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Blanket L Petition Approval & Requirements

Blanket L Petition Approval:
All You Need To Know

The Blanket L program allows international organizations to transfer qualifying employees quickly to the United States, without having to file individual L-1 petitions for each employee with USCIS.

To help employers better understand how they can expedite the transfer of qualifying foreign nationals to the U.S., we present here an overview of the Blanket L program, and strategic considerations in choosing between Blanket L petitions and individual L-1 petitions.

Blanket L Program - What Is It?

The Blanket L program is designed to allow international companies transfer their executives, managers, and specialized knowledge professionals to the U.S. without undergoing the lengthy process under regular L-1 petition. Employees transferring from one qualifying organization to another can bypass the L-1 petition process with USCIS, and proceed directly to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for an L-1 visa.

The Blanket L program simplifies the process of approving and admitting L-1A and L-1B workers and can result in significant savings of both filing fees and time.

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Blanket L Requirements - Who Qualifies?

In order to participate in the Blanket L program, the Petitioner (US company) must apply to USCIS to obtain approval. To qualify for the Blanket L program, the petitioner must meet the following criteria:

  1. The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services
  2. The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one year or more
  3. The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates, and
  4. The petitioner and the other qualifying organizations:
    1. Have obtained approval of petitions for at least ten "L" managers, executives, or specialized knowledge professionals during the past 12 months, or
    2. Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million, or
    3. Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

Blanket L Petition vs. Individual L-1 Petition: Strategic Considerations

1. Processing Times

Blanket L Application: Under an approved Blanket Petition, an intending intra-company transferee may enter the U.S. within about one week after submitting the L-1 visa application and Form I-129S at the consulate.

Individual L-1 Petition: An individual L-1 petition may take 8-10 weeks or more for processing at a USCIS Service Center, not counting for any delays caused by Requests for Additional Evidence from USCIS. Only after the petition is approved can the Beneficiary then apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. Consulate.

DID YOU KNOW?
L-1 nonimmigrants are required to have been employed continuously full-time (and not part-time) for one year by a parent, subsidiary or other affiliate of the petitioning company in the three years preceding the time of his or her application for admission into the U.S. The one year qualifying experience must be outside U.S.
DID YOU KNOW?
Foreign nationals seeking to open or be employed in a 'new office' do not qualify for Blanket L.

2. Substantive Differences

Blanket L Application: Under the Blanket L program, there is an assumption that the qualifying organization criterion has been proven and only proof of the transferee's eligibility is required at the interview.

Individual L-1 Petition: An individual L-1 petition requires every petition to establish both - the individual intracompany transferee is eligible for transfer and that the qualifying corporate relationship exists.

3. Transfers Within The U.S.

A Blanket L-1 beneficiary may transfer to any other U.S. organization listed on the approved Blanket Petition during his or her authorized L-1 stay 'without referral' to the USCIS, as long as the foreign national's duties will remain 'virtually the same' at the new organization.

DID YOU KNOW?
When applying for a Blanket L program, the U.S. organization can include all qualifying foreign entities (such as branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates).
DID YOU KNOW?
Foreign nationals may not apply for a visa under the Blanket L petition if an individual L-1 petition has been filed on his or her behalf.

4. Reduced Filing Fee

Blanket L Application: There are generally no USCIS filing fees once the Blanket L program is approved for the individual beneficiaries. The only fees required are Nonimmigrant Visa Fee and the Anti-Fraud Fee ($500) which must be paid at the U.S. Consulate.

NOTE: An additional fee of $2,250 must be paid, if the petitioning employer has 50 or more employees in the United States and more than 50 percent of whom are in H-1B or L-1 status.

Individual L-1 Petition: L-1 petitions filed with USCIS must include the Filing Fee of $325 and the $500
Anti-Fraud fee. If the petitioner elects to pursue 'Premium Processing', there is an additional fee of $1225. Once the petition is approved, the employee is required to pay the Nonimmigrant Visa Fee at the U.S. Consulate when applying for L-1 visa.

NOTE: An additional fee of $2,250 must be paid, if the petitioning employer has 50 or more employees in the United States and more than 50 percent of whom are in H-1B or L-1 status.

What Is Blanket L Program Approval?



1. Blanket L Program Procedure

The Blanket L Petition is filed with USCIS at a Service Center that has jurisdiction over the petitioner's main U.S. office (California Service Center or Vermont Service Center).

No specific individual transferee must be named in the petition. The USCIS restricts its decision only to verifying the basic criteria concerning the qualifying relationships of the named entities, the commercial nature of their business activities, and their qualifications..

The decision whether a specific foreign national qualifies for L classification is made by a consular officer who reviews the foreign national's visa application, or by the USCIS Service Center if the foreign national beneficiary is visa exempt or applying for a change of status in the U.S.

IMPORTANT

Additional qualifying organizations can be added to the Blanket L program by filing an amended Blanket L petition.

TIP

Nonprofit organizations are eligible to file individual L-1 petitions but not Blanket L petitions.

2. Blanket L Program Documentation

The Form I-129 is used to file for Blanket L program approval. The manner of completing the form is different as there is no named Beneficiary on the form. A supplemental list of all domestic and foreign parent, branch, subsidiary and affiliate entities must be included.

Broadly, the documentation must support the following:

  • Proof of existence for each of the domestic or foreign company (articles of incorporation, registration as branch office, etc.)
  • Proof of relationship between the companies
  • Proof that each company is doing business
  • Proof that the US Company has been doing business for over one year (tax returns, financial statements, product orders, etc.)
  • Proof of 10 transfers (approval notices for 10 L-1 petitions approved in the past 12 months); or combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or employment of U.S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees

3. Blanket L Program Validity

The initial validity of an approved Blanket L program is three years. The petitioner is then required to file for an extension and can request indefinite validity for the Blanket L program.

IMPORTANT

If the petitioner fails to apply for an indefinite validity of the Blanket L program, or the Service denies the indefinite validity, the petitioner may not file a new Blanket L program for three years.

DID YOU KNOW?
Canadian citizens, who are generally visa-exempt, may present the completed Form I-129S and supporting documentation to a CBP Officer at Class A ports-of-entry or pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection stations along with the $500 Fraud Fee, and seek admission under Blanket L status.

4. Blanket L Visa Applications

Once USCIS approves the Blanket L program, the organizations listed on the approval notice can begin to transfer personnel to the U.S. This is accomplished by the submission of Form I-129S, along with the supporting documentation at the U.S. consulates.

5. Blanket L Visas Documentation

Blanket L visa applications at U.S. Consulates and embassies must be presented with the following supporting documents:

  • Corporate documentation of the transferring and receiving Blanket L entity
  • Letter of support from the U.S. petitioner detailing the prospective transferee's qualifications and proposed job description in the U.S.
  • Copies of degrees and transcripts for specialized knowledge professionals
  • Organization charts for executives, managers, or functional managers;
  • Letter from the foreign entity detailing the proposed transferee's employment in specialized knowledge professional, managerial, or executive status for a period of more than one year
  • Foreign entity pay slips or other evidence showing the proposed transferee's employment for a continuous period of at least one year
  • Passport valid for six months beyond the proposed stay in the U.S.
IMPORTANT

The beneficiary of a blanket petition must meet the higher standard of being a 'specialized knowledge professional', rather than merely possessing specialized knowledge.

Foreign nationals who possess specialized knowledge, but who are not specialized knowledge professionals, must obtain L-1 status through an individual L-1 petition.

Period of Admission

Initial Admission Subsequent Applications For Admission

An L-1 nonimmigrant initially seeking admission under a Blanket L may be admitted for a period of three years even though the initial validity of the Blanket L program may expire before the end of the 3-year period.

An L-1 foreign national may not be admitted for a period of time that exceeds the statutory limitations on L-1 stay in the U.S. An L-1 foreign national who has spent either seven years in the U.S. in a managerial or executive capacity, or five years in a specialized knowledge capacity may not be readmitted to the U.S. in L-1 status unless the foreign national has resided and been physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate previous year, except for brief visits for business or pleasure.

Change of Employer Scenarios

There are two types of change of employer scenarios that a Blanket L foreign national may incur:

  1. those that require no notification to USCIS, and
  2. those that require notification to USCIS

USCIS regulations state that a Blanket L foreign national may be reassigned to any organization listed in the approved Blanket L program without referral to the Service during his or her authorized stay if the foreign national will be performing virtually the same job duties.

However, if the foreign national will be performing different job duties, or the foreign national will be transferred to a related company that was not included in the Blanket L program, then the filing of individual L-1 petition may be required.

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DID YOU KNOW?
L1 Blanket does not require that all intra-company transferees use this mechanism. Individual L-1 petitions or other types of work visa petitions may still be submitted.

Denying Blanket L Visas

The Blanket L has at least one strategic disadvantage compared to the individual L-1 - it exposes its participants to the peril of non-reviewable consular discretionary authority.

A vast majority of intracompany transferees under the Blanket L file L-1 visa applications at U.S. consulates. While a denial of a regular L petition at an USCIS service center may be appealed, consular denials of Blanket L visa applications are not reviewable. However, once a Blanket L application has been denied, the petitioner can then file an individual L-1 petition with USCIS.

Conclusion

The Blanket L is not just for large multinational organizations. The essential legal requirements to qualify for a Blanket approval are relatively modest.

A Blanket L approval can expedite the transfer of managers, executives, and specialized knowledge professionals by avoiding the need to file separate individual L-1 petitions.

VisaPro immigration attorneys have extensive expertise and experience on advising and assisting companies successfully with the Blanket L program.

Contact VisaPro Law Firm today for a FREE Blanket L Consultation. We'll talk through your priorities and recommend strategies for a successful Blanket L program based on our attorneys' near 100% success rate.

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