U.S. Immigration Appeals Office Reverses Denial of L-1B Specialized Knowledge Employment Petition for Marketing Specialist

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The L-1 visa is for employees of multinational corporations who wish to come to the U.S. to work for a U.S. parent, branch, or subsidiary corporation.  In order to obtain an L-1 visa, you must either be coming to the U.S. in a managerial or executive capacity (L-1A), or have specialized knowledge about the company (L-1B).  There is also the requirement that you must have worked abroad for the employer corporation continuously for one year out of the past three years, prior to coming to the U.S.  There are specific definitions in the law as to what constitutes a “managerial or executive capacity,” as well as “specialized knowledge.”

One of the greatest obstacles to obtaining an L-1B visa is proving that the employee possesses “specialized knowledge,” as the definition has remained broad despite attempts by the government to provide more specific guidance to its adjudicating immigration officers.  An individual is considered to be employed in a capacity  involving specialized knowledge if that person has “a special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets” or “an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.”

On September 19, 2013, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), responsible for reviewing decisions by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) denying certain immigration benefits, issued a non-precedential decision reversing a denial of an L-1B petition for a “marketing specialist.”  A non-precedential decision is not binding on the USCIS in future cases, but it may serve as persuasive authority and suggest strategies for handling other similar cases. 

The petitioning employer in this case was in the business of steel manufacturing.  The petitioner was able to prove eligibility by showing that the employee was the only marketing technical advisor working for the foreign entity and that because the U.S. subsidiary was acquired, it did not have existing employees who shared the beneficiary’s extensive expertise with the international group’s complex internal systems, processes, policies, and methodologies. 

L-1 petitions require extensive paperwork and can prove to be very challenging, especially without the assistance of experienced immigration counsel.  Therefore, it is imperative that multinational companies consult with counsel when planning to transfer employees to a U.S. office.