Are L-1 visa approval rates dwindling in the US?

Tightened L-1 visa policies are hurting American tech industry where Indian companies play a huge role

By Dilli Raj Bhatta

The approval and denial rates show that the USCIS and US Consulates have become tougher in approving and/or issuing L-1 visas. This is complicating the growth and expansion of foreign companies in the US.

The law is clear that a foreign company can transfer its executives and/or managers to its affiliates (branch, sister, subsidiary or a partner company, which can be an existing or a new entity) to the US to manage, grow and expand the business activities.

Read: Durbin, Grassley introduce bipartisan H-1B, L-1 visa reform legislation (March 5, 2022)

There are certain requirements that an entity and the transferee (executive or manager) must meet in order to qualify for an L-1A or L-1B visa. Technically, a small foreign company can be eligible for an L-1 visa if it intends to expand its business in the US. An L-1 visa can be renewed if the entity has the need for an extension.

The petitioning company files an L-1 visa with the USCIS for its executives and/or the managers using form I-129. Once the L-1 is approved from the USCIS, the beneficiary can attend a visa interview at the consulate.

According to the data, Tata Consulting Services, Infosys, Cognizant Tech, and Tech Mahindra are the four L-1 recipient companies out of six largest L-1 visa recipients in the US.

The approval numbers are, however, dwindling every year. As the Bloomberg report stated, many Indian companies are playing a huge role in the American tech industry but the tightened L-1 visa policies are adversely impacting the US economy.

Read: How Biden presidency may affect the H-1B and L-1 visa (January 25, 2021)

In addition to focusing on individual entrepreneurs, the US must make L-1 policies efficient to attract Indian start-ups and tech companies.

India has more than 100 unicorns with a combined valuation of over $330 billion. Some of these start-ups have already been in the US market and many are eagerly looking to expand their presence in the US. Others wish to be publicly listed in the US and to have access to the global market.

The minimum threshold set by the law must be followed by the USCIS adjudicating officers and the interviewing officer at the embassy. No individual or company wants to risk a huge investment before knowing whether a visa will be issued or renewed for the executives and the managers.

Read: L1 visa denials continue amid USCIS immigration policies (February 17, 2022)

If the visa process is easier and friendly, the executives can focus on investment and business expansion which can directly benefit the US and India.

The Indian economy has significantly grown in the last decade and the US visa policy makers must consider this fact in order to grow business ties between the two countries.

(Dilli Raj Bhatta is the co-founder and lead attorney at Apply USA Visa)

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