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Regular L-1 Petitions versus "Blanket L" Petitions: Similarities and Differences. By: Betty Chu and Richard Wilner

An L-1 applicant may be employed in the United States in any one of the three defined capacities: Managerial, Executive, or "Specialized Knowledge" Employee. However, to qualify for "Specialized Knowledge" under the blanket L program, the specialized knowledge personnel must also be "professionals" as defined under INA § 101(a)(32). Hence, in deciding whether to petition under the blanket L versus the regular L, consider whether the company's foreign specialized knowledge personnel can qualify as "professionals" under the INA.

Once approved, the Blanket L petition allows the corporation to quickly transfer executive, managerial and specialized knowledge professionals to the United States. It is particularly useful for companies that need to transfer personnel frequently with little advance notice. Under the regulations, a blanket L petition must meet the following four conditions:

  1. The petitioner and each of the entities included in the blanket L petition are engaged in commercial trade or services;
  2. The petitioner has an office in the U.S. that has been doing business for one year or more;
  3. The petitioner has three or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates; and
  4. The petitioner have done at least one of the following:
    1. Obtained approval of petitions for at least 10 "L" managers, executives, or specialized knowledge professionals during the previous 12 months;
    2. Have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million;
    3. Have a U.S. work force of at least 1,000 employees.

The blanket L petition is ideal for large companies to facilitate cross-border mobility of company employees. By contrast, the "normal" L petition is for smaller companies and individuals who are in the process of establishing a new subsidiary or affiliate in the U.S.

To qualify under the normal L petition, the foreign and U.S. employers must be branches of the same entity or be related as parent/subsidiary or affiliates. An affiliate is one that is owned and controlled by the same parent, individual, or group of individuals. However, affiliates need not do business with each other or even be in the same line of business.

One major difference between the normal and Blanket L is that the regular L process requires every petition to establish both that the individual transferee is eligible for transfer and that the necessary corporate relationship (that of a qualifying organization) exists. By contrast, the blanket L petition requires only proof of the transferee's individual eligibility for L status.

As for the validity and restrictions of the L petitions, the regular/individual L petitions are limited to five or seven consecutive years depending on whether it is a an L-1A (7 year limit) or an L-1B (5 year limit); on the other hand, the initial blanket L petition is valid only for three (3) years. Additionally, a blanket L petition has certain ongoing paperwork requirements that do not exist in regular/individual L cases.

The blanket L is designed to allow multinational corporations to transfer their executives, manager and specialized knowledge professional to the United States without the often lengthy processing periods for regular L petitions. However, a small company transferring one or two key managers/executives for the purpose of expansion should file a normal L petition.

BIOGRAPHY: Betty Chu, Esq. is an Associate at Wilner & O'Reilly, practicing Business Immigration Law. She is a member of the Los Angeles and Orange County Bar Associations and has been admitted to practice law in the Central and Southern Districts of California. Ms. Chu received her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from UCLA. She previously served on the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competitions Committee. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

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