In most cases, U.S. employers that sponsor many work visas for their foreign national employees are looking for ways to make the process smoother and easier. Fortunately, with the L-1 visa blanket petition option qualifying organizations can now seek continuing approval to transfer any number of employees from their foreign branches to the United States. This program is available to relatively large international organizations engaged in commercial trade or services. We’ll go over the requirements along with the L-1 blanket visa extension, premium processing, and avoiding rejection.
What is the L-1 Visa?
The L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa is a nonimmigrant employment-based classification that allows U.S-based employers to transfer a foreign professional employee from related foreign offices to the United States.
For an alien employee to qualify for this work visa, they must have worked as an executive, manager, or specialized employee for the foreign parent, subsidiary, branch, or subsidiary of the U.S. organization for at least one of the last three years. In many cases, an L-1 petition is filed for a single beneficiary. However, some organizations need to transfer many employees simultaneously in other cases. This has brought about the provision for L-1 blanket petitions.
What is an L-1 Blanket Visa Petition?
The L-1 visa blanket petition program allows U.S.-based organizations to petition the USCIS to bring several foreign employees to the United States quickly and on short notice. It is a single visa petition that eliminates the need to file separate L-1 petitions for each qualified employee. Once USCIS approves the L-1 visa blanket petition, each transferring employee may file a petition for an L-1 visa directly at the United States embassy or consulate.
L-1 Blanket Visa Requirements for Petitioner
The L-1 blanket petition has specific requirements that a U.S.-based petitioner (organization) and its foreign entities must meet. An organization may be eligible for the blanket petition if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying entities is engaged in commercial trade or services
- The U.S.-based petitioner has an office that has been engaging in business for one year or more
- The petitioner has a minimum of three domestic and foreign branches, affiliates, or subsidiaries
- The petitioner and its qualifying foreign entities meet one of these three criteria:
- Successfully obtained at least ten L-1 petition approvals in the previous 12-month period
- Have U.S. affiliates or subsidiaries with at least $25 million annual sales; or
- Have a U.S. workforce of more than 1,000 employees.
L-1 Blanket Petition Requirements for Employees
The transferred employee must meet the same criteria required of an individual L-1 applicant. For an L-1B, you must demonstrate that you hold a position requiring specialized knowledge in the organization. If you are applying for an L-1A visa, you must prove that you have a managerial or executive position in the organization. In addition, you must meet the following USCIS definitions of executive capacity and managerial capacity:
Executive Capacity: The term “executive” refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude within the organization without much supervision from a superior authority. In other words, your position allows you to direct the company’s affairs or a component within the company.
Managerial Capacity: Being a manager, in the context of an L-1 visa, means you hold a position that requires you to manage an aspect of the organization by controlling and supervising the duties of other employees in the organization or by overseeing a department, function, subdivision or component of the company.
How to Process an L-1 Visa Blanket Petition
An employer files the L-1 blanket petition using the I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. USCIS restricts the blanket petition to relatively large international organizations. To this end, the petitioner must provide documented evidence showing that it meets the requirements to file a blanket petition.
The petitioner must also document the relationship between the qualifying entities (organizations), which the petitioner will include in the blanket petition. Finally, if the petition is approved, the USCIS will notify the petitioner by issuing a CLAIMS-generated I-1797, indicating the validity period.
Once USCIS approves the blanket petition, the employer must complete an I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, and forward it to the alien employee. Accompany the I-129S with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other related documentation. The beneficiary employee must present all these documents to a consular officer when applying for an L-1 visa to travel to the U.S.
However, you must note that the approval of an L-1 blanket petition doesn’t automatically guarantee every employee entry into the U.S. Each of the beneficiaries is to prove that they qualify for an L-1 visa at the consular office and prove to the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officer that they are eligible and admissible at the port of entry.
What is the L-1 Blanket Visa Validity Period?
USCIS grants an L-1 blanket petition with an initial validity period of three years with an option to extend the visa if necessary. USCIS may grant a an extension request for up to an additional two years until the employee reaches the maximum limit of seven years for the L-1A or five years for the L-1B.
Every L-1 visa beneficiary has the same initial three-year validity period even if the validity for the L-1 blanket may expire before the date. For example, suppose you enter the U.S. on an L-1 blanket visa, and the validity is to expire while you are still in the U.S. In that case, your organization (petitioner) will need to request an extension of the L-1 blanket or file an individual L-1 petition to support your continued stay in the U.S.
L-1 Blanket Visa Approval Rate
In the past, we’ve seen L-1A visas have higher approval rates than L-1Bs because of their unique requirements. The most important thing to ensure is that you provide concrete evidence to support whichever position you hold.
How to Request for L-1 Blanket Visa Extension
Suppose you wish to extend your stay beyond the initial validity period. In that case, you will need to file for an L-1 blanket visa extension before the visa expiration date on your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. The process of obtaining an extension is similar to the initial petitioning process.
To file for an L-1 blanket visa extension for an employee, the organization must file a new I-129S on behalf of the alien employee. The petitioner may also file the extension of stay for an individual employee L-1 and the L-1 blanket visa extension concurrently. The employer must submit the renewal petition for an L-1 employee with the following documents:
- The prior L-1 approval notice
- I-94 card
- A copy of the L-1 visa
- Confirmation of the W-2 form
- An L-1 blanket visa extension support letter signed by the employer explaining the conditions of employment and the reason for the employee’s extended stay in the United States.
Need help filing an L-1 blanket visa extension or responding to an L-1 blanket visa rejection? L-1 blanket visa extension applications that USCIS rejects typically receive Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Often VisaNation Law Group can appropriately respond to the request and end up with an approval.
The VisaNation Law Group team has years of experience handling all types of employment-based immigration cases. Schedule a consultation today to learn more.
Guidelines for Transferring Employees Under L-1 Blanket Petition
Employers are allowed to transfer employees from one of their organizations with L-1 blanket approval to another that also has received approval provided the employee will be performing the same job duties. However, if the job duties are different from the former workplace, the employer will need to request a new approval from the USCIS by completing a new I-129S.
L-1 Blanket Visa Processing Time
The current processing time for L-1 blanket petitions varies depending on the service center handling the case. The following are the processing times as of March 2022 by center.
- California Center: One to four months with a receipt date of November 7, 2021
- Texas Service Center: Seven to nine and a half months with a receipt date of June 5, 2021
- Vermont Service Center: Five weeks to four months with a receipt date of November 7, 2021
L-1 Blanket Visa Premium Processing
You can opt for L-1 visa premium processing related to Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, to expedite the process. By paying the additional $2,500 for premium processing, you are guaranteed processing within 15 days. The availability date for L-1A visas (Intracompany transferee, executive, or manager capacity) and L-1B (Intracompany transferee, specialized knowledge professional) is June 1, 2001. Availability date is when the classification was initially deemed eligible for premium processing.
*Premium processing is currently suspended for all Form I-129 filings that request a change or an initial grant of status for beneficiaries within the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
Where to File a Request for Premium Processing
The filing location for Form I-907 depends on whether you are requesting premium processing for Form I-129 or Form I-140. Visit the Form I-129 or Form I-140 web pages to find the correct address. Do not send requests for premium processing to a USCIS Lockbox facility.
L-1 Blanket Visa Rejection
USCIS may reject your L-1 visa for several reasons, either as an individual petition or blanket petition. Some of the top reasons for L-1 blanket visa rejections include:
- Filing wrong documents and forms or filing them improperly
- Failure to meet eligibility criteria for the employee
- Employer’s inability to present evidence of feasible and convincing business growth
- Duties and job titles do not match
- The job position is not deemed to be specialized (for an L-1B) or does not meet the requirements for an executive or managerial position (for the L-1A)
Additionally, an L-1 blanket petition denial can be different, depending on the circumstances surrounding the request. For example, in some cases, the petition may be denied in part and approved if specific organizations under the petitioner’s umbrella meet the requirements while others under the same umbrella fail to meet the requirements.
Suppose there is any change in the relationship between qualifying L-1 blanket organizations under the same umbrella. In that case, the petitioner will need to file an amended I-129 and provide a detailed explanation regarding the changes.
What to Do If Your L-1 Blanket Petition is Denied
Having your L-1 blanket petition denied does not necessarily mean the end of the road for your L-1. You can explore some options as long as you are sure of your eligibility. For example, you may appeal a denied petition for an L-1 visa to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). However, it is advisable to involve an experienced L-1 visa attorney when appealing your petition denial.
With your immigration attorney, you will need to prepare a formal denial order and forward it following the local procedures. Appealing a denied petition may take several weeks or months. Therefore, you must get your facts right before initiating the appeal process.
Can I Renew My L-1 Visa Beyond the Maximum Stay?
As explained earlier, you cannot extend the overall period stay for an L-1 visa beyond a total of seven years for the L-1A and five years for the L-1B. Therefore, if you would like to continue working in the U.S. after the maximum permissible stay, you would need to have your employer petition for a new visa on your behalf. This will likely require you to leave the United States and work in the company’s foreign branch for a minimum of one year before you can file a new application.
To reapply, you would need to undergo the same initial processing and fulfill all the requirements for your L-1 application. However, instead of leaving the U.S. and reapplying after one year, many L-1 visa holders usually opt to pursue a green card, which will allow them to stay permanently in the U.S.
L-1 Blanket Visa to Green Card
One of the most significant advantages of an L-1 visa is that it allows you to adjust your status from nonimmigrant to immigrant status and become a green card holder. In addition, more than some other temporary work visas, the path to permanent residence from L-1 status is a smoother process.
To do this, you will need to go through the employment-based green card application process. This will require your employer to obtain a Permanent Labor Certification (PERM). Your employer will also need to file an I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. After USCIS approves the I-140, you can file the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was the L-1B classification created?
The L-1B classification was initially created in 1970 by Congress so that “multinational companies could more effectively transfer foreign employees with specialized knowledge to their U.S. operations, enhancing such companies’ ability to leverage their workforces.” In essence, it was Congress’ approach to addressing the employment needs of American multinational companies.
How is “specialized knowledge” defined?
The Immigration Act of 1990 defines the term specialized knowledge to mean: “serving in a capacity involving specialized knowledge with respect to a company if the alien has a special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or has an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.”
Does an L-1 blanket petition approval guarantee each employee goes to the United States?
No, it does not guarantee this. Each beneficiary needs to prove that they qualify for the L-1 visa at the consular office. They must also demonstrate to the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officer that they are eligible.
Who files for L-1 visa processing – the company or employee?
The employer is responsible for the L-1 visa application since it is an employment-based visa.
Can the L-1 visa be transferred to a different company?
You can transfer, but it must be with the same company or an affiliate. In addition, you must notify USCIS of the change. If you want to change to a different company altogether, you must obtain a different status under a work visa. If you lose your job, then you will need to leave the U.S. Discuss with your lawyer your other options for obtaining a work visa if this is your case.
How long does it take to get an L-1 blanket visa?
It can take anywhere from four to six weeks or longer. To expedite the process, consider premium processing (an additional $2,500) which shortens the process to 15 days.
Is L-1 better than H1B?
It depends on a case-by-case basis because they are both nonimmigrant vias that grant you permission to work and live in the country for a predetermined period, and they have distinct requirements to satisfy. The L-1 visa is ideal for executive professionals, those in managerial positions (L-1A requirement), or those with specialized knowledge (L-1B visa requirement) within multinational companies (those that have offices in the U.S. as well as overseas where they currently work). Be aware that blanket petitions are not possible for H1B. Read this guide for an in-depth comparison between the L-1 vs. H1B visa.
Is an L-1 visa challenging to get?
This depends on your current job skills, ability to file correctly, submit all the documentation, and prove you have all the qualifications. Having a qualified immigration professional at your disposal is the first step to obtaining the visa.
Why are L-1 visas getting rejected?
Some common reasons we see L-1 rejections include:
- Not having the specialized knowledge that is invaluable to the U.S.-based company location
- Not submitting enough evidence – the law requires a “preponderance of the evidence presented” to demonstrate specialized knowledge.
Is it easier to get Green Card on an L-1 visa?
Transitioning from L-1 visa to green card is a great option for a path to living permanently in the United States. Learn more about the requirements to transition from L-1B to Green Card.
Can I move from L-1B to L-1A?
You can move by having your employer file a Change of Status L-1B to L-1A visa on your behalf (you cannot file for yourself). Remember that your petition to move status needs to be approved a minimum of six months before you reach the 5-year max on L-1B status.
Can the beneficiary of a visa petition seek premium processing?
The beneficiary cannot seek premium processing unless the petitioner is also the beneficiary. Therefore, only the petitioner (or their attorney/representative) can opt for premium processing in most instances. You must fill out and sign Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to select premium processing.
How VisaNation Law Group Can Help
Processing an L-1 visa, either under a blanket petition or as an individual employee, isn’t always straightforward. Therefore, it is imperative to seek professional legal advice to avoid facing denial. With an experienced L-1 visa attorney, you will stand the best possible chance of having your petition approved by the USCIS.
VisaNation Law Group’s team of expert L-1 attorneys with a long track record of helping organizations and their employees obtain approval for their L-1 visa blanket petitions. They will guide you on all aspects of the application, including making the most of your visa stay and becoming a green card holder successfully. In addition, if you have received a denial notice or are just about to process your L-1 visa petition, you can count on their expert L-1 attorneys. Booking an appointment with VisaNation Law Group today is as simple as filling out this contact form.