L-1 petitions have the lowest approval rate amongst all employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and investor applications. L-1s are also the most likely to be issued a request for evidence (RFE).
In fiscal year 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied 1 in 6 (16.4%) L-1 petitions, approving 83.6% of cases filed. More than a third (36.5%) were issued an RFE. Of those issued an RFE, fewer than two thirds (65.1%) were approved.
So, to simplify, 36.5% of all L-1’s were RFE’d and 1/3 of those were denied, so if you receive an RFE for an L-1, there is a 1/3 chance it will be denied and over 1 out of 3 L-1 cases receive an RFE.
Other business petitions have extraordinarily different results: USCIS approved 98% of H-1B petitions and issued RFEs in only 9.6% of the cases; approved 94.6% of O petitions and issued RFEs in 20.7%; approved 93.2% of P petitions and issued RFEs in 19.6%; and approved 91.4% of TN petitions and issued RFEs in 17.1%. Consular posts abroad approved 92.5% of E-2 treaty investor visas and 94.2% of E-1 treaty trader visas in fiscal year 2021.
The L-1 classification enables a U.S. company to temporarily transfer an executive (L-1A), manager (L-1A), or specialized knowledge employee (L-1B), from one of its foreign offices to the United States. The individual must have been working for the foreign entity in a primarily executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity for one year within the preceding three years. The L-1 classification also enables a foreign company to send an employee to the United States to open a new office.
The regulations intimate that L-1s are not limited to large businesses. According to an example in the USCIS Policy Manual, businesses may employ “only one or two people, including the beneficiary,” as long as non-managerial functions, such as “accounting, sales, warehousing, and personnel,” are outsourced. However, our experience has been that those types of cases are the most difficult to be approved. If you obtain an L-1A, there is a good chance you qualify for the EB-1C green card (permanent residence) so many people want to obtain an L-1A since the EB-1C is part of the 1st category so it is much faster and most countries are not backlogged on EB-1 cases.
USCIS is notorious for issuing lengthy requests for evidence (RFEs) on L-1 petitions, particularly on those filed on behalf of owners and top executives or managers of small businesses. Officers often question whether the beneficiary is an executive or manager abroad and will be an executive or manager in the United States. Often no matter what you explain, or document, officers will ask about the person’s qualifications abroad. do so regardless of how well these requirements were documented in the initial petition, and in violation of the USCIS Policy Manual, which states that “[t]he regulations do not require submission of extensive evidence of business relationships or of the beneficiary’s prior and proposed employment.”