On March 24, 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a policy memorandum discussing the “specialized knowledge” requirement for the L-1B visa category. The memorandum intends to clarify and provide guidance regarding the adjudication process of the L-1B requirement.
The L-1B visa category is available for international companies that needs to temporarily transfer workers with specialized knowledge to their parent, affiliate subsidiary, or branch offices in the United States. The L-1B visa is one of the few alternatives to the H-1B non-immigrant work visa for the thousands that were rejected in the random computer generated H-1B selection for FY 2016.
The L-1B visa acceptance rate is less than 65%, partly due to the strict interpretations of USCIS officers when reviewing L-1B petitions. The new policy memorandum intends to encourage USCIS offers to be more flexible while reviewing the applications.
Basic L-1B visa eligibility requirements include:
- Beneficiary must be employed abroad by the organization on a full-time basis for one continuous year within the three years preceding the filing of petition.
- Beneficiary must hold managerial or executive capacity or capacity involving specialized knowledge.
- Beneficiary must provide enough evidence to support his claim and prove specialized knowledge.
Clarification to L-1B Eligibility Requirements
The memorandum focuses on clarifying eligibility requirements related to “specialized knowledge”. It is broken down into two sections: special knowledge and advanced knowledge. A beneficiary may prove either one or both areas of knowledge, explained below.
- Special knowledge relates to a deep understanding of manufacturing, process, research, technique, management, or other knowledge of the company’s products and services.
- Advanced knowledge relates to understanding procedures and processes specific to the organization.
The new policy memorandum intends to clarify the specialized knowledge requirement by implementing the following factors. The policy memorandum explicitly states the following:
- Specialized knowledge cannot be easily imparted to other individuals.
- Specialized knowledge need not be proprietary or unique to the petitioning organization.
- L-1B classification does not require test of the U.S. labor market.
- Specialized knowledge need not be narrowly held within the petitioning organization.
- Specialized knowledge workers need not occupy managerial or similar positions or command high salaries compared to their peers.
- Eligibility for another nonimmigrant classification is not a bar to eligibility for L-1B classification.
USCIS established an open period for comments and public feedback regarding the policy memorandum, which ended May 8, 2015. The new guidelines are planned to take effect August 31, 2015. Contact your immigration attorney for more specific information regarding the new memorandum.
Learn more about the L1 visa.