DOS Introduces Revised Blanket L Procedures and Visa Annotations
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has updated the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to include new procedures on the issuance of blanket L visas. The FAM updates come in the wake of recent indications that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will admit foreign nationals under a corporate blanket only through the expiration date on the I-129S petition, and will no longer admit applicants for rolling three-year periods.
The FAM notes appear at 9 FAM 41.54. Revised sections are dated December 3, 2014.
Blanket L and I-129S Procedures
The revised FAM note includes more detailed instructions to consular officers about appropriate I-129S validity dates. See 9 FAM 41.54, N. 13.6. Officers are instructed to endorse I-129S forms for three years or the dates of intended employment, whichever is less.
For renewals, officers are instructed to consider the applicant’s statutory maximum period of stay, to help ensure that CBP officers do not admit blanket L applicants beyond the maximum. Elsewhere, the FAM is updated to provide that the beneficiary of a blanket petition can be admitted for “up to” three years.
Visa Annotation Changes
DOS is implementing new L-1 visa annotation templates that more clearly distinguish between individual and blanket L visas. See 9 FAM 41.54, N. 12.4 (individual Ls) and N. 13.6 (blanket Ls).
Blanket L visas will be more clearly annotated as such, and will state that an I-129S must be presented at the port of entry (POE), consistent with CBP’s expected policy change. The I-129S expiration date will be explicitly labeled as such, according to the following annotation template:
BLANKET L-1; MUST PRESENT I-129S AT POE
“Clearance received on (date)” or “212(D)(3)(A): |waiver informationŒ”
PN: |PETITIONER NAMEŒ
P#-|PETITION RECEIPT NUMBERŒ I-129S EXP: |EXP DATEŒ
Individual L visas will be annotated as follows. The individual petition expiration date will continue to be labeled “PED.”
MUST PRESENT I-797 AT POE
P# – [PETITION RECEIPT NUMBER] PED – [PETITION EXPIRATION DATE]
Blanket L Renewals
The new notes also update 9 FAM 41.54, N. 20.1-1, the FAM provisions on L visa renewals, which were revised in 2013 to make clear that an applicant can apply for a new L visa before his or her current visa expires.
This provision allows employers to seek blanket L renewals at the consulate, rather than a USCIS Service Center, even though the foreign national still has a significant period of remaining validity on his or her existing visa. Attorneys have reported that consulates are generally willing to entertain a new I-129S and new L-1 visa application in these cases, in accordance with this FAM provision.
[This article updates material in Fragomen, Shannon, and Montalvo, Immigration Procedures Handbook § 5:56.]