L-1 Blanket Visa Petition Overview
An L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the U.S. To qualify for this work visa, the alien employee must have worked as an executive, manager, or specialized employee for the foreign parent, subsidiary, branch, or subsidiary of the U.S. company for at least one of the last three years.
What is an L-1 Blanket Visa Petition?
The L-1 blanket visa petition allows U.S.-based companies to petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to bring several foreign employees simultaneously to the U.S. quickly and on short notice. It is a single nonimmigrant 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 U.S. embassy or consulate.
Qualifications Needed for an L-1 Blanket Visa
The L-1 blanket visa has specific requirements that the U.S. company (the petitioner) and its foreign entities must meet. A company 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.
The alien 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 company. If you are applying for an L-1A visa, you must prove that you have a managerial or executive position in the company. In addition, you must meet the following 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 company 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 company by controlling and supervising the duties of other employees in the company or by overseeing a department, function, subdivision or component of the company.
How to Obtain an L-1 Blanket Approval Through the USCIS
The U.S. company must fill out Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition. If the noncitizen employee is outside the U.S. and requires a visa, they should present the Form I-129S (that the company completed as their petitioning employer) to a U.S. consular officer.
If the noncitizen employee is a Canadian citizen, they may file Form I-129S (that the company completed as their petitioning employer) directly with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at certain ports of entry and certain pre-flight inspection locations.
If noncitizen employee is inside the U.S., they should file their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-129S (that the company completed as their petitioning employer) at a USCIS service center according to the Form I-129 instructions.
Evidence Needed from U.S. Company
The petitioner must provide documented evidence showing that it meets the requirements to file a blanket petition. USCIS heavily scrutinizes blanket petitions, so employers should provide exhaustive evidence detailing qualification for approval. USCIS will issue an RFE to request more information on any entity that it does not believe has met all blanket requirements.
The following evidence should be provided by the petitioner:
- Biographical information about the U.S. employer’s business (annual report, web page materials, marketing materials, etc.);
- U.S. employer’s tax I.D. number, recent gross and net income figures, number of employees in U.S. company;
- Names and addresses of all relevant affiliates, subsidiary and parent companies, branches, overseas offices, etc. There must be at least three or more related entities around the world to qualify for a Blanket petition;
- Documents to demonstrate the corporate relationships between the U.S. and overseas companies (e.g., copies of stock certificates or equivalent documents);
- Evidence that the U.S. company and related foreign entities are engaged in commercial trade or services and that the U.S. company has been doing business for one year or more (e.g., Annual Report, 10-K statement, etc.);
- Evidence that the U.S. company and the other qualifying companies meet one of the following three criteria:
- U.S. company with at least 1,000 employees
- U.S. company which has obtained L-1 visas for at least ten of its employees during the previous 12 months
- U.S. company and related U.S. companies have combined annual sales of at least $25 million.
If an applicant submits any documents (copies or original documents, if requested) in a foreign language, they must include a full English translation along with a certification from the translator verifying that the translation is complete and accurate, and that they are competent to translate from the foreign language to English.
After the Blanket Petition is Approved?
If the blanket petition is approved, USCIS will notify the petitioner by issuing an I-797 Approval Notice, indicating the validity period. Next, the employer must complete an I-129S, and forward it to the alien employee. The employer must accompany the I-129S with a copy of the blanket petition Approval Notice and other related documentation.
Evidence Needed from Alien Employee
As a minimum, supporting documents should include:
- Copies in triplicate of the Blanket L I-797 Approval Notice;
- Signed I-129S Blanket application form;
- Passport with minimum 6 months validity;
- Confirmation page from completed DS-160 form;
- Payment receipt for relevant petitioning fee(s);
- Copies of relevant educational and professional qualifications;
- Most recent pay slips;
- Letter of support from the employer detailing the employee’s dates of employment, job duties, qualifications, and salary. The letter must also show the beneficiary worked for the employer for at least one continuous year out of the preceding three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge professional capacity.
In addition, petitioners should also compile HR and personnel records relating to their role and responsibilities, training and development activity, details of travel and posts in other branches and countries to support their eligibility. 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.
Once the U.S. company has been issued an I-797 Approval Notice, the transferring employee needs to schedule a visa interview appointment and bring the petition to the appointment. USCIS may require that the petitioner provides their biometrics to verify their identity and/or update background and security checks. Wait times for visa appointments vary based on location and time of year. Once reviewed and approved, the visa would be placed directly in the employee’s passport and returned to their home address (approximately within one week).
During the interview, applicants should be aware and prepared to answer questions in areas such as:
- How long have you worked for the company?
- What does the company do?
- What do you do for the company?
- What does your U.S. package look like?
- Have you previously been to the U.S.?
- What will you do after you have finished your U.S. assignment?
The questioning will look to cover general themes of ensuring the applicant is in fact an employee of the company and has been for the minimum period; that the role qualifies under the L visa; and that the employee will be paid the prevailing wage rate.
If approved, USCIS grants L-1 blanket petitions with an initial validity period of three years with an option to extend the visa if necessary. USCIS may grant 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.
If you have any question about the L-1 blanket petition, contact our office today to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys!