L1 Visa: Changes to Approval Process, Visa Interview Becomes Stricter

The Foreign Affairs Manual now outlines a stricter standard for the adjudication of L1 visas and makes the L1 visa interview the final deciding factor in approving L1 visas. This strict vetting is particularly applicable to blanket L1 visa approvals at US Consulates abroad.

Are You Applying For an L1 Visa?

Here’s everything you need to know

L1 visas are issued to foreign workers who need to be transferred to the US branch of the same company they work for in their home country. Known as intracompany transfers, L1 visas are non-immigrant visas and the beneficiaries have to provide proof of returning to their home country after a temporary period in the US.

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L1 Visa Approvals

What Are The Changes To L1 Visa Processing?

Some companies receive blanket approvals for L1 petitions which allows them to apply directly at a US Consulate abroad for an intra-company transfer of employees. Going forward, this process is going to undergo much stricter vetting. 

  • Eligibility: Earlier the onus of proving eligibility which lay on the applicant was simpler and straight-forward. Now the standards of adjudication will be tougher.
  • Documentation: In older adjudications, the L1 visa just had to be “clearly approvable.” Now the applicant needs to provide clear and convincing evidence of eligibility for the L-1 visa. This has to be supported with extensive evidentiary documentation that categorizes the petition as either “highly probable” or “reasonably certain”. 
  • Blanket Approvals: These changes are specifically applicable to blanket L1 approvals wherein the applicant has to go to a US Consulate in his home country for the visa interview.  The heightened adjudication process allows the consular officer to deny the petition on the face of the application without further evaluations.
  • Chance to Rectify a Denial: Previously, if the L1 petition was missing a document, the consular officer would issue an INA 221(g) refusal notice and give the applicant an opportunity to submit further documentation to resolve the issue. With the new stricter vetting, these applications will be rejected at face without being given a second chance.
  • Visa Interview: The new approval criteria in the Foreign Affairs Manual says that if the L1 visa interview does not resolve any reasonable eligibility benchmarks, the consular officer has the right to deny the L1 petition on the spot. 
  • No doubts about the petition will be entertained and officers “must deny the visa” if the issue cannot be resolved at the visa interview.

What Should L1 Visa Applicants Do To Prepare For a Successful Visa Interview

  • Prepare for an air tight interview process
  • Rehearse questions with your legal counsel beforehand
  • Work with your immigration counsel to prepare for an alternative
  • As an alternative, also prepare to apply for an L1 visa outside of the blanket approval for your company. While this separate petition is more expensive it establishes that the beneficiary qualifies for the L1 visa. 
  • Important to Note:Direct USCIS filings are not only more expensive, but take longer and are prone to more denials and requests for evidence.
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L1 Visa RFE Data

Carry the following documents for the interview:

  • L1 visa appointment letter
  • DS-160 application confirmation
  • L1 visa filing fee receipt
  • Copy of L1 petition
  • Valid passport
  • Individual job resume
  • Detailed job description
  • All communication regarding the L1 visa from the company
  • Two passport size pictures of the applicant

For more information on L1 visa adjudications, stay tuned to Path2USA.