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Remember that there are two major sets of facts which need to be proven before a traditional L-1 visa is granted. One set concerns the two business entities involved in the transfer (that the U.S. company is the parent or subsidiary of the foreign company, or that they are affiliates in the sense that they both share substantially the same ownership, or that one is a joint venture involving the other, or that one is a branch office of the other). The other set concerns the foreign national whose transfer to the U.S. is sought and the planned job: that they have worked for the overseas company for the required amount of time, and that the work have done abroad and that they will do in the U.S. will be in an appropriate capacity (executive, managerial or specialized knowledge, etc.) The L-1 blanket petition is different in that it breaks apart these two sets of items to be proven. The company files an L-1 blanket petition establishing all of the “first-set” concerns – the corporate interrelationships – simultaneously; every related company globally is listed in this petition. This only needs to be amended when there is a change in the related companies or their ownership relationships. When the companies recognize a need to transfer an employee from an overseas entity to the U.S. entity, a petition demonstrating only that the employee and the proposed job meet the requirements for L-1 status can be forwarded to the employee directly for presentation at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The petition need say nothing about the corporate interrelationships beyond a mention that both are included in the approved blanket petition, and there is no need to wait for USCIS Service Center approval of a petition. Compare this to the traditional L-1 petition, where the employer must file an individual L-1 petition with the USCIS Service Center which seeks to prove both the corporate relationship and the qualifications of the planned job/desired employee for L-1 status, wait for an approval, and then wait for the employee to process for the visa through a consulate.
Unfortunately, no – only larger and more established companies. The restrictions on which companies may apply for a blanket petition pertain to the size and longevity of the company. The company’s U.S. office must be engaged in a commercial trade or service, must have existed for at least a year, and must demonstrate in the petition the existence of at least two additional domestic or foreign related organizations aside from the petitioning U.S. entity. It must also meet one of these three criteria: it must have $25 million (U.S.) in sales, it must employ 1,000 or more U.S. workers, or must have petitioned for at least 10 individual L-1 visas in the 12 month period before filing of the blanket L-1 petition. A small but high-income company may qualify, as might a large employer with relatively low income for its size or a company which handles many transfers without employing many people or having a very high income (though such a company may attract suspicion!)
An L-1 employee can be brought to the U.S. much more quickly under a blanket petition than under a traditional L-1 petition, and without the needless repetition of proving the same corporate interrelationships over and over again. Rather than making large companies which frequently transfer employees “re-invent the wheel” by proving the same corporate interrelationships with every application, a qualifying company can file just the one blanket petition listing all companies under the same corporate umbrella, their ownership interrelationships, and the percentages of ownership. This can be done in anticipation of future need for L-1 transferee personnel. When a determination of the need to transfer a qualifying overseas employee to the U.S. entity is made, the employer can skip right to the end of the process (the employee requesting a visa stamp at the consulate) by simply proving that the employee has worked for the company for one of the last three years abroad and will be performing either an executive/managerial or a specialized knowledge job in the U.S. There is no need to first apply through USCIS in the United States, and no need to again demonstrate the corporate interrelationships.
Unlike non-blanket L-1B petitions for specialized knowledge workers, the L-1 Blanket procedure can only be used where the specialized knowledge job is a professional position (i.e.: a position requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent). Applicants for specialized knowledge L-1 positions which require at least a Bachelor’s – and so are professional positions – may certainly use the L-1 Blanket procedure, but applicants for non-professional L-1 positions which require specialized knowledge of company policies, technologies, procedures, etc. must still use the non-blanket L-1 petition procedure through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S.
No. “Employment” for purposes of defining unauthorized employment doesn’t just mean getting paid. If the individual is performing productive work for the benefit of a US employer, and taking direction from that employer, they are generally considered to be employed in the sense of needing authorization to work. Generally, employees who perform productive work for the employer under the guidance of the employer – even if not for pay – are working without authorization and any employer who accepts such volunteer work without paying the employee may likely be violating Federal labor law. Traditionally volunteer activities are generally accepted here: volunteer firefighters, someone serving in a soup kitchen, etc. typically don’t need authorization to perform these tasks. But, just because an entity is non-profit doesn’t automatically make any work performed for them acceptable without authorization – a soup kitchen server may volunteer without immigration authorization as someone in a traditionally volunteer role, a Development Director soliciting corporate donations for the same organization is a different matter.
One possibility, if not already done at the time the petition is filed, is to pay U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the extra $1,225 for premium processing if the case type permits it (premium processing is available only or certain visas). This ensures 15-day turnaround from USCIS (not necessarily approval – the response may be a Request for Evidence or Denial as well). There is a way to request that a case be expedited, but it is extremely difficult to meet the standards set for this – and often the time it takes for evaluation of the request negates any advantage. There are occasionally other ways to permit the new employee to be working faster, but these options depend upon the company’s structure and flexibility, the nature of the work, and other situation-specific factors. Consult an immigration lawyer for an examination of the circumstances and potential options.