Executives and travelling workers hit by new difficulties from the Trump administration

Published: Sep 11, 2017, Updated: Sep 11, 2017 | Tags: L1 US Visa, H1B US Visa

As of the end of July 2017, the Trump administration has added additional requirements for anyone travelling to the US on a L1 visa or H1B visa. This latest piece of USA visa news means that travellers who hold these visas will now need to attend mandatory interviews in order to receive a green card, which they must have before they can work in the USA. To express this piece of USA immigration news in a nutshell: the Trump administration is now introducing significant delays into the immigration process for anyone on these visas. 

What are the L1 and H1B visas?

Let's take a closer look at the two types of visa that are currently appearing in the USA visa news amidst items of ESTA news and other issues relating to USA immigration. 

The L1 visa

The L1 visa is a non immigrant visa which enables high level workers to be employed in the USA for a period of up to 7 years (for managers and company owners) and 5 years (specialised knowledge workers). This USA visa comes in two forms: the L1A visa which is for company Managers, and the L1B visa, which is for Specialised Knowledge Workers. In order to qualify for this USA visa, a worker must have had some connection with the US by working for the US affiliate branch or parent company for at least one of the past three years. 

The H1B visa

The H1B visa is of a similar form to the L1 visas, but it is aimed at graduate level workers. In essence, this visa enables companies to post their graduate level personnel in the US. The employee who will hold the visa does not petition for it themself: their employer does so on their behalf. This visa can remain valid for up to 6 years. However, there is an annual cap on this type of visa which makes it somewhat difficult to acquire. Each fiscal year, only 85,000 H1B visas are made available and there are always many more requests for visas than there are places. In addition, whilst 65, 000 of these visas are always reserved for workers coming from abroad who have at least a BA degree, 20, 000 of them are also specifically available to workers who gained a BA from an institution in the US. Thus, if you studied outside of the US and are applying for this type of visa, you will find that you have an even smaller chance of being granted it than it first appears. The new mandatory interview requirement will only make acquiring this visa even more difficult than it was in the past. The one piece of good news is that if you have already been granted one of these visas it will still be valid despite the new requirements. 

What will be the effect of these new changes to L1 and H1B visas?

In the past, applying for (say) an L1 visa was often not more stressful than applying for an ESTA for leisure visitors to the states (though of course the ESTA has different requirements). Many companies enjoyed being able to foster international trade by sending executives across to the US to work in new international branches, to gain experience and to share knowledge will their colleagues on different continents. The H1B visa, meanwhile provided a relatively smooth way for graduates to gain high quality experience abroad. With these new interview requirements in place, it will be more difficult than before to do business internationally with the US. This is because interview procedures can take up a lot of time, delaying international postings and the establishment of headquarters in the US. Since this USA immigration news item broke, there has been no definite time scale given for the interview process. However, judging by the length of time it takes to process other types of visa (as you may have seen in non ESTA news items), the delay could last six weeks or even more from the date that the application is first made yo the date that the interview is held and the visa granted. It is as yet unclear whether or not the visa will be marked as granted or refused on the actual day of the interview or whether a further wait will be involved.

A precedent for future US visas?

Our advice is to keep your eyes peeled for more news on similar topics. Few people would have believed that the USA immigration authorities would introduce a mandatory interview for these two business related visas. The fact that they have done so will perhaps set a precedent for future applications for visas that currently do not need interviews.

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