Long-Awaited Guidance on L-1B Visa Petitions

This week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) took another crucial step toward administrative reform of our immigration laws. The agency issued policy guidance for comment. on its adjudication of L-1B “specialized knowledge” visa petitions. The L-1 category allows a U.S. multinational company to transfer talented employees, who have worked for a related entity abroad, to work in the United States temporarily either as managers or executives (L-1A) or because of their “specialized knowledge” (L-1B).

Last November, the Secretary of Homeland Security recognized that USCIS’s “inconsistent interpretation” has “created uncertainty” for companies, and, as part of the package of executive actions, he directed USCIS to issue a policy memorandum that “will bring greater coherence and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.” The Secretary also acknowledged that the “specialized knowledge” visa category is “critically important to multinational companies.”

In its memo this week, USCIS echoed these sentiments, noting that “Congress has determined that the ability to transfer company personnel with specialized knowledge is important to fostering the growth and competitiveness of U.S. businesses.” Further, companies should be able to transfer specialized knowledge employees in order “to do business in an increasingly global marketplace.”

USCIS’s issuance of the policy memo for comment provides interested stakeholders an important opportunity to reflect on the new guidance and offer input. USCIS will accept comments until May 8, and currently intends to apply the policy memorandum as of August 31, 2015.