International businesses rely on L-1 visas to transfer certain employees from a foreign office to one in the United States. However, now the US State Department is tightening restrictions on L-1 visa transfers and making it more difficult to utilize these visas.
L-1 visas are used by companies with a parent/subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office in the United States to transfer employees to that office. L-1A visas are used to transfer qualified executives or managers. L-1B visas are used to transfer employees with specialized knowledge.
The typical L-1 application process is done in two steps. First, an application is filed with the USCIS, and once that is approved, an application can be filed with the U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. Transferring an employee can take some time. The application process typically takes between two to nine months. With the suspension of premium processing, there’s not much that can be done to get around the wait times. In addition, there has been an increase in the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFE), which has extended the time even further.
Some international companies are eligible to petition for blanket L visas. Through the blanket visa procedure, companies are able to avoid the first step in the application process and apply directly with the embassy or consulate. In order to do so, the company must prove that there was an intracompany relationship in advance. Companies use the blanket visa process because it is quicker and more efficient. In addition, approval rates have tended to be higher.
That is no longer the case. Denials from consulates have been on the rise. In October of 2019, the State Department attempted to heighten the adjudication standard for blanket visas and changed the standard of review in the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) from “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” The change was removed the following month. However, the standard has remained tougher, and denials are more frequent.
The FAM was updated again on March 30, 2020, and this time it set out an even more stringent standard for blanket L visa petitions. If the consular officer has “any doubt,” the petition must be denied.
If you are interested in applying for an L visa, you should consult with an experienced visa attorney. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the visa application process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.