirements, including the one year of foreign employment, at the time the petitioner files the initial L-1 petition.
The agency says the memo is a clarification of policy. The memo describes the issue as:
INA section 101(a)(15)(L) and 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(A) require that the beneficiary work abroad for one continuous year within the three years preceding the “application for admission into the United States.” The statute is silent about those beneficiaries who have already been admitted to the United States in a different classification. However, 8 CFR 214.2(l)(3)(iii) uses a different reference point and states that the one year of foreign employment must have occurred “within the three years preceding the filing of the petition.” The difference in phrasing has led to questions about which point in time should be the appropriate reference point in determining whether the one-year foreign employment requirement has been satisfied.
The memo instructs officers to:
Always look back three years from the date the initial L-1 petition was filed and then:
Step 1: Determine the dates the beneficiary worked for the qualifying organization abroad.
Step 2: Determine the lengths of any breaks in the beneficiary’s qualifying employment during the three years before the petitioner filed the L-1 petition. If the beneficiary has lawfully worked for a qualifying organization in the United States as a principal beneficiary of an employment-based nonimmigrant petition or application, adjust the three-year period accordingly.
Step 3: Subtract the total length of all the breaks identified in Step 2 from the relevant three-year period. If the result is a continuous one-year period within the relevant three-year period, then the petitioner has met the one-year foreign employment requirement.
Note: The memo says that brief trips to the United States as a visitor will not stop the continuous period, but each day must be subtracted from the one year calculation. This guidance penalizes persons based in Canada who visit the U.S. and return the same day, which is actually quite common for Canadian business owners and managers.
Note: The memo says persons working in the U.S. for the related company in another status, such as H-1B or E-2, will be able to look back to the three years prior to their original date of admission. However, persons in F-1 Optional Practical Training or in spousal work authorization categories (e.g. L-2, E-2) will not be able to do so. In these latter cases, the three year “look back” period will run from the date of the filing of the petition. So, an employee who starts with a U.S. company in E status two years ago would actually look back five years to determine whether the continuous period requirement is met.
As with all things USCIS these days, the memo will probably lead to even more burdensome requirements of proofs for companies that have trans-national employees and operations. We’ll keep an eye on it all, and advise companies in accordance with agency practice. Aspects of the memo may need to be challenged in court at some point, as the L is one key step towards lawful permanent residence for valued executives and managers.