For multinational companies with a branch, office, or affiliate in the United States, there’s simply no better way to transfer your employees to the U.S. than through the useful L-1 visa. Although this visa allows executives, managers, and specialized employees to work in the U.S. for several years, you may need to file for an extension. If that extension is denied and your visa is about to expire, you may want to know if there is an L-1 grace period to help smooth the transition.
L-1 Visa Background
The L-1 visa is an intracompany transfer visa that allows multinational companies with offices or affiliates in the U.S. to send high-ranking employees to the country. Those employees must be either:
- Managers: you must be in charge of several other employees and oversee their day-to-day activities.
- Executives: you must wield a substantial amount of decision-making power in the company without supervision from superiors.
- Employees with specialized knowledge: you must have knowledge that makes you indispensable to the operations of the company’s branch or affiliate in the U.S.
Initially, the L-1 visa is granted with a validity period of three years. For managers and executives under the L-1A visa, this can be extended to seven years. For specialized employees, who would possess the L-1B visa, the validity period can only be extended to a maximum of five years.
These maximum dates have no exceptions. So if your goal is to stay in the U.S. beyond the allotted maximum, then you will need to either obtain a new L-1 visa or transfer your status to a new visa like the H-1B.
If, however, you are nearing your L-1 visa expiration date or your extension petition has been denied, you will need to take action quickly in order to avoid being considered “out of status”. In situations like these, it is always important to consult a qualified immigration attorney before making any decisions.
Why Was My L-1 Visa Extension Denied?
If you petitioned to have your L-1 visa extended from the initial three years to it’s five or seven-year maximum, your position and your qualifications for that position will be re-analyzed by the USCIS. If you have not maintained the requirements for L-1 status, you may find that your extension gets denied.
Some common reasons for denial are:
- Your job has changed within the company and no longer qualifies as a managerial, executive, or specialized position.
- Your job has changed and while the position still meets the requirements, you are no longer qualified for the position due to your relevant experience or educational background. For example, if Dave entered the U.S. as an IT manager, but was promoted to senior productions manager, he may not be qualified for the position.
- You have committed a crime while in the United States or have otherwise jeopardized your immigration status.
- The USCIS suspects that your petition was filed in a fraudulent way.
Is There an L-1 Grace Period?
If your extension or transfer of status was denied or if your employment is terminated or otherwise ended, then you are likely hoping that there is an L-1 grace period to fall back on during the interim. However, this is not the case. There is no official regulation that allows for an L-1 grace period. Based on this, if you remain in the U.S. past the end of your visa validation period or employment termination date, you will be considered “out of status”.
However, that being said, while this strict rule is in place, it is not always put into practice. Your situation will depend on the USCIS officer that reviews your case. Generally, a 10-day L-1 grace period can be extended to visa holders who find their employment terminated or their extension denied. This can be used to wrap up affairs before leaving the country.
It is important to note that this is in no way a guarantee that you will not be prosecuted if you stay over your limit. The “L-1 grace period” is not official and will not protect you if an officer decides to look into your case. There have been plenty of cases where an individual was considered “out of status” and subsequently barred from future visits to the U.S. for a certain time due to overstaying their visa.
It all comes down to the departure date printed on your I-94. If that date passes and you are still in the U.S., then you are exposing yourself to the possibility of being temporarily barred. The myth of an L-1 grace period could cost your dearly.
Because this decision carries such heavy consequences, you should definitely work with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to determine which route is the best to take in lieu of an L-1 grace period.
What to Do If Your L-1 Visa Extension Has Been Denied or Has Expired
There are several things that you can do depending on your situation and qualifications. If your employer gives you advance notice of your employment termination or your extension was denied well before the end of your validation period, then you have time to retain an immigration lawyer and develop a solution.
Some people chose to find an employer to sponsor them for an employment-based green card such as an EB-1C for managers and executives or an EB-2 for advanced degree holders. Others decide to petition for a work visa such as the H-1B visa, which has a 60-day grace period that extends after employment termination.
- USCIS.gov. “L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager”
- USCIS.gov. “USCIS Publishes Final Rule For Certain Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs”
- USCIS.gov. “L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge”
- CyrusMehta.com. “Analysis of the 60-Day Grace Period for Nonimmigrant Workers”