What are the L-1 Blanket Visa requirements?
The Blanket L is a company-wide certification allowing a sponsoring employer to transfer multiple qualifying employees quickly and with less of an administrative drain with each application.
Non-US companies that meet the Blanket L requirements benefit from a faster, simpler and less burdensome process to transfer multiple employees to the US. With Blanket L certification, transfers to the US can be processed up to 6 months faster than non-Blanket L petitions, making short-notice transfers to the US possible.
From a workforce management and development perspective, the Blanket L offers multinational companies considerable potential to support global mobility programmes, growth strategies and talent development through the streamlined use of intracompany transfers, which can be commercially advantageous.
Given the advantages conferred on Blanket L visa holders, USCIS require companies to undergo a thorough petitioning process to establish that they meet all the Blanket L requirements.
What is the L-1 Blanket visa?
The L-1 visa enables multinational companies to expand operations by transferring qualified staff to newly established or existing US subsidiary, affiliate, parent or branch offices.
Before an individual employee can apply for their L1 visa, their employer must first file a petition with USCIS.
The Blanket L visa acts as continuing evidence of the qualifying relationship between the employer and the petitioning employee. Once a company’s Blanket L-1 petition is approved, qualified L-1 visa applicants need only attend a visa interview to establish their eligibility for the L-1A or L-1B Intracompany Transferee visa.
By removing the need for the employer to file a petition with USCIS for each applicant, the process to transfer intracompany employees to the US is expedited and becomes less bureaucratically onerous.
Importantly, the I-797 Blanket L Approval Notice is not a travel document and cannot be used to enter the US, unless the petitioner is a Canadian citizen. The individual worker must still apply for their L-1 visa for permission to travel to the US for the purposes of an intracompany transfer.
Blanket L visa requirements
The Blanket L visa is only open to qualifying companies transferring multiple employees with L1 status to the States.
Under the L-1 Blanket requirements, the petitioning company must evidence that they:
- Be engaged in commercial trade or services.
- Have an active US office that has been operating for 1 year or more.
- Have 3 or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates.
In addition, the filing company and other qualifying organizations must have:
- Obtained at least ten L-1A or L-1B petition approvals during the previous twelve months; or
- US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- A US workforce of at least 1,000 employees.
As such, the Blanket L requirements will generally allow only for established, multinational companies to be eligible.
Applying for Blanket L certification
To benefit from the relaxed petitioning process in respect of your L-1 candidates, the company will need to follow the USCIS application and vetting process to confirm eligibility and suitability against the Blanket L requirements.
The L1 Blanket application is made using Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The petitioner must establish that it meets the regulatory requirements for L Blanket approval.
L-1 blanket petition supporting documentation
A pressing concern for L-1 petitioners should be evidencing their eligibility under the visa route.
Extensive supporting documentation is required to convince and assure the adjudicator that the applicant satisfies the visa requirements. The specific documents to submit will depend on the specific circumstances, and taking advice will ensure you are compiling correct and sufficient evidence to support your application.
As a general guide, you should aim to provide:
- Evidence that the filing company meets the eligibility requirements; and
- Evidence that the filing company and the organizations included in the petition are qualifying organizations.
You will also need to provide general documents relating to the company, listing all the companies to be included in the Blanket L visa, to verify ownership and full details of financial statements and tax returns. An organizational diagram is often helpful in illustrating the relationships of the various companies to be included in the petition.
You will also need to provide a covering letter in support of your petition.
Note also that documents in a foreign language are to be accompanied by a certified translation in English.
Once your company’s blanket L-1 petition is complete, it will be submitted to USCIS for adjudication. Processing times may vary depending on USCIS workload.
What is an L1 visa RFE?
US Consular officers have extensive powers of discretion and this includes the right to request further evidence (RFE) from a petitioner – resulting in delayed processing – and even to refuse an application without the requirement to first request further information.
This highlights the importance of ensuring the initial petition is comprehensive and without error or omission.
If during the adjudication process a USCIS adjudicating officer determines that additional information and/or documentation is needed to make a determination, a request for additional information will be issued. Such requests vary in length depending on the extent of information and documentation requested.
Following receipt of the requested information and documentation, USCIS will resume processing of the petition.
Is premium processing available for the Blanket L visa?
For an additional fee, you may request premium processing of your company’s petition. Under this service, USCIS will adjudicate the case within 15 calendar days. 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.
Given the continued challenges of the COVID pandemic, petitioners are recommended to confirm the availability of premium processing at their local consulate.
What happens if the Blanket L visa is approved?
Once approved, Blanket L status is granted for 3 years. It can be renewed successively, provided the company continues to qualify under the requirements.
Following approval of the Blanket L-1 petition, employees seeking L-1 status must attend an interview at which time their eligibility for the visa category will be determined.
Each employee who enters the US with L-1 status may be approved a three year period of stay, renewable for up to seven years for L-1A Managers and Executives, or up to five years for L-1B specialized knowledge employees.
Blanket L requirements: challenges for employers
At the time of making your Blanket L petition, you will need to identify all entities – US and qualifying foreign – within your organisation that will need to make use of the certification. Where there are multiple entities, or complex organizational structures in place, it may be advisable to have an organogram drawn up to submit with your petition. This list is to be approved and must be updated to reflect any corporate changes.
It is possible for an L blanket petition to be approved in part, with certain entities within the organization denied where they have been found not to meet the requirements. It will be important to ensure that the application is managed effectively and supporting documentation extensive and comprehensive to evidence the qualification of each entity within the application. For example, demonstrating sufficient levels and value of activity of each applicant entity.
If there is a change in the relationships of any of the qualifying organizations with L blanket approval, the petitioner must file an amended Form I-129 explaining the changes.
Supporting the L-1 visa petitioners
The L1 visa is only open to employees acting in an executive, managerial or specialized skill capacity transferring to the United States. The requirements for a beneficiary are the same as for a non-blanket L1A or L1B petition except for the limitation on the L1B category to specialized knowledge professionals only.
To apply for an individual L-1 visa, petitioning employees are to petition to a US consular post where they will be interviewed by a consular officer.
The evidential requirements on each L-1 visa applicant should not be underestimated.
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)
- Letter of support detailing the US transfer
- Copies of relevant educational and professional qualifications
- Most recent payslips
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.
Each consular posts takes a different approach to non-immigrant visa processing, so you may be asked to bring additional documents with you to the interview.
During the interview, there is no consistent script or formula per se, but 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 US package look like?
- Have you previously been to the US?
- What will you do after you have finished your US assignment?
The questioning will look to cover general themes of ensuring the application is in fact an employee of the company and have been for the minimum period; that the role qualifies under the L visa; and that the employee will be paid the prevailing wage rate.
L-1 visa holders are permitted to bring certain family members to the US. This requires applications under the L-2 route to be made by each relative, such as spouse or dependant children.
L-2 applicants must also attend a visa interview where they are to present original or certified copies of birth and marriage certificates to be presented during the visa interview.
NNU Immigration specializes in the L1 visa route including L-1 blanket visa petitions on behalf of companies. As London-based US immigration attorneys, we can advise on all aspects of the visa, from assessing eligibility, to support with compiling your petition and all required documentation.
We also advise on all aspects of the L1 visa for the individual employees, from assessing eligibility, to support with compiling petitions and all required documentation. We can also provide guidance and consideration of alternative US entry routes where required.
Given the advantages of Blanket L are so far-reaching, you will want to avoid issues with the petition and manage the risk of a refused application. Take advice on eligibility and effectively evidencing Blanket L requirements to USCIS officials.
Contact us for advice with your Blanket L petition.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.