New Guidance on L Visas

The L-1B visa category pertains to very specialized workers who have advanced knowledge and training in precise fields of employment. Theses visas are available to individuals who are employed in a company overseas that has offices in the country where they are employed as well as in the United States. This particular visa allows these specialized workers the opportunity of relocating to the United States in order to work at the company’s US based office. In order to qualify for this benefit, the employee must have worked for the company at the overseas location for at least one year within the three year period prior to the application to enter the United States on the L-1B. This category allows international companies to have an advantage in certain markets where a foreign employee adds value to the product or service being offered.

Over the past several years, the L-1B classification has been faced with ambiguity about its viability due to its extremely high rate of denial. However, there is good news on the horizon for seekers of this particular avenue into the United States. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has finally issued recent and updated guidance on the L-1B petition process.

Late last year, Jeh Charles Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security who oversees USCIS, announced the agencies dissatisfaction regarding discrepancies in interpretation of the L-1 visa requirements and certain ambiguity surrounding the manner in which the L-1B visa process was being adjudicated. Secretary Johnson described the problem as stemming from an “inconsistent interpretation” regarding the qualifications for the category. He then advised the agency to address the problem by directing them to issue a policy memorandum in order to clarify the specifics of the L-1B process.

USCIS has now issued a memo addressing the Secretary’s concerns and acknowledged that the L-1B category is essential for international companies and that this category based on highly specialized knowledge must be improved in order for these same businesses to regain confidence in the process. This new directive is very encouraging in that it supports the L-1 category, and gives international companies hope that a visa in the area of specialized knowledge will once again be a viable route for valuable individuals to enter the United States and work for the company in an essential role.

The new memorandum regarding the L-1 visas is currently under review and accepting changes and suggestions until May 8 th. USCIS intends to publish a final version of the memorandum by August 31 st, 2015.

This new policy with further guidance for the L-1 category is very good news for many multinational companies who wish to continue working and thriving in the United States. In 2014, the rate of denial for the L-1B applications peaked at a record high of 35 percent. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, this denial rate increased by more than five times that of the percentage of denial in 2006. The increase in denial rate has been increasing worrisome for these corporations, especially in light of the fact that Congress addressed the L-1 category in 1990 in order to increase the classification.

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