In most cases, U.S. employers that sponsor a large number of work visas for their foreign national employees are looking for ways to make the process smoother and easier. Fortunately, with the L-1 petition 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 who are engaged in commercial trade or services.
What is the L-1 Visa?
The L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa is a nonimmigrant employment-based classification which 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, he or she must have worked in the capacity of 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. In other cases, however, some organizations need to transfer many employees simultaneously. This has brought about the provision for L-1 blanket petitions.
What is an L-1 Visa Blanket 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 of the qualified employees. Once the L-1 visa blanket petition is approved, each transferring employee may file a petition for an L-1 visa directly at the United States embassy or consulate.
L-1 Blanket Petition Requirements for Petitioner
The L-1 blanket petition has certain requirements that must be met by a U.S.-based petitioner (organization) and its foreign entities. An organization may be eligible for the blanket petition if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying entities are engaged in commercial trade or services
- The U.S.-based petitioner has an office which 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 that is 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 hold a managerial or executive position in the organization. The following USCIS definitions of executive capacity and managerial capacity must be met:
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 affairs of the company 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 supervising a department, function, subdivision, or component of the company.
How to Process an L-1 Visa Blanket Petition
An L-1 blanket petition is filed by the employer using the I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The blanket petition is restricted 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 will be included in the blanket petition. If the petition is approved, the USCIS will notify the petitioner by issuing a CLAIMS-generated I-1797, which will also indicate the validity period.
Once the blanket petition is approved, the employer will need to complete an I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition and forward it to the alien employee. This must be accompanied 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, it must be noted that the approval of an L-1 blanket petition doesn’t automatically guarantee every employee entry into the U.S. Each of the beneficiaries are to prove that they qualify for an L-1 visa at the consular office, as well as 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?
An L-1 blanket petition is granted with an initial validity period of three years with an option to extend the visa if necessary. Requests for an extension of stay may be granted for up to an additional two years until the alien employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years for the L-1A or five years for the L-1B.
Every L-1 visa beneficiary is given the same initial three-year validity period even if the validity for the L-1 blanket may expire before the date. If 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., your organization (petitioner) will need to request for an extension of the L-1 blanket or file an individual L-1 petition to support your continued stay in the U.S.
How to Request for L-1 Visa Extension
If you wish to extend your stay beyond the initial validity period, you will need to file for an extension of your L-1 status 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 extension for an employee under an L-1 blanket petition, the organization must file a new I-129S on behalf of the alien employee. The petitioner may also file both the extension of stay for an individual employee L-1 and the L-1 blanket extension concurrently. The renewal petition for an L-1 employee must be submitted by the employer 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
- Pay slips
- An extension support letter signed by the employer with an explanation of the conditions of employment and the reason for the employee’s extended stay in the United States.
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. In the event that the job duties will be different from the former workplace, the employer will need to request a fresh approval from the USCIS by completing a new I-129S on behalf of the employee.
L-1 Blanket Petition Denial
Your L-1 visa, either as an individual petition or blanket petition, may be denied for a number of reasons. Some of the top reasons for denials 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 in different forms, depending on the circumstances surrounding the request. In some cases, the petition may be denied in part and approved in part if certain organizations under the petitioner’s umbrella meet the requirements while others under the same umbrella fail to meet the requirements.
If there is any change in the relationship between qualifying L-1 blanket organizations under the same umbrella, 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. There are some options you can explore as long as you are certain of your eligibility. A denied petition for an L-1 visa may be appealed to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). It is advisable, however, to involve an experienced L-1 visa attorney when appealing your petition denial.
Together with your immigration attorney, you will need to prepare a formal denial order and forward it in accordance with the local procedures. Appealing a denied petition may take several weeks or months. Therefore, it is important that you get your facts right before initiating the appeal process.
Can I Renew My L-1 Visa Beyond the Maximum Stay?
As explained earlier, the overall period stay for an L-1 visa cannot be extended beyond a total of seven years for the L-1A and five years for the L-1B. 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 as well as 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 Visa to Green Card
One of the biggest 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. 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 process for the employment-based green card application. 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 the I-140 is approved, you can file the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Processing an L-1 visa, either under a blanket petition or as an individual employee, isn’t always straightforward. It is extremely important 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.
At Immi-USA, we have a 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. We will guide you on all aspects of the application, including how to make the most of your visa stay and how to successfully become a green card holder. If you have received a denial notice or you are just about to process your L-1 visa petition, you can count on our expert L-1 attorneys. Booking an appointment with one of our immigration lawyers today is as simple as filling out this contact form.