The L-1Z Blanket petition is a critical visa option that assists certain multinational companies to quickly transfer qualified global talent to the United States. As U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) service centers continue to issue high rates of Requests for Evidence (“RFEs”) and restrictively adjudicate L-1A and L-1B petitions, the L-1Z Blanket petition has become a critical method for larger global companies to transfer key staff to work at a U.S. office.
Introduction to the L-1Z Blanket Petition
The L-1 nonimmigrant visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager, or a specialized knowledge professional from one of its affiliated foreign offices abroad to an office in the U.S. Instead of having to file separate, individual L-1 visa petitions with USCIS for each inbound transferee, an L-1Z Blanket petition acts to pre-approve the qualifying corporate relationship among a list of U.S. and foreign corporate entities. The L-1Z Blanket petition is meant to serve relatively large, establish companies that have multi-layered structures and numerous related business entities but can also be used by companies having an established program for rotating personnel in and out of the U.S.
The L-1Z Blanket petition requires the petitioning U.S. company to prove: (a) all qualifying corporate offices engage in commercial trade or services; (b) it has been doing business for at least 1 year; and (c) it has 3 or more foreign and domestic subsidiaries, affiliates, or branches. The petitioning U.S. company must also demonstrate at least one of the following:
- S. subsidiaries or affiliates have a combined annual sale of at least $25 million; or
- S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees; or
- At least ten L-1 approvals during the previous 12 months
Our firm has found that the most successful L-1Z Blanket petitions are based on the U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates having combined annual sales of at least $25 million, as USCIS merely needs to look at tax returns (consolidated or otherwise), audited financial statements, annual reports, SEC Form 10—K, and/or other regularly maintained corporate documentation for verification. An L-1Z Blanket petition is initially approved for 3 years; the petitioning company may then apply for an indefinite extension with USCIS thereafter if the qualifying organizations have complied with the regulations governing the blanket petition provision.
Please note that an L-1B blanket applicant must qualify as a “specialized knowledge professional,” as opposed to merely having “specialized knowledge.” Accordingly, blanket-based L-1 petitions should include evidence of a foreign degree that is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or high degree.
It is also important to note that the validity dates of the L-1Z Blanket will likely not match the validity dates of the I-129S petition, so employers should work with immigration counsel to correctly track an employee’s period of authorized stay. Finally, note that any L-1 blanket applicant may not enter the U.S. to open or be employed in a new office.
Process and Procedures
The L-1Z Blanket petition process involves two separate government agencies: (1) USCIS, responsible for determining whether the petitioning U.S. company and its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates, or branches are qualifying organizations, and (2) the U.S. Department of State, responsible for determining the classification of the inbound transferee at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad. Once the L-1Z Blanket petition is approved by USCIS, inbound transferees from any of the foreign entities listed on the L-1Z Blanket petition approval notice may skip filing individual petitions with USCIS and can apply for an L-1Z Blanket-based visa directly at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (or, for Canadian citizens, at a U.S. port of entry). The L-1 employee submits a Form I-129S petition (in triplicate) with supporting documentation establishing managerial/executive or specialized knowledge professional qualifications directly at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (or, for Canadian citizens, at a U.S. port of entry). If a U.S. Embassy or Consulate denies an employee’s L-1 application filed pursuant to an L-1Z Blanket, the employee can file an individual L-1 visa petition with USCIS.
Blanket-based L-1 applicants are required to pay a $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Further, if the petitioner employs 50 or more employees in the U.S. and more than 50% of those employees are individuals in H-1B or L nonimmigrant status, the blanket-based L-1 applicant should coordinate with the U.S. petitioning company to pay an additional $4,500 fee. When the L-1 applicant is inspected for entry into the U.S. by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Form I-129S with the blanket L-1 classification is stamped, for a validity period not to exceed 3 years.
The spouse and children of an L-1 nonimmigrant who are accompanying or following to join the principal alien in the United States are entitled to L-2 classification and are subject to the same visa validity, period of admission, and limitation of stay as the L-1 alien. An L-2 spouse is also eligible for an Employment Authorization Document.
Benefits of L-1Z Blanket Petition
A company that only files individual L-1 visa petitions with USCIS may not be realizing the substantial time, resource, and cost savings that arise from use of an L-1Z Blanket petition, which provides the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the U.S. within days. It is also possible for employees admitted to the U.S. under an L-1Z Blanket to transfer to other entities listed on the L-1Z Blanket petition approval notice without filing amended petitions, as long as the same job duties are performed.
If you have any questions about the L-1Z Blanket Petition or want to schedule a professional consultation to discuss creating a comprehensive company L-1 policy, please contact a Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP attorney to discuss your case, or send us an email at: VISALAW@WOLFSDORF.COM.