What An Employer Should Do Now that H-1B Visas are Over

6 September 2012

As of December 1, 2011, the US Consulate General in Chennai will process all Blanket L Visas. The New Delhi US Embassy and Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad US Consulates no longer process petitions for Blanket L Visas. Visas for dependent spouse and children (L-2) and individual visas (L-1A and L-1B) can still be processed at the Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi posts.

What is a Blanket L Visa?

A Blanket L visa is available to employees whose employers hold such a designation to file L visas under a Blanket L permit, issued by the Department of State. To be eligible, an employer must be in business in the US for more than one year; have three or more domestic or foreign, subsidiaries or affiliates; and be engaged in commercial trade or services. The employer must also have annual US sales of $25 million; a US workforce of 1,000 employees; or the employer should have received at least 10 L petitions in the last 12 months. An employer may be in danger of losing their Blanket L permit if they file fewer than 10 petitions in the prior year. Only commercial employers can be approved for a Blanket L permit; non-profits are not eligible.

Blanket L visas are for employees who have, in the three past years, been employed abroad for one year and will continue to be employed by the same company in the US. Employees can either be petitioned individually or under a blanket, and must meet the criteria of a “specialized knowledge” professional, executive or manager.

Three Major Issues

1. Will the L visa employee work at client sites?

If your answer is yes, then you must establish an employer-employee relationship during the time the employee is working at a third party worksite on behalf of the petitioner (employer). If the employee is to work in the office of the L visa employer, then that fact should be made very clear both in the documentation and at the interview. Consular officers are very concerned about L visas being misused by employers and being used when H-1B visas are no longer available.

At the US Consulate, the employee is often asked to go up to a window to answer questions. The interview is about 5 minutes, and very often consular officers may not have the time to read the entire petition. If the employee is to work on a particular project at a site other than the US employer’s offices, that fact should also be presented both at the interview and substantiated in the application.

L visa employees must be ready to answer any and all questions, and justify the reason for working at a end-client’s office instead of working at the L visa employer’s office.

2. Is the salary of an ordinary programmer or of a specialist in an L-1B visa category?

Salary earnings in India are indicative of the level of services an employee provides for his/her company; there is certainly a difference between IT workers who complete general services and those who have specialized knowledge. If the applicant is earning a sizeable salary, it is important to state the applicant’s salary in the support letter; salaries are often indicative of a specialist eligible for an L-1B visa instead of a programmer more suited to H-1B visa category status.

It is these distinctions that have caused a rise in the denial rate, 27%, of all filed L visa applications.

3. Is the applicant’s work in India not indicative of a specialized job?

The consular officers will most likely deduce that the applicant has no specialized knowledge if the applicant’s work in India is based in general services. This can include testing; enterprise recourse planning maintenance; or execution of Oracle, Microsoft or SAP software.

Experience

L-1B visa holders are supposed to be specialists; if the applicant has a three-year degree and one year of experience, then the consular officer is not likely to consider the applicant experienced enough to warrant an L-1B visa approval. The standard by which L visa applications are approved is “clearly approvable”. Hence, the burden of proving L visa eligibility lies with the employer. If the L visa has been approved by USCIS, the US Consulate may grant the L visa unless special circumstances exist, or the consulate determines more evidence is required.

We live in a climate where no USCIS application is sacrosanct, and where the Department of State often re-adjudicates USCIS approvals.

B-1 In Lieu of H-1B

The B-1 In Lieu of H-1B visa is a hybrid visa, a cross between a business visa and an employment visa in the US. The employee with H-1B visa qualifications comes to the US instead on a business visa (B-1), applies for the visa at the consulate and declares intent at the border. This employee cannot receive any remuneration in the US other than an expense allowance.

However, this visa is under attack. Employers should demonstrate that there are unexpected circumstances and an urgent need for the employee to obtain a B-1 Visa In Lieu of an H-1B. The controversy arises over the extent to which the B-1 visa is used or misused in lieu of an H-1B. Even if the consulate grants this visa, it is likely that the visa holder may encounter difficulty at the US port of entry.

True need for the visa must be well-planned to demonstrate the benefit of the short-term visit to the foreign employer, as opposed to the US client.

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