Yesterday the U.S. Department of State announced a significant change to the application process for an L-1 visa based on an employer’s approved L-1 blanket petition.  Effective December 1, 2011 all blanket L-1 visa processing in India will be moved exclusively to the U.S. consular post in Chennai.  Effective December 1, the consular posts in Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad will no longer accept L-1 visa applications based on a blanket L-1 approval.

This change does not impact applications for an L-1 visa based on an individual L-1 petition approval from USCIS or L-2 dependent visa applications.  It also does not impact any other visa classifications.  All other visa processing procedures at U.S. consular posts in India remain unchanged.

If you are in the process of sponsoring an employee for an L-1 visa under your company’s L-1 blanket program, and if the employee resides in a consular district other than Chennai, it may be possible to process the blanket application at another consular post in India before the December 1 effective date.  In such case, please notify our office immediately and instruct the employee to schedule a pre-December 1 visa appointment as soon as possible.

In a related development, consular posts in India are applying an increased level of scrutiny, not only to L-1 blanket visa applications but also to nonimmigrant visa applications based on an approved petition from USCIS (for example, individual L-1 petitions and H-1B petitions).  In numerous instances, consular officers have refused to honor the USCIS-approved I-797 L or H petition, asserting that there is a discrepancy between the information in the petition and the individual’s description of his or her role with the company as provided at the visa interview.  These issues become particularly acute in cases where the employees are placed at third party work sites.

In view of these developments, we recommend that employees ensure that the nonimmigrant petition filed on their behalf is still an accurate reflection of their current employment prior to applying for a visa at a U.S. consular post.  It may also be appropriate to consider whether to refrain from international travel (and hence the resulting need for a visa stamp) that is not essential.