On November 15, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a policy memorandum that provided clarification regarding the one-year foreign employment requirement for the L-1 nonimmigrant classification.

The L-1 nonimmigrant classification allows an employer to transfer an executive or manager (L-1A) or an employee with specialized knowledge (L-1B) from one of its qualifying foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. Amongst the qualification for L-1, an employee is required to “generally have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States.”

The new policy memorandum provides clarification for how to calculate the one-year foreign employment requirement as well as adjustments to the three-year period to ensure that the adjudication of L-1 petitions by USCIS are consistent. According to the policy memorandum:

  • The L-1 beneficiary must be physically outside the United States during the required one continuous year of employment (although in certain cases brief trips to the United States for do not interrupt, or break, the one continuous year);
  • 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;
  • Any time the beneficiary spent working “for” the qualifying organization in the United States (for example, as a principal beneficiary of an employment-based nonimmigrant petition or application) results in an adjustment of the three-year period for determining whether the beneficiary has met the one-year foreign employment requirement.
  • Periods of employment with the qualifying organization in the United States as a dependent or student do not result in an adjustment of the three-year period for determining whether the beneficiary has met the one-year foreign employment requirement
  • Periods of time in the United States not working or working for an unrelated employer do not result in an adjustment of the three-year period for determining whether the beneficiary has met the one-year foreign employment requirement

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