In order to qualify an individual as an L-1 nonimmigrant, the employer must filed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over where the work will be performed in the United States, with the appropriate supplement and supporting documentation. Once approved, if the prospective L-1 nonimmigrant is already in the United States, then his nonimmigrant status will be changed to the appropriate L-1 classification; if the individual is outside the United States, the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate will be notified by USCIS of the approved L-1 petition and that individual may then go to that U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an L-1 nonimmigrant visa.
The law also provides that a petitioner which meets the following requirements may file a "blanket petition" seeking continuing approval of itself and some or all of its parent, branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates as qualifying organizations. Blanket petition approval is available if:
- The petitioner and each of those entities are engaged in commercial trade or services;
- The petitioner has an office in the United States that has been doing business for one (1) year or more;
- The petitioner has three (3) or more domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates; and
- The petitioner and the other qualifying organizations (a) have obtained approval of petitions for at least ten (10) "L" managers, executives, or specialized knowledge professionals during the previous twelve (12) months, or (b) have U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25,000,000.00, or (c) have a United States work force of at least one thousand (1,000) employees.
The USCIS must approve a blanket petition. The petition may be approved initially for three (3) years. After the initial three (3) year period, the employer may apply for an extension of its blanket approval. If blanket approval is received, then a prospective L-1 nonimmigrant outside the United States may complete Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, attaching Form I-171C which demonstrates the "blanket approval," to the U.S. embassy or consulate having jurisdiction over their residence (unless they are visa exempt) or, if that individual is inside the United States in another nonimmigrant status, his employer should file the petition with the USCIS Service Center that approved the blanket petition.
Note that blanket petition procedures may not be used for specialized knowledge positions unless they are "professional" in nature.