When it comes to immigration law, there are few situations direr than having your L-1 extension denied. Fortunately, with the help of a qualified immigration attorney, there are some options available to you if you ever find yourself in this situation. Whether you have experienced an L-1 extension denial or hope to avoid one, read on to learn the most common reason for denial and which steps to take next.
The L-1 visa is a very advantageous nonimmigrant work visa that allows companies that have branches, offices, or affiliates in the U.S. to transfer specific employees to that branch. In order to qualify, the beneficiary (you) must be:
- An executive. Meaning that you can make far-reaching decisions within the company without supervision. An account executive, for example, usually does not qualify.
- A manager. Meaning that you are in control of the day-to-day tasks of employees underneath you.
- An employee with specialized knowledge. Meaning that you are instrumental to the functioning of the U.S. branch or office.
The L-1 has two subcategories depending on which role you fulfill. The L-1A is for managers and executives while the L-1B is for specialized employees.
An L-1 visa also allows you to establish a new U.S. branch or office if one does not already exist.
Initially, your L-1 visa will be granted with an initial stay of 3 years. If you have an L-1A, then you can apply for a 4-year extension for a total of up to 7 years. For the L-1B visa, you can obtain a 2-year extension for a total of up to 5 years.
However, petitioning for an extension is not a simple task and essentially requires that you re-petition for your L-1 visa. You will need to prove to the USCIS that you are still qualified for this visa class.
Because the L-1 extension denial rate is increasing, it is important to understand the most common reasons and how to avoid them.
How to File for an L-1 Visa Extension
To request an L-1 visa extension, your U.S. employer will need to file the I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with the USCIS. The form must be submitted with all the necessary supporting documents. Failure to file your petition properly may lead to delay or denial.
L-1 Extension Denial Reasons
Here are some of the more common reasons that the USCIS gives for issuing an L-1 extension denial:
This is one of the more common reasons that we find with our clients. Three years is a long time in the world of business or technology.
In that time, it is entirely possible that your position may change during your stay under L-1 status. However, depending on the nature of the new position, it may result in an L-1 extension denial.
Like we stated earlier, when you petition for an L-1 extension, you are essentially re-petitioning for a new L-1 visa.
That means that your new position must fulfill the requirements of either an executive, manager, or a specialized employee. If it does not, then you are liable to have your L-1 extension denied.
Here is an example:
Hubert entered the U.S. with L-1 status as a web developer for an online marketing company. However, within the first three years of being in the U.S., Hubert’s company decides to abandon the web development department and transfer him to an on-call position.
Hubert is likely to receive an L-1 extension denial due to the fact that he is no longer serving as an employee with specialized knowledge.
While this should go without saying, being convicted of a crime in the U.S. is a common reason for L-1 extension denial. This also goes for almost any immigration status.
Even if you only served a sentence of a few months for a misdemeanor, it could still have a serious impact on your ability to extend your visa.
There is also an aspect of immigration law called the Petty Offense Exception. This does not excuse your crime nor expunge your offense, but it does give the immigration officer discretion to approve or deny your L-1 visa extension.
However, this is rare and should not be relied upon. In any case, you must report any arrests on your petition and answer truthfully if asked. Not doing so could result in serious consequences.
Regardless, if you have been convicted of a crime in the U.S., talk to your immigration attorney before petitioning to see if your offense will result in having your L-1 extension denied.
Suspicion of Fraud
One of the primary goals of the USCIS and the immigration policies put in place is to prevent both companies and individuals from taking advantage of the system.
For this reason, it is very important to avoid giving the USCIS any reason to suspect that your extension petition was filed fraudulently.
This means triple checking that your information is correct and does not conflict with any past information given in the previous petition.
It also means working with an immigration lawyer to be sure that no suspicions will be raised to prevent both an L-1 extension denial and a Request for Evidence (RFE)
Will the USCIS Always Issue an RFE?
There are times when the USCIS sees a discrepancy in your information or finds that your evidence is lacking, warranting a Request for Evidence to be sent.
However, this will not necessarily always be the case. There is always the chance that you may have your L-1 extension denied without an RFE.
If you do receive an RFE, immediately take it to your immigration attorney to ensure that a prompt and detailed response is given that properly addresses each issue brought up by the USCIS.
How to Avoid an L-1 Visa Extension Denial
To begin with, you should avoid the above possible grounds for L-1 visa extension denial. Apart from that, there are other important steps you can take to significantly reduce the chances of receiving a denial notice including:
Adequate Preparation and Documentation: You will need to take the time to have all the required documents in order. This may include:
- Proof of employment for the period you have been in the United States
- A letter from your foreign qualifying employer detailing your job responsibilities, employment dates, and wages for the duration of your employment.
- A letter of support from the U.S. petitioner explaining your work schedule, responsibilities, salary, and other related terms and conditions for your L-1 employment.
Recapturing Time Spent Outside the United States: If you have spent a significant amount of time outside the United States during your L-1 visa validity period, you may want to recapture it by submitting the necessary documents during your application for extension. The recaptured time will earn you some more time to stay in the U.S.
To do this, you will need to submit details of your travel itinerary indicating the number of days spent abroad. Proof of your physical presence overseas will also be required. This may include plane tickets, boarding passes, passport stamps, and other related records.
Paying Attention to Expiration Date: Don’t let your status expire before applying for an extension. You should also ensure that your passport will remain valid throughout the duration of the processing of your L-1 visa extension.
Working with an Immigration Expert: Filing an application for an L-1 visa extension can be complex, given the long list of documents and the processes involved. However, you can relieve yourself of the stress and improve your chances of getting approval by engaging the service of an experienced L-1 visa immigration attorney. Your lawyer will help you prepare the documents and file the application form according to USCIS standards. This will also reduce the chances of receiving a request for additional evidence (RFE) which can cause delays.
What Are My Options After L-1 Extension Denial?
If your I-94 departure date has not yet expired, then you still have time to make a decision concerning your case. No matter what, start with finding a qualified immigration lawyer to advise you every step of the way. This way you can avoid the common pitfalls people tend to make when they are panicked about having to leave the U.S.
Here are some of the next steps that might be available to you:
Transfer Your Status
If you qualify for another nonimmigrant visa or even a green card, then you may want to consider transferring your status from L-1 to a different status. However, this will require you to fulfill the qualifications for the new status as well.
For example, if you wanted to change your status to H1B status, you would need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and a specialty position in your company that is relevant to your education.
If you are interested in immigrating to the U.S. permanently, then L-1 status allows it through a condition called “dual intent”. Depending on your qualifications, you may be eligible for one of the employment-based green cards like the EB-2 or the EB-3.
L-1 Grace Period
There are many questions surrounding whether or not a grace period comes into effect after you receive an L-1 extension denial. The answer, unfortunately, is no. There is no official grace period that proceeds a denial.
However, this does not necessarily mean that you will be deported or considered “out of status” if you do not leave right on your I-94 departure date. The immigration officer reviewing your case may choose to be lenient especially if your reasoning is sound.
With that being said, you should always contact your immigration attorney before making any decisions like this one. If the officer considers you “out of status”, then you may risk being temporarily barred from re-entering the U.S. depending on how long you overstayed your departure date.
Outside of transferring your status, you may be able to appeal your case or file a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider. However, this is a very complex and involved process that should be discussed at length with your immigration attorney.
When to File L-1 Visa Extension
The L-1 visa is issued with an initial stay of one year for employees entering the U.S. to establish a new office and an initial stay of three years for all other employees. Therefore, depending on your own initial period of stay, you can apply for an extension any time up to six months before the expiration of your current visa.
What is important is to not allow the visa expire before applying for an extension. As long as your application reaches the USCIS before the expiration date of your current visa, you should not need to leave the U.S. while waiting for approval. However, we recommend that you submit your application for extension at least 45 days prior to the expiration date.
L-1 Visa Extension Processing Time
Your L-1 visa extension processing time will depend on the workload at the USCIS service center in charge of your case. Typically, whether you are on L-1A or L-1B status, the estimated time range is between one to two months.
Can I Use Premium Processing for My L-1 Visa Extension?
You may be able to use premium processing to expedite your L-1 visa extension application. Instead of waiting for several weeks to receive a decision on your I-129 form, with premium processing, the USCIS will adjudicate the application within 15 calendar days. To use the premium processing service, you will need to pay an additional $1,440.
Bear in mind, however, that this service will only help you shorten the overall processing time of the I-129. It doesn’t guarantee that your L-1 visa extension will be approved. In the event that USCIS is unable to process your case within 15 calendar days, they will refund your premium processing fee.
L-1 Visa Extension: Regular vs Blanket
An employer may file a single L-1 visa for an individual employee or file blanket for multiple employees simultaneously. In the same vein, an L-1 visa extension can be either for regular or blanket application. It is worth noting, however, that not all employers qualify for an L-1 blanket petition.
An employer may qualify for a blanket petition if they have a minimum of 1,000 employees and have obtained L-1 visas for a minimum of 10 foreign employees. In addition to that, the organization must have at least $25 million in combined revenue.
If your original L-1 visa was approved through the regular process, you will likely process your visa extension through the same route – a single extension application for an individual employee.
If you received your original L-1 visa through a blanket petition, your employer can choose the same blanket route to file extensions for multiple employees at the same time. You must pay attention to the specific details of the category you are applying for and prepare your documentation accordingly.
Can Relatives on an L-2 Visa Extend Their Stay?
Your spouse and children on an L-2 visa can also extend their visas. However, while you (the primary beneficiary) will need the I-129 form for an extension, your relatives will need to submit the I-539 form. They must also do so before their current L-2 visa expires—ideally, at least 45 days before the expiration date.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Immigration law is both stringent and constantly fluctuating. You must keep up with it in order to be sure that you are making the right decisions.
Unfortunately, few have the time to become experts in immigration law. That’s why it’s always a good idea to retain the services of an experienced immigration attorney to take some of the pressure and stress out of your situation.
Our lawyers have extensive experience helping people through the toughest situations regarding work visas. We’ll make sure that you are making the best decisions for your case if you have received an L-1 extension denial.
To get in touch with one of our expert attorneys, don’t hesitate to complete this simple contact form and schedule a consultation for your L-1 case today.