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State Department Removes Stricter Guidance Update on Blanket L Visa Petitions

Posted November 20, 2019Kyle RobyArticles

In late October, the U.S. State Department updated its standard of review guidelines to consular officers within the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), instructing officers to require Blanket L visa applicants to show their eligibility for the visa through “clear and convincing evidence”. Officers were further instructed to deny applications where questions about the applicant’s eligibility could not be resolved quickly or easily during the interview.

As of November 14, 2019, the State Department has withdrawn these updated instructions on stricter guidance in the FAM, reverting the guidelines back to the previous review standard that officers only grant Blanket L petitions that are “clearly approvable.”

Blanket L petitions are commonly used by multinational organizations for the purpose of transferring large numbers of employees from international offices to U.S. offices, granted the organization meets the eligibility criteria for Blanket L certification. Eligible employees of these organizations may apply for either an L-1A intracompany managerial/executive transferee or L-1B specialized knowledge visa pursuant to the approved Blanket L petition, eliminating the need for an individual petition filing with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).

Blanket L petitions at U.S. Consulates have historically been subject to stricter standards of review by consular officers, resulting in increased denials over the past several years. The now rescinded guidance was expected to encourage officers to scrutinize these types of petitions even more closely, likely resulting in further increased denial rates. It is unclear if the State Department will try to adjust the review guidelines again in the future.

Employers and their foreign national employees who are applying for the L-1 visa pursuant to a Blanket L petition at a U.S. Consulate should continue to ensure that they are well prepared for the interview prior to their visa appointment. It is strongly recommended for applicants to review and be prepared to describe their work experience, skills, and job duties in clear and concise detail to minimize risk of denial.

Meltzer Hellrung LLC will continue to monitor the above guidance in order to advise clients on best practices for these types of applications.

For more information on the Blanket L petition, U.S. Consular interviews, or visa interview preparation for foreign national employees, please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney.