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The I-129S Form: A Complete Guide

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

The I-129S Form is used by companies with approved Blanket L certification to transfer overseas employees to the US quickly without having to file individual L1 visa petitions. It is part of a streamlined application process that is integral for multinational businesses that need to manage large-scale transfers of their employees efficiently.

For employees and employers alike, the I-129S form plays a pivotal role. It not only facilitates the legal transfer of employees under the L1 Blanket provisions, but it also significantly reduces the processing times associated with individual visa applications. This is particularly valuable for multinational companies that must ensure their talent is positioned in the US for optimum commercial impact.

However, issues with the I-129S form can result in delays in processing, potentially negating the primary benefit of the fast-tracked Blanket L petition process.

This makes it critical to ensure that the information provided in the I-129S is correct and that the relevant and required documentation is submitted to support the application.

Whether you are an HR professional, a potential L1 visa applicant, or simply looking to understand more about nonimmigrant visas, this guide will help you understand the role of the I-129S form and how it should be completed and filed, with expert tips to help you navigate the application process more smoothly.

NNU Immigration are L1 visa experts, working with multinational companies and their non-US citizen employees to support with transfers to the US. For specialist advice on completing L1 visa applications, such as the I-129S, contact us.

 

Section A: Understanding the I-129S Form

 

1. What is the I-129S Form?

 

Officially known as Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, the I-129S form is a specialized document used in the US immigration system.

It is the actual petition form filed by the employer on behalf of an employee seeking L-1 status under a pre-approved L1 Blanket petition.

The I-129S is used to verify that the individual meets the L1 criteria as either a manager or executive under the L1A visa, or that they possess specialized knowledge under the L1B visa, and to confirm that they have worked for the multinational company for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding the application and coming to the US.

As such, it simplifies the process of obtaining L-1 visas for intra-company transferees, allowing multinational companies to transfer multiple employees to the United States under the Blanket L visa provisions without the need to file separate petitions for each employee.

 

2. Legal Basis for the I-129S

 

The legal basis for the I-129S form lies in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifically under the provisions that regulate the L nonimmigrant classification.

This classification enables US employers to transfer executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge from one of their affiliated foreign offices to one of their offices in the United States.

It also allows a foreign company which does not yet have a US office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

The use of the Blanket petition system under the I-129S is intended to streamline this process for companies that meet certain criteria, demonstrating a significant benefit to US business operations.

 

3. How is the I-129S used?

 

The overseas employer must first obtain a Blanket L-1 petition to become an approved petitioner for L1 applicants. This certification allows the company to make multiple transfers under a single petition, thereby expediting the legal and administrative processes involved.

Read our detailed guide to the L1 Blanket here.

With an approved Blanket L petition, confirmed by an I-797 Approval Notice, the employer can then complete form I-129S on behalf of their employee, i.e. the L1 visa applicant, who is officially referred to as the ‘beneficiary’. The L1 visa applicant then includes the completed I-129S form as part of their visa application, along with the other necessary supporting documents.

Under previous rules, USCIS would endorse (stamp) a copy of the I-129S form itself upon approval. This endorsed copy served as evidence for the employee that they were included in the approved blanket petition. However, this practice has been discontinued.

If you are unsure about the current rules on evidencing Blanket L certification, either as part of a USCIS filing or an application at a consulate, contact our US immigration specialists.

 

Section B: Eligibility Criteria

 

1. Categories of Workers Who Can Use the I-129S

 

The I-129S form is designed specifically for workers applying under the L-1 visa as intra-company transferees. This visa category is split into two distinct classifications:

 

a. L-1A Visas for Managers

L1A visa holders are individuals who direct the management of an organization, department, subdivision, or function. They supervise the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees and have the authority to hire and fire.

Read more about L-1A Visas for Managers here >>

 

b. L-1A Visas for Executives

These are employees who direct the overall management of the organization or a major component, making wide-ranging decisions on behalf of the company without substantial supervision.

Read more about L-1A Visas for Executives here >>

 

c. L-1B Visas for Employees with Specialized Knowledge

Employees with specialized knowledge possess advanced knowledge of the company’s products, services, processes, or procedures, which is not commonly found in the industry and is critically important to the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace.

Read more about L-1B Visas for Specialized Knowledge here >>

 

2. Employer Requirements

 

To be eligible to use the I-129S form, the company must have a valid Blanket L, as evidenced by a valid I-797 Approval Notice.

To be eligible for the L1 Blanket, the employer must be engaged in commercial trade or services and must have an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more. The company must also have three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates.

Additionally, any company applying for a Blanket L petition must demonstrate that they have obtained approvals for at least ten L-1 visas in the previous year, have US subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million, or have a US workforce of at least 1,000 employees.

Once approved with L1 Blanket certification, the employer may complete and file the I-129S on behalf of their employees seeking L1 status.

 

3. Employee Requirements

 

As part of the L1 visa application process, the employee must show they have been working for the company outside the United States for at least one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding their admission to the United States.

The position in the US must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.

The employee must also intend to depart the United States upon completion of their authorized stay, although this requirement does not preclude the possibility of a visa change or adjustment of status while in the US.

 

Section C: How to Complete the I-129S Form

 

1. Information Needed to Complete I-129S Form

 

To complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, the following information will be needed:

 

a. Employer Information

1. Employer Name and Address: The full legal name and US address of the petitioning employer.

2. USCIS Business Identification Number (BIN): A unique identification number assigned by USCIS.

3. Blanket L Petition Receipt Number: The receipt number for the approved Form I-140 petition that established the blanket L certification.

 

b. Employee Information
The employee must provide personal information to be included in the form:

1. Employee Name and Alien Registration Number (A-Number), if applicable: The full legal name of the employee and their A-Number, a unique identification number assigned by USCIS if they have one.

2. Date of Birth and Nationality: The employee’s date of birth and country of citizenship.

3. Passport Information: Details of the employee’s valid passport, including passport number, country of issuance, and expiration date.

 

c. Proposed Employment Information

1. Job Title: The specific L-1 classification (L-1A or L-1B) and job title within the US company.

2. Proposed Employment Address: The complete US address of the location where the employee will be working.

3. Wages and Hours: The proposed annual salary the employee will receive and the number of hours they will typically work per week.

 

d. Foreign Employment Information

1. Foreign Employer Name and Address: The legal name and address of the foreign affiliate where the employee worked.

2. Job Titles Held: The specific job titles the employee held while working abroad.

3. Dates of Employment: The start and end dates of the employee’s qualifying employment abroad, demonstrating they met the requirement of working for the company for at least one continuous year out of the preceding three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge professional capacity.

4. Duties Performed: A clear description of the employee’s job responsibilities while working abroad.

5. Wages and Hours: The wages earned and typical work hours per week during the qualifying employment period abroad.

 

2. Supporting Documents to be Compiled for Form I-129S

 

As with most US immigration filings, form I-129S must be supported with documentation proving that you meet the relevant requirements, including:

 

a. Approval Notice: A copy of the approval notice for the Blanket L petition.

 

b. Cover Letter: The petitioning employer is required to detail specific information such as the employee’s employment dates, job description, work experience, qualifications and salary, as well as showing that the employee has been employed by the company in a qualifying role for at least one continuous year out of the three years prior to the application.

 

USCIS advise not to submit supporting documents in original form, unless specifically instructed to.

When submitting any documents in a foreign language, you will also need to include a full English translation alongside the originals (if requested) or copies. This translation must be certified by a translator who can verify its completeness and accuracy. The certification should also confirm the translator’s competency in translating from the specific foreign language into English.

When filing Form I-129S, the specific documents will depend on the specific circumstances, and taking professional advice will ensure you submit a comprehensive package.

The L1 visa applicant will need to submit futher supporting documents in addition to the completed I-129S form to evidence their eligibility under the route.

 

3. Step-by-Step Guide to Filling Out the I-129S Form

 

Step 1: Obtain the Latest I-129S Form

 

Ensure you are using the most current version of the form by downloading it from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

 

Step 2: Complete Form I-129S

 

Complete the form using the collated information in relation to the employer, the employee and the employment. Provide detailed answers to all questions about the employee’s current employment outside the US, the proposed employment in the US, and previous US work and visa history.

Clearly describe the job duties for the position in the US, emphasizing how the role fits into the managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge categories.

 

Step 3: Employer Declaration and Signature

 

Ensure that the authorized representative of the company signs the form and includes the date of signing.

 

4. How to File Form I-129S

 

a. Employees Applying for the L1 Visa from Outside the US

 

With their completed I-129S, employees applying from outside the US should then apply for their L1 visa and permission to enter the US at a US Consulate or Embassy, typically in their country of residence.

This process involves submitting further forms and documentation, including the Form I-129S as completed by their petitioning employer, to prove eligibility under the L1 classification. They will also need to schedule a visa interview.

Read our detailed guide to L1 visa applications here.

Once the visa is granted, the employee can travel to the US to start their employment.

Upon arrival, they must adhere to the terms of the visa to maintain legal status.

 

b. Employees Applying to Change to L1 Status from within the US

 

Employees within the US can proceed with their change of status application by submitting form I-129S to the appropriate USCIS Service Center, in addition to the completed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

 

5. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Completing Form I-129S

 

a. Incomplete Sections

Do not leave any sections blank. If a section does not apply, mark it as ‘N/A’ (not applicable).

 

b. Incorrect Information

Ensure all data matches the information in supporting documents. Discrepancies can cause delays or denials.

 

c. Failure to Sign

Both the employer and the employee must sign where required. Unsigned forms will be rejected.

 

d. Outdated Form Version

Always use the most current form from the USCIS website. Using outdated forms can lead to automatic rejection.

 

6. Form I-129S Processing Times

Processing times for the I-129S can vary significantly based on the workload at the USCIS service center and the specific details of the petition. Generally, it ranges from a few weeks to several months.

 

7. Form I-129S Processing Fees

There is no separate filing fee for Form I-129S itself. Additional filing costs under the L1 classification, however, include the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500, and the Public Law 114-113 Fee of $4500 is payable if:

 

a. The employer is already obligated to pay the $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee.

b. Their company has a workforce of 50 or more employees within the US.

c. More than half (over 50%) of those employees hold H-1B, L-1A, or L-1B nonimmigrant visa statuses.

d. The petition filing occurs before October 1, 2025 (date may be subject to change).

 

Section E: After Filing Form I-129S

 

1. USCIS Processing

 

After filing form I-129S, you will receive a receipt notice from USCIS, which confirms that your petition has been received and provides a tracking number to monitor its status.

The petition will then be reviewed by an officer. During this time, you may receive requests for additional evidence (RFEs) if the USCIS needs more information to make a decision.

To avoid further delays or potential refusal of the application, you should respond to any such requests for further information promptly and ensure you provide what has been asked for.

 

2. What happens after Form I-129S is Approved?

 

If the Form I-129S petition is approved, the USCIS will send a separate approval notice as the required endorsement for the L1 visa applicant.

The Form I-129S serves as evidence that the beneficiary is eligible for L-1 status based on an approved blanket L petition and constitutes an endorsement of Form I-129S as required by 8 CFR 214.2(l)(5)(ii)(E).

A copy of that notice will also be provided to the beneficiary to be included with their visa and/or admission papers.

 

3. Evidence of Petition Approval When Traveling

 

Those entering the US under an approved blanket L petition are required to carry certain documents when traveling as evidence of their status. In addition to a valid passport, the L1 visa holder should also have the Form I-797, Notice of Action (approval notice) issued by USCIS, and/or a copy of the approved Form I-129S itself to present to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon entry or re-entry to the US.

This requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens traveling as L1 nonimmigrants. Canadian citizens may submit Form I-129S directly to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at certain ports of entry and pre-flight checkpoints.

 

4. What if Form I-129S is Denied?

 

If the Form I-129S petition is denied, the USCIS will provide reasons for the denial, and you may have the option to appeal or reapply, depending on the circumstances.

NNU Immigration have specific expertise in helping with denied US applications. We will review the original submission and the denial notice to determine the best course of action in your circumstances, which may involve compiling a fresh application that addresses the reasons for the refusal. Contact our experts for specialist support.

 

5. Blanket L1 Visa Extensions Using Form I-129S

 

To be eligible for an L1 visa extension using the Blanket L petition, the employee must:

a. Currently hold L1 visa status under the same employer’s Blanket L petition.

b. Continue to meet the qualifications for the L1 visa category (L1A or L1B).

c. Demonstrate that their continued employment is necessary for the US company.

 

The following steps apply for making an extension application:

 

Step 1: Prepare the I-129S Form

Complete a new I-129S form. Although this is for an extension, a new form must be filed as if it were a new application. Ensure all information is up-to-date and reflects any changes in employment or personal circumstances.

 

Step 2: Collect Supporting Documents

Gather new supporting documents that reflect the ongoing relationship and eligibility, such as updated proof of the US and foreign entities’ relationship, recent financial statements showing the US entity is still active and operating, updated job description and organizational charts if roles or responsibilities have evolved and performance evaluations or other records indicating the importance of the employee’s role to the company.

 

Step 3: File the Submission

File the completed I-129S form and supporting documents with the USCIS service center that originally approved the Blanket L petition or as directed by current USCIS guidelines. The same service center is usually preferred for consistency and potentially quicker processing.

 

Step 4: After Filing

USCIS will issue a receipt notice once the extension application is filed. Employers and employees can track the status using the case number provided.

If additional information is needed, USCIS may issue an RFE. Responding promptly and fully is crucial to advancing the process.

Upon approval, the employee’s L1 status will be extended for the requested period, typically up to a maximum of two additional years for L1B and three for L1A, depending on the total limit (five years for L1B and seven years for L1A).

 

Section F: Tips for a Successful I-129S Application

 

1. Early Preparation and Submission

Start gathering documents and filling out the I-129S form well before the planned start date in the U.S. Early submission can help avoid delays, especially during peak processing times.

 

2. Ensure Accuracy and Completeness

Double-check all entries on the form for accuracy. Incomplete or incorrect forms are a common reason for delays and denials. Use the instructions on the USCIS website as a guide to fill out each section correctly.

 

3. Document Organization

Organize supporting documents logically and clearly. Include a table of contents and label each section of your documentation to make it easy for the adjudicator to find pertinent information. This can significantly speed up the review process.

 

4. Detailed Job Description and Company Information

Provide a detailed job description that clearly defines the role as managerial, executive, or involving specialized knowledge. Include specific examples of duties that illustrate these qualities. Also, ensure that you provide comprehensive information about the company’s operations and its relationship between the US and foreign entities.

 

5. Legal Consultation

Consider consulting with an immigration attorney who specializes in L-1 visas. Our US immigration attorneys help applicants navigate complex aspects of the application and ensure that all legal criteria are met and evidenced.

 

6. Prepare for Requests for Evidence (RFEs)

Anticipate potential RFEs by including more information than what you might think is necessary, particularly around the proof of specialized knowledge and the necessity of the role being in the US.

 

7. Maintain Open Communication with USCIS

Respond promptly to any requests from USCIS, including Requests for Evidence. Delaying your response can extend processing times considerably.

 

8. Prepare for the Consular Interview

If the employee is applying from outside the US, ensure they are well-prepared for the consular interview. This involves reviewing potential questions, ensuring all necessary documents are ready, and understanding the specifics of their visa category.

Section G: Summary

 

Navigating the I-129S form and the wider Blanket L and L-1 visa procedures is a critical step for multinational companies wishing to transfer key personnel to the United States.

By understanding the eligibility requirements, accurately completing the form, and preparing the necessary supporting documentation, employers can streamline the transfer of managers, executives, and specialized knowledge employees.

Key points to remember:

 

a. Ensure Accuracy: Complete the I-129S form carefully, double-checking all entries and ensuring all sections are filled accurately.

b. Organize Documentation: Provide clear and organized supporting documentation to facilitate a smooth review process.

c. Consult Legal Experts: Complex cases, particularly those involving intricate corporate structures or unique employment situations, may benefit significantly from professional guidance. NNU Immigration are highly experienced in supporting multinational employers’ US talent mobility programs.

d. Use Premium Processing for Expediency: If time is a critical factor, consider utilizing the Premium Processing service to expedite the application review.

 

Section H: Contact Us for Expert Advice on Form I-129s

 

Given the valuable role of intracompany transfers for multinational companies, avoiding delays or issues when mobilizing key personnel to the US is critical to avoid unwanted commercial implications or operational disruption.

NNU Immigration specializes in all aspects of the Blanket L petition, helping employers and L1 visa holders through the application process, including all aspects of the I-129S Form. For expert assistance in ensuring your application is not only compliant but optimized for a successful outcome, contact us.

 

Section I: Frequently Asked Questions on Form I-129S

 

1. What is the I-129S form used for?

The I-129S form is used by employers to apply for a nonimmigrant visa on behalf of employees under the blanket L petition, which allows multiple employees to be transferred to the US as intra-company transferees without the need for individual L petitions for each.

 

2. Who is eligible to file the I-129S form?

Employers with approved Blanket L petitions can file the I-129S form. This includes multinational companies transferring employees who have worked for them for at least one continuous year in the past three years in managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge roles.

 

3. How long does it take to process an I-129S form?

Processing times can vary greatly depending on the USCIS service center and the specifics of the application but generally range from a few weeks to several months. Premium Processing can expedite this to 15 calendar days for an additional fee.

 

4. Can the I-129S be filed for an employee already in the US?

Yes, the I-129S can be filed for employees who are already in the US on a different nonimmigrant status and are eligible for a change of status to L-1 under a Blanket petition.

 

5. What are the major reasons for denial of the I-129S form?

Common reasons include incomplete or inaccurate forms, insufficient evidence of the employee’s qualifications, or inadequate proof of the company’s business operations and relationship between entities.

 

6. Can an employee travel while their I-129S application is being processed?

It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney regarding travel during application processing. Travel might invalidate the application, especially if the status change or adjustment is pending.

 

7. What happens after the I-129S is approved?

Once approved, the employee must apply for an L-1 visa at a US Consulate or Embassy if they are outside the US. This involves scheduling a visa interview, providing additional documentation, and undergoing security checks.

 

8. Is there a limit to how many times the I-129S can be renewed?

L-1A visas can be extended up to a maximum of seven years, and L-1B visas up to five years, including time spent in the US on previous L-1 visas. Each extension requires approval, and conditions apply based on continuous employment and company eligibility.

 

9. What should be done if an RFE (Request for Evidence) is issued?

Respond promptly with all requested information and documents to support the claims made in your application. RFEs are issued when an application lacks sufficient evidence, so providing comprehensive and clear documentation is crucial.

 

Section J: Glossary of Terms of the I-129S Form

 

I-129S Form: Officially known as the Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, this form is used by employers to apply for L-1 visas for multiple employees under a single petition, facilitating the transfer of intra-company transferees who are managers, executives, or have specialized knowledge.

L-1 Visa: A nonimmigrant visa that allows companies to transfer executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from one of their affiliated foreign offices to one of their offices in the United States.

Managerial Capacity: Involves managing the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization, supervising the work of other employees, and holding a key position within the company hierarchy.

Executive Capacity: Refers to employees who direct the management of the organization or a major component or function, make broad decisions on behalf of the organization, and receive only general supervision from higher-level executives.

Specialized Knowledge: Knowledge that is unique to the company, including an understanding of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.

Blanket L Petition: A type of petition that allows a company to file a single petition for multiple employees, streamlining the process for getting L-1 visas when transferring several employees to the US.

Premium Processing: A service offered by USCIS that expedites the processing of visa petitions for an additional fee, guaranteeing a response within 15 calendar days.

Request for Evidence (RFE): A request issued by USCIS when an application lacks sufficient evidence to make a decision. An RFE asks for additional documentation and must be responded to promptly to continue processing the application.

USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services): The government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, including processing visa applications.

Visa Interview: A personal interview that is required for most visa applicants as part of the application process at a US Embassy or Consulate, involving questions about the applicant’s qualifications and intentions.

 

Section K: Additional Links

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
https://www.uscis.gov
Access a comprehensive range of resources, including forms, filing tips, and latest immigration news.

 

I-129S Form and Instructions
https://www.uscis.gov/i-129s
Direct link to the latest I-129S form and detailed instructions for completion.

 

Department of State (DOS)
https://www.state.gov/visas/
Check how to schedule visa interviews at US Embassies or Consulates.

 

US Embassy Location
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/list-of-posts.html
Find US Embassies or Consulates worldwide.

Author

Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.