Immigration Travel Advisory
This advisory is intended to address the visa application procedures and several critical travel issues related to the I-797 Blanket LZ Approval Notice issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Most importantly you should understand that the I-797 is not a travel document. Please review the information below carefully and contact our office if you have any specific questions about how the rules regarding international travel apply to your case.
The I-797 Blanket LZ Approval Notice is Not a Travel Document: The Blanket L program was created as a way to expedite the L visa application procedure for large, established multinational companies. The employer must obtain a Blanket LZ approval for its U.S. and qualifying foreign entities from the USCIS. When the USCIS approves the Blanket LZ petition, it issues an I-797 Approval Notice used by all transferees. The list of entities is approved and must be updated from time to time to reflect any corporate change. The I-797 Blanket LZ Approval Notice is not considered a travel document and cannot be used to enter the United States. Except for citizens of Canada, who are exempt from the visa requirement, individual Blanket L applicants must obtain an L-1 nonimmigrant visa stamp pursuant to the approved blanket in order to be admitted to the United States. Prior to entering the United States, you must present copies of the I-797 at a U.S. consulate abroad, along with a package of documents including an I-129S Blanket application in triplicate original, a letter of support confirming the assignment in the U.S. and copies of educational credentials, to obtain a valid visa stamp. Canadians may present the L-1 application package directly at a port of entry, without the need to apply for a visa.
Schedule an Appointment at a U.S. Consulate: Since your employer has obtained a Blanket L approval from USCIS, you will need to file your L-1 application package directly at a U.S. consulate abroad, and obtain a visa stamp prior to entering the United States. For a list of U.S. consulates, go to http://www.usembassy.gov/. Most U.S. consulates will allow you to book the appointment over the phone or on-line. Some will allow special expedite procedures for cases involving business or personal emergencies. In-person interviews may be required for applicants who are 14-79 years-old. When scheduling an appointment, you should include all family members applying with you in the process.
Verify Amount and Payment Process for Visa Application Fees: Visa fees charged by the U.S. consulate include a machine readable visa fee, and in some cases a visa reciprocity fee and courier fees. You should check the appropriate U.S. consular website to determine the visa application fees for your case, and to verify the proper method of payment. In most cases the fees can be paid in advance at a local bank or post office. Additional reciprocity fees apply to nationals of certain countries and can normally be paid at the time of the interview. A list of reciprocity fees can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3272.html. In addition to the visa application fees, at the time of the visa interview Blanket L visa applicants are required to pay a fraud fee of $500 USD. This fraud fee does not have to be paid by family members applying for dependant L-2 visas.
Bring All the Necessary Documents With You to the U.S. Consulate: Each U.S. consular website provides instruction for the appointment scheduling procedure and a list of documents that should be presented during the visa interview. The documentation required can change depending on the consulate, but generally includes:
- Proof of date and time of appointment in the form of an e-mail confirmation from the consulate;
- Copies of the I-797 Blanket LZ Approval Notice (in triplicate);
- Original, signed Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, with supporting documents (in triplicate);
- Passport valid for at least 6 months;
- Passport-size photo with white background.
- (See http://travel.state.gov/visa/visaphotoreq/visaphotoreq_5334.html for the photo specifications);
- DS-160 visa application form for each applicant. The DS-160 must be completed online for each visa applicant. You can find an electronic version of Form DS-160 at the Department of State website: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv (please also review the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for specific information regarding the DS-160. A list of U.S. Embassies’ and Consulates’ links to their DS-160 information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4230.html);
- Receipt for payment of all visa application fees paid in advance at a bank, post office or on-line; and
- Additional documents: consulates may request any additional documentation they deem necessary, including recent pay stubs, current employment confirmation letter and original education credentials. Family members applying for L-2 dependent visas must present original or certified copies of birth and marriage certificates at the time of the interview.
Allow Enough Travel Time for the Issuance of the Visa: Your appointment should be booked in advance as there are often backlogs. We suggest checking approximate consular wait times at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html prior to making your travel plans. After the interview it can take up to seven business days for the visa to be issued. In a small number of cases, consular procedures require extra security checks that can further delay the issuance of the visa by weeks or even months. Some consulates will allow you to pick up your passport with the visa stamp in person, while others will return your passport by mail or special courier.
Verify Information on Your I-94 Card During Each Entry: Each time you present your visa for entry into the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will give you a white I-94 card. On the card, the inspector will write your visa status and expiration date. The I-94 card is extremely important because it controls your status in the United States. Mistakes by the CBP can happen, so you should pay close attention to make sure the expiration dates on the I-94 card match the dates listed on your visa stamp. A mistake on the I-94 card may cause you to violate your status and even subject you to deportation, so bring any mistakes to the attention of the CBP officer immediately.
Sample Documents: For your reference, below are samples of the visa stamp, I-94 card and I-797 Approval Notice. Together these documents determine the validity of your immigration status in the U.S. and your ability to reenter the country after a trip abroad.
Our Immigration Practice develops a comprehensive and cost-effective strategy to address the unique immigration needs of each client. The legal services we offer include assistance in obtaining temporary visas, permanent residence and U.S. citizenship. We also provide employees with immigration advice related to mergers and acquisitions, corporate law, international tax, I-9 compliance and other labor issues affecting the employment of foreign nationals. We routinely represent clients before The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, Department of State and U.S. consular posts worldwide.
This Sidley Immigration Fact Sheet has been prepared by Sidley Austin LLP for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this without seeking advice from professional advisers.
Attorney Advertising - For purposes of compliance with New York State Bar rules, our headquarters are Sidley Austin LLP, 787 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10019, 212.839.5300 and One South Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60603, 312.853.7000. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.