If you a multinational employer, how can you get an L-1B visa for an employee with specialized knowledge to work in the US?
An L-1B visa allows an employer to transfer an worker with specialized knowledge from an affiliated foreign office to the US. The L-1B worker with specialized knowledge must be employed by a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliated company abroad in order to qualify, and be coming to perform services that involve specialized knowledge.
A foreign company which does not yet have an office in the US may establish one and obtain an L-1B visa for the worker. In order to sponsor the worker for an L-1B visa, the employer must begin the process by submitting a Form I-129 visa petition to the USCIS.
On November 12, 2021, USCIS issued a policy announcement to clarify that they will consider E and L spouses to be employment authorized based on their valid E or L nonimmigrant status.
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In order to submit a petition for an L-1B visa for a worker with specialized knowledge, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company
- Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the US and in at least one other country directly through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the US
The L1B worker with specialized knowledge must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the 3 years immediately preceding admission to the US, and
- Be seeking to enter the US to provide services requiring specialized knowledge to the same employer or to an affiliated organization
“Specialized knowledge” means either knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’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.
Sponsoring a Person for an L-1B Visa
In order to sponsor an employee with specialized knowledge for an L-1B visa to be employed in a new office in the US, the employer must file a Form I-129 with evidence that:
- Sufficient premises to house the new office have been secured;
- The business entity in the US is or will be a qualifying organization; and
- The employer has the financial ability to compensate the L1B worker with specialized knowledge and to begin doing business in the US.
L-1B classification will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year and all other qualified employees a maximum stay of three years. A petitioner may apply for an extension of an individual L-1B petition using Form I-129 which may be granted for an additional 2 years of stay until the employee has reached the maximum limit of 5 years.
The spouse and children of an L-1B worker with specialized knowledge may apply for L-2 visas. The L-2 spouse may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Blanket L Petitions
Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a blanket petition. Eligibility for blanket L certification may be established if:
- The petitioner and each of the qualifying organizations are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States which has been doing business for one year or more;
- The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates; and
- The petitioner along with the other qualifying organizations, collectively, meet one of the following criteria:
- Have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 12-month period;
- Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
- Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.
The approval of a blanket L petition does not guarantee that an employee will be granted L-1B classification. It does, however, provide the employer with the flexibility to transfer eligible employees to the United States without having to file an individual petition with USCIS. In order to qualify under the blanket petitioning process, the employee having specialized knowledge must also be a professional. See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(E).
L-1B Visa – Additional Resources
- L-1 Visas: Intracompany Transferees
- Foreign Workers with “Specialized Knowledge” by Carl Shusterman– Recruiting Trends
- L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge (USCIS)
- State Department Plans Pilot for Domestic Visa Renewal (2-9-23)
- Policy Memo: L-1B Adjudications Policy (8-27-15) (USCIS)
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.