The L-1B visa allows multinational companies to move employees to work for their location in the United States. The company abroad and the company in the United States must be related to each other through shared ownership and control, such as a parent/subsidiary, affiliate, or branch. This is referred to as having a “qualifying relationship.” The employee to be moved must:
- have worked for the company abroad for at least one year in the last three years in a position that involved specialized knowledge;
- be coming to the United States to work in a specialized knowledge capacity; and
- Have specialized knowledge.
What is Specialized Knowledge?
Specialized knowledge is defined as:
- Special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets
“Special” knowledge is knowledge of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets that is distinct or uncommon in comparison to that generally found in the particular industry.
In other words, if you know something very special and unique about the company you work for and how it does things in other countries and this knowledge is different from what most people in that industry know, you have “special” knowledge.
Suppose you’re employed by a tech company that creates software for advanced artificial intelligence applications. Your specialized knowledge might involve a deep understanding of the company’s proprietary software algorithms and their application in international markets. This knowledge is distinct and uncommon in the software industry, making you an indispensable asset.
This means if the tech company wants to open up an office in the United States, they could transfer someone who knows how to adapt and implement their cutting-edge software solutions effectively within the U.S. market, ensuring that their advanced algorithms and technology align with the unique demands and preferences of American customers and businesses.
Specialized knowledge is also defined as:
- An advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures
“Advanced” knowledge is knowledge or expertise in the petition organization’s specific processes and procedures that is not commonly found in the relevant industry and greatly developed or further along in progress, complexity and understanding than that generally found within the employer.
In other words, if you know a lot about how a company does things, especially when those things are different from what other companies do in the same field, you have “advanced” knowledge. It’s like being the best at playing a special game that only your company knows how to play really, really well.
Think of a bakery. Most bakers can make cakes, but you are a master at making a cake that only your bakery knows how to make. It’s a super fancy cake with layers of secret ingredients, and it’s so complex and special that nobody else in the baking world can make it like you. Your advanced expertise in making this unique cake is your specialized knowledge.
So, specialized knowledge is like being the superhero expert at something your company does differently and better than anyone else in the same business.
How do you prove that someone worked for the company abroad in a position that involved specialized knowledge?
Common types of evidence that can be submitted in an L-1B filing include:
- The employee’s training, pay, or other personnel records;
- A letter from the company abroad that
- Describes the duties of the position;
- Identifies which of the company’s products, services, tools, research, equipment, techniques, management, or processes and procedures involved in the employee’s job duties required specialized knowledge;
- Explains how the knowledge or expertise qualifies as either “special” or “advanced”;
- States the minimum time required to obtain this knowledge, including training and actual experience accrued after the completion of the training; and
- If the knowledge is “advanced,” explains the knowledge required to perform the job duties and how it compares to that of similarly employed individuals within the company and within the industry
- Documentation corroborating the information provided in the letter, such as:
- Performance Evaluations: Submit performance evaluations or appraisals that highlight the employee’s expertise and the unique skills they have developed while working for the company.
- Product or Service Descriptions: Attach detailed descriptions of the company’s products or services, especially those directly related to the employee’s job duties. This can help demonstrate the importance of the employee’s specialized knowledge in the context of the company’s offerings.
- Process and Procedure Manuals: Include manuals, guidelines, or documentation that outline the company’s specific processes and procedures relevant to the employee’s job. This can help illustrate the complexity and uniqueness of the knowledge required.
- Comparative Analysis: Provide a comparative analysis of the employee’s knowledge and expertise compared to similarly employed individuals within the company and the industry. This can be based on qualifications, certifications, or years of experience.
- Organizational Charts: Include organizational charts or diagrams that show the employee’s position within the company’s hierarchy and how their specialized knowledge is crucial for the organization.
- Project Documentation: If applicable, include project reports or documentation that highlight the employee’s contributions and the application of specialized knowledge in completing specific projects.
- Industry Standards: Reference industry standards, publications, or reports that acknowledge the uniqueness or advanced nature of the specialized knowledge required for the employee’s role.
- Letters of Recommendation: If available, letters of recommendation from industry experts or colleagues who can attest to the employee’s advanced knowledge and contributions to the field.
How do you prove that the proposed work in the United States is in a specialized knowledge capacity?
This can typically be satisfied by providing a letter from the U.S. company with:
- a detailed description of the services to be performed and the percentage of time to be spent on each duty
- the specific nature of the industry or field involved
- the nature of the company’s products or services
- the nature of the specialized knowledge required to perform the duties
- the need for the employee’s specialized knowledge
- the products, services, tools, research, equipment, techniques, management, or processes and procedures of the company of which the employee has specialized knowledge
- an explanation of how the knowledge is “special” or “advanced”
- the minimum time required to obtain the knowledge, including training and actual experience accrued after the completion of training
- If the knowledge is “advanced,” an explanation of the knowledge required to perform the job duties and how it compares to that of similarly employed individuals within the company and within the industry
How do you prove that someone has specialized knowledge?
Common types of evidence that can be submitted in an L-1B filing include:
- Education documents of the employee
- Documentation of training the employee has received
- Experience letters from prior employers if related to the claimed specialized knowledge
- Payroll records establishing the number of years the employee has been with the company
- Comparison chart of the employee’s knowledge compared to that of other employees or workers in the same field
- Evidence of the impact the transfer of the employee would have on the company’s U.S. operations
- Evidence that the employee is qualified to contribute to the U.S. operation’s knowledge of foreign operating conditions due to the knowledge the employee has that is not generally found in the U.S. company
- Contracts, statements of work, or other documentation that shows that the employee possesses knowledge that is particularly beneficial to the company’s competitiveness in the market
- Correspondence or reports establishing that the employee’s assignments have significantly enhanced the company’s productivity, competitiveness, image, or financial position
- Patents, trademarks, licenses, or contracts awarded to the company based on the employee’s work
Understanding the significance of specialized knowledge within the context of L-1B visas is crucial for both employers and foreign employees seeking to expand their careers and contribute to the growth of U.S. companies. Specialized knowledge is not merely about possessing expertise; it’s about having a unique and exceptional understanding of an organization’s products, services, or processes, and its application in international markets. As immigration law professionals, we recognize the importance of presenting a compelling case to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and The Department of State to secure L-1B visas for deserving candidates. Successfully navigating the complex requirements and providing robust documentation is pivotal to achieving immigration goals. Our dedicated team is here to provide the guidance and support necessary to help your business thrive on a global scale while ensuring compliance with immigration regulations. Contact us today to embark on your journey toward L-1B visa success.
By: Emily Neumann
Emily Neumann is Managing Partner at Reddy & Neumann, P.C. with over 15 years of experience practicing US immigration law providing services to U.S. businesses and multinational corporations. Emily has helped transform the firm from a solo practice to Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused exclusively on U.S. employment-based immigration. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Central Michigan University and her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Emily is a frequent speaker and has been quoted in Bloomberg Law, U.S. News & World Report, Inside Higher Ed, and The Times of India on various hot topics in immigration. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Society for Human Resource Management.
Reddy & Neumann has been serving the business community for over 25 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on US. Employment-based immigration. Reddy & Neumann is certified as a woman business enterprise by NWBOC. We work with both employers and their employees, helping them navigate the immigration process quickly and cost-effectively.