L-1B Visa: Specialized Knowledge Professional

L-1B Visa: Specialized Knowledge Professional

Persons in a “specialized knowledge professional” category can get an L1B visa. The initial petition will be approved for 3 years (new office petition for 1 year), and can be renewed once for 2 years for a total of 5 years.

Specialized Knowledge

Specialized knowledge means special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. 

Specialized Knowledge Professional

Specialized knowledge professional means an individual who has specialized knowledge as defined above and is a member of the professions, including, but not limited to, architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, and teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academies, or seminaries.

The specialized knowledge employee must be more than simply skilled or familiar with the employer’s interest. Their knowledge must be beyond the ordinary and not commonplace within the industry or the petitioning organization. The level of knowledge required and the employment of the specific alien must directly relate to the proprietary interest of the petitioner. To be proprietary, the knowledge must relate to something which relates exclusively to the petitioner’s business. Persons whose general knowledge and expertise enable them to merely produce a product or provide a service are not eligible for this visa. 

For example:

  • To be considered specialized, the knowledge should be essential to a special research program, or the person should have expert knowledge regarding a company’s materially different product or manufacturing process.
  • Even if specialty cooks and chefs may have a knowledge of a restaurant’s special recipes, they are not considered to possess specialized knowledge.

If everyone is specialized, then no one is. In other words, the specialized knowledge requirement is intended for “key” personnel. While all experienced employees in a small company may be “key”, for a larger company there should be a distinction between “key” and normal personnel. This could be made based on length of experience, level of knowledge, or level of responsibility – e.g., the person has been made responsible for more complicated and/or sensitive projects. If a company is claiming that all the employees working on technical issues should be considered to have specialized knowledge, the company is probably employing too low a standard. However, there is no legal basis to require any specific limit on the number of employees that can be considered key. 

A specialized knowledge employee has more skills or knowledge than the ordinary employee. However, this doesn’t require an “extraordinary” level of skills, but merely more than that of the ordinary employee in the company or the field.

Specialized knowledge would be a proprietary knowledge that would be difficult to impart to another without significant economic inconvenience. Specialized knowledge is a knowledge that can be obtained only through experience with that employer, such as experience with proprietary software or methodologies unique to the company, which is also important to the competitiveness of the company. 

Petitioner should submit the evidence that:

  • The alien’s specialized knowledge is distinguished by some unusual qualification and not generally known by practitioners in the alien’s industry.

  • The alien possesses an advanced level of knowledge, and the evidence should describe and set apart the knowledge from elementary knowledge possessed by others.

L-1B to L1A Conversion

Since the maximum stay on L1B is five years while it is seven years for L1A visa, some people may want to do L-1B to L-1A conversion. As long as the L-1A petition is approved prior to completion of 4.5 years on L-1B visa, they would be fine. Of course, the alien must be eligible to receive L1A on its own. However, the work experience outside the U.S. does not have to be in the same capacity as the proposed employment in the U.S.

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