The L-1 visa program bolsters the U.S. economy by allowing employers to transfer intracompany executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from abroad. The ability to leverage experienced personnel and knowledge reserves within an organization is essential to business growth. The L-1 visa program is designed to facilitate this goal. There are no annual visa number limitations placed on the L-1 program. Further, companies can file for L-1 Blanket Certification to streamline the application process, resulting in increased flexibility and faster transfers.
The L-1 visa also provides many attractive advantages to the visa holder, such as:
Spouses of the L-1 visa holder are permitted to work in the U.S. by applying for an Employment Authorization Document.
L-1 visa holders are covered by the doctrine of dual intent and can apply for a green card through the PERM or EB-1C green card program.
To qualify for the L-1 visa, an employee must have worked one-year abroad at a parent, affiliate or subsidiary company. In addition, they must have been employed in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge position and must be coming to the U.S. to fill an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge position. The L-1 visa can be renewed for up to 7 years in the L-1A Manager or Executive category, and up to 5 years for the L-1 Specialized Knowledge category.
Navigating the Administration’s Tough Stance on L-1 Visas in 2020
L-1 visa issuance has been historically low under the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” and “Hire American” policies with denial rates reaching 28% in 2019, as reported by the National Law Review. In addition, L-1 RFE rates have increased by 17.5% percent since 2017.
Similarly, the approval rate for L-1 Blanket petitions at U.S. consular posts has fallen precipitously. U.S. companies and immigration stakeholders have lodged a litany of complaints concerning the unreasonable objections issued by the U.S. Department of State even when objective, verifiable documentation is presented. Indian nationals have been disproportionately affected with the steepest denial rates at U.S. consular posts.
U.S. companies have faced a host of new obstacles when trying to transfer employees to the U.S. in 2019. WR recommends that employers consider the following strategies to improve L-1 success rates for this important visa category.
USCIS’s view is that the L-1 visa program is intended for larger, multinational corporations – not start-ups. It is important to establish the scope of the corporation’s international business and operations, including the number of employees in the U.S. (and abroad, if necessary); the corporation’s financial outlook; and scope of product offering/services.
Qualifying companies may want to apply for blanket L certification to streamline the L-1 visa application process for employees. To qualify for blanket L certification, a company must meet one of the following criteria: (1) Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period (2) Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million or (3) Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.When preparing a “new office” L-1, it is necessary to demonstrate that the L-1 Executive or Manager will be able to delegate non-managerial duties, such as administrative/operational tasks or tasks necessary to produce a product, merchandise a product, or provide a service. A detailed business plan and proposed personnel charts can help meet this requirement.
With L-1 RFE rates surpassing 50 percent in 2019, employers should start the L-1 visa process as early as possible to account for lengthier processing time frames.
When appropriate, U.S. companies may want to consider also registering employees who traditionally qualify for L-1 visas for the FY 2021 H-1B CAP lottery in order to create additional visa options for their employees.
Foreign nationals applying for a L-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate General should prepare for their visa interview under the guidance of a WR immigration attorney. Canadians seeking to submit an L-1 visa application at a U.S. airport or port of entry should also prepare for questioning under the guidance of a WR immigration attorney.