Differences between Executive and Manager in L-1A

What do many of the top executives and managers of Toyota, Honda, Nestle, GE, and Hitachi have in common? Most likely they started working in the United States using L-1A visas.

A U.S. employer may petition for an executive or manager from one of its foreign offices (parent company, subsidiary, affiliates, etc.) to one of its offices in the United States through L-1A nonimmigrant classification. In addition, a foreign company that does not have an affiliated U.S. office may also use this classification to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing a “start-up” company.

An important point to remember is that the foreigner cannot be both an executive and a manager at the same time. It’s either a manager or an executive. Therefore, it is important in the petition documentation to distinguish a manager versus an executive. In order to do that, we need to distinguish the different job duties between a manager and an executive.

In general, an executive performs the following duties within the organization:

  • Directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
  • Establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
  • Exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
  • Receives only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

On the other hand, managers primarily perform the following duties within the company:

  • Manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
  • Supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
  • Has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization), if another employee or other employees are directly supervised; or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
  • Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.

To sum up, an executive is one who makes broad policy without much oversight of the company, while a manger supervises and controls the work of professional employees and manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization on a daily basis. Additionally, a person can also be a “functional” manager who manages an essential function of the organization at a high level without direct supervision of others.

Keep in mind a supervisor is not necessarily a manager merely by virtue of his or her supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are degree-holding professionals or supervisors. Also, there is an exception if the manager or executive is coming to open a new office. In this situation, the person could be both an executive and a manager, but only for the first year. After that, it is very important to draw clear distinctions of roles, responsibilities and duties.

In L-1A petitions, it is very important to clearly describe the job position and to include all necessary supporting documents.

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