An L1 visa transfer enables multinational companies to expand operations by transferring qualified staff to an existing or newly established US subsidiary, affiliate, parent or branch offices.
Whether you are a multinational advertising company or an ambitious, growing tech firm, the L1 visa can help businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to deploy talent to the US. It is the primary route to bring non-US employees with specialist skills or knowledge to the US temporarily, for reasons such as opening a new branch in the USA.
The current challenge with the L1 visa is that US immigration authorities are placing high demands on the employer to evidence why the non-US worker is critical to the role and why a US resident could not undertake the work in question. We work with our clients to build robust L1 applications, based on a default position that the adjudicator is looking for reasons to challenge, not reasons to approve, across all of the L1 visa transfer requirements.
The question we are trying explicitly to answer with every petition is ‘Why can’t a US worker do this job?’ Always assume that there will be no benefit of the doubt given in favor of the applicant. The burden of proof rests on the applicant to a much higher degree than ever before.
For L1 visas, we are asking if the individual is really satisfying the requisite skill level or will they actually be carrying out day-to-day functional duties? For L-1B employees, do they really possess specialized knowledge that sets them apart from others in the US labor market? Employers should also consider testing the labor market by hiring recruiters to find qualified workers for the role.
Who qualifies for an L1 visa transfer?
The employee must be filling an executive or managerial role (L-1A) or specialized knowledge role (L-1B) in the U.S.
Executive role (L-1A classification):
- 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.
Managerial role (L-1A classification):
- 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;
- Has the authority to hire and hire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions, or if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy; and
- Exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority.
Specialized knowledge role (L-1B classification):
- Special knowledge is possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets; or
- Advanced knowledge is possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s processes and procedures.
For an additional fee, you may request expedited ‘premium processing’ of a petition for adjudication by USCIS within 15 calendar days.
Note that if a request for additional evidence is issued on a petition filed using the premium processing service, USCIS will have an additional 15 calendar days from receipt of the response to adjudicate the case. Obtaining an L-1 visa is a two-step process involving a petition filed with USCIS and an interview at a US consular post abroad.
What to include in the L1 visa petition?
The petition is to be used to submit evidence in support of the application for an L1 visa. The following should be provided to demonstrate eligibility for the L1 program:
- Evidence that the petitioner and the employer are qualifying organizations;
- Evidence that the employee will be employed in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity;
- Evidence that the employee will have one continuous year of full-time employment abroad with a qualifying organization within three years preceding the filing of the petition;
- Evidence that the employee’s prior year of employment abroad was in a position that was managerial, executive, or involved specialized knowledge; and
- Evidence that the employee’s prior education, training and employment qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States.
Additional evidence when opening a new US branch
If an employee will be coming to the US as an executive or manager to open or be employed in a new office in the United States, the company must submit evidence that:
- sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured;
- the employee has been employed for one continuous year in the three year preceding the filing of the petition in an executive or managerial capacity and that the proposed employment involves executive or managerial authority over the new operation; and
- the intended US operation, within one year of the approval of the petition will support an executive or managerial position.
If the employee will be coming to the US in a specialized knowledge capacity to open or to be employed in a new office, the petitioner must submit evidence that:
- sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured;
- the business entity in the United States is or will be a qualifying organization; and
- the company filing the petition has the financial ability to remunerate the employee and commence doing business in the United States.
How do I respond to a Request for Evidence?
Once your L-1 petition is complete, it will be submitted to USCIS for adjudication. If during the adjudication process a USCIS officer determines that additional information is needed to render a decision on the case, a Request for Evidence (RFE) may be issued. Such requests vary in length depending on the extent of information and documentation requested. A strong RFE response is essential for any L-1 facing an RFE challenge. NNU Immigration has the experience needed to quickly and efficiently respond to any RFE.
What happens at the L1 visa interview?
Whether following approval of a Blanket or regular L-1 petition, employees seeking L-1 status must attend a visa interview at a US consular post abroad. Interview procedures vary widely among consular posts so it is important to carefully follow instructions provided for the post where the L-1 interview will be held.
At the L-1 visa interview a consular officer will ask the employee questions to confirm the information provided in the L1 petition about the applicant and his or her intended US employment. The employee will be notified of the decision made on the application at the end of the interview. Provided the application is approved the consular officer will retain the employee’s passport for visa stamping.
The passport with embossed L1 visa stamp will be returned to the employee within approximately one week of the interview. Once received the employee is permitted to travel to the US to work in L1 status in line with the employment described in the L1 petition.
How do I renew an L1 visa?
If an employee is performing an executive or managerial role in the United States, they will be allowed to spend seven years in the US in L1 status before they have to return abroad for at least one year before being granted L-1 status again.
If an employee is performing a specialized knowledge role in the United States, they will be allowed to spend five years in the US in L1 status before they have to return abroad for at least one year before being granted L1 status again.
What is a Blanket L? Is my company eligible?
US companies employing multiple foreign nationals in L-1 status may file a Blanket petition with USCIS. The Blanket L acts as continuing evidence of the company’s qualifying relationship and eligibility to hire under the L visa category. Once a company’s Blanket L-1 petition is approved, sponsored L-1 visa applicants need only attend a visa interview to establish their eligibility for the L-1A or L-1B Intracompany Transferee visa. With a Blanket L, the administrative demands on the employer when petitioning for L visa employees is significantly reduced.
To be eligible for a Blanket L, the filing company must:
- Be engaged in commercial trade or services.
- Have been doing business for 1 year or more.
- Have 3 or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates.
- Have obtained at least ten L-1A or L-1B petition approvals during the previous twelve months; or have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or have a US workforce of at least 1,000 employees.
In order for your company to obtain a Blanket L1 approval, it will be necessary for the filing company to provide the following documentation to demonstrate eligibility:
- evidence that the filing company meets the aforementioned eligibility requirements; and
- evidence that the filing company and the organizations included it is petition are qualifying organizations.
The completed Blanket L-1 petition must then be submitted to USCIS for adjudication.
Upon approval of the Blanket L petition, qualified employees can then go straight to a consular post to apply for an L-1A or L-1B visa to work for the US office. An employer is not required to file an individual petition at USCIS prior to the visa interview for Blanket L visa applicants.
NNU Immigration has the know-how required to meet the onerous and highly complex L-1 application and adjudication process. Our London-based US immigration attorneys have over 15 years of experience supporting employers and employees on L visa transfers, including Blanket L visas and preparing L-1 applicants for their visa interviews.
For advice from a US immigration specialist, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.