The “Buy American, Hire American” executive order issued by President Trump has caused difficulties for immigrants seeking visas across a wide variety of categories.  One of the latest casualties of the Trump Administration’s focus on protecting American workers — often at the expense of the good of American industry and enterprise — is the L-1 visa program.

The L-1 visa allows certain employers to transfer executives, managers, and workers with specialized knowledge between afflicted companies.  Numerous requirements must be met in order to qualify for a L-1 visa.  For example, the foreign company must have a qualified relationship with a U.S. company.  In addition, in the three years prior to filing the petition, the prospective employee must have worked continuously for the foreign employee for at least one year in one of the three categories listed above.  Executives and managers who enter the United States under a L-1A visa can remain in the country for 7 years, along with their immediate family.  Employees with specialized knowledge can remain in the country for a period of 5 years.  These visas can be renewed, and employers can sponsor permanent residence for employees on L-1A visas.

 More Denials and Requests for Evidence Under New Policies

 While the L-1 visa program has been a popular way for companies to bring skilled workers to the United States, it has caught the attention of the Trump administration as a way that American workers are theoretically harmed by foreign employees coming to the United States.  Drawing particular ire throughout 2018 was the L-1B program, which brings employees with specialized knowledge to the United States. The final quarter of 2018 resulted in denials of almost one out of every three L1B applications filed — a substantial increase from the first quarter of 2017 which resulting in denials of merely 21% of L1B applications.

Under the “Buy American, Hire American” order, preference is to be given to American workers — which means that applications for visas for foreign workers are receiving greater scrutiny.  Similarly, renewal applications are being more closely examined, and no longer receive deference.  Instead, officers have been told to extend the same level of scrutiny to visa extension requests as they would to original applications — even where the underlying facts have not changed.  Instead of relying on the previous approval as the basis of granting a renewal, the burden will be on the applicant to prove that he or she qualifies for a L1-B visa.  This policy has led to more denials of L-1B visa applications and renewal requests, as well as more requests for evidence (RFEs) from the US Immigration Service.

Although the data is harder to obtain because USCIS fails to release information on L-1A Visa denials in a straightforward fashion, it appears that the denial rates of L-1As have increased at an even greater rate than that of L-1B Visas. Increasing from a 13% denial rate during the first quarter of 2017 to a denial rate of approximately one in four applications in 2018.  In addition, US Immigration has expanded its site visit program to ensure that employers are complying with the L-1 visa and other work visa requirements.  Together with the increased scrutiny placed on applications, this demonstrates the administration’s apparent commitment to reducing the number of foreign workers in the United States.

A Meticulous L-1 Visa Application or Renewal Can Still Be Approved

While there have been more denials of visa applications for professionals and managers these visas are still being approved.  The requirements for this type of visa are strict and must be met in order to qualify. It is vitally important that all forms submitted to US Immigration Service are accurate.  With the L-1 visa, this includes ensuring that your application or renewal is supported by federal immigration law.  Having a seasoned immigration attorney to help you draft and submit your application or renewal can increase the likelihood that you will receive an approval. While the Trump administration’s assault on immigration is worrying, obtaining an approval for executives and managers wishing to transfer to the US through their company can still be achieved provided that careful attention is paid to the developing trends and requirements of the US Immigration Service.

Experienced L1 Visa Attorneys Can Help

At Colombo & Hurd, our L-1 visa attorneys have years of experience helping clients obtain visas as executives, managers and workers with specialized knowledge.  Contact us today at our Orlando office at (407) 478-1111 or our Tampa office (813) 444-1114 or to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about how we can help you secure a L-1 visa