US L-1 Visa Holders Are Also in the Line of Fire

After H-1B Visa, US L-1 Visa Holders are also in the line of fire –  post suspending the H1B visa, United States May Suspend H1B, Other Visas, L-1 visa workers are now facing the challenges in the US. With increasing denials and layoffs, L-1 visa holders are in the line of fire with limited options. The Indian firms are the largest beneficiaries of L-1 visa accounting for 23 percent of total visas issued. 

What is L-1 visa?

L-1 is a non-immigrant visa for intra company transfers for candidates who are already working for the company that intends to open or expand operations in the US. It could also be the US parent company that wants one of its employees working in its subsidiary to work in the US.

These visas are reserved for experienced professionals such as managers and executives (L-1A) and those with specialized knowledge in the company’s processes (L-1B).

Indian technology & IT firms are the largest beneficiaries of L-1 visa accounting for 23 percent of total visas issued followed by the UK. For instance, companies like TCS, Infosys, HCL and Tech Mahindra, are one of the largest users of L1 visa.

Why do companies use L-1 visa?

According to Moneycontrol, unlike H-1B, the intra-company transfer visa does not have cap issues. H-1B visa cap is 85,000 in a financial year. This allows companies to file for L-1 for those employees who would be working at their US units.

Also Read – US Visa Fees May Go Up, USCIS To Add Surcharge

What are the current hurdles for L-1 Visa Holders ?

The rate of denials and request for evidence have increased under the Trump administration leading to L-1 visa rejections. According to a research report by the US-based immigration think tank CATO.org, between 2016 and 2019, rejection share of L-1 increased from 25 percent to 34 percent.

Recent layoffs due to COVID-19 have only added to the troubles. Unlike H-1B visa holders, these employees cannot seek employment in another firm once laid off and have limited options but to return home, especially in the case of Indians. 

For e.g. take for instance Raj*, a techie working in the US on L-1 visa. Raj had come to India in March for personal reasons and was stuck here till May end before he was able to go back to the US. However, right after he reached, he came to know that his contract was terminated.

Raj had just two options;

  1. Changing visa status to B2 or the visitor visa and waiting it out till an opportunity opened up in the company again;
  2. Pursuing higher studies in the US by taking an F-1 visa and; returning home. 

However, given the uncertainty, opportunities may not be immediately available and staying back without a job would be expensive. So most people are likely to opt to return back home as the cost of living is high in the US most people would go home till they find a better opportunity to come back to the US for work.

How will it impact Indian IT firms ?

The visa rejection would also impact IT firms in delivering projects on time as it would be challenging to find replacements for L-1 visa resources who are specialized in particular fields. This would, in due course, force companies to look at other operating models apart from the onsite-offshore mix. India has started seeing it happening.

Most IT firms now have close to 60 percent of their workforce in the US as locals. In its FY20 annual report, TCS said with remote working becoming a norm it was looking at a lesser dependency on visa and travel as meetings go virtual.

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