The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows international companies to relocate certain workers from offices outside the U.S. to an office, affiliate, subsidiary or branch inside the U.S. It also allows for those employees to start new branches for their employers.
An L-1 visa extension can be granted in two-year increments at a time up to the maximum duration for each visa category. The L-1A visa for managers and executives has a maximum period of stay of seven years while the L-1B visa for workers with specialized knowledge has one for five years.
These refer to the actual time spent in the United States, which means that any period of time spent outside the U.S. for business or pleasure reason can be recaptured while seeking an extension.
L-1 Visa Extension Process
The process for obtaining an L-1 visa extension is very similar to the process involved with getting the initial L-1 visa. Essentially, your employer just needs to file a separate petition on your behalf before the departure date on your I-94 expires.
L-1 Visa Extension Required Documents
To file an L-1 visa extension, you will be required to submit several documents to USCIS. These include:
- Proof that the beneficiary has been employed since living in the country
- Evidence of the beneficiary’s degree or its foreign equivalent that is relevant to his or her work in the U.S.
- Letter from foreign qualifying employer detailing the beneficiary’s dates of employment, responsibilities, and salary in the previous 3 years of employment
- Support letter from petitioner which includes the alien’s salary, work schedule, job duties, terms of employment, etc.
- USCIS filing fee
- Recapturing Time Outside the U.S.
- In order to recapture time spent outside the country, you’ll need to submit a summary of your travel itinerary, including the number of days spent overseas. You’ll also need evidence showing your physical presence outside the country. Examples include boarding passes, plane tickets, passport stamps and other records of your departure.
- What happens if you don’t submit evidence? If you fail to submit these documents, USCIS will deny your request to recapture time straightforward and not even bother sending a request for evidence.
- A completed I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
If you are applying for an L-1 visa extension and you wish for your L2 spouse and/or dependents to have their visas extended as well, your employer must file an I-539 form along with your I-129.
Difference Between Regular and Blanket Visa Extensions
There are two major types of L visa petitions: regular and blanket petitions. Just as they have two different application processes, there are also two different types of procedures for the L-1 regular visa and the blanket program. The regular extension requires an application and approval for each individual beneficiary. On the other hand, the blanket visa extension is for employers that hire a significant number of intra-company transfer employees, allowing them to file one petition for many workers rather than just one.
Because it is so important to file the appropriate paperwork for an L-1 visa extension, it is always highly recommended to work alongside a qualified immigration attorney to be sure you are making the right decisions for your L-1 visa extension.
L-1B Blanket Visa Extension
An L-1 blanket petition is used by large companies to pre-qualify L-1 employees for a transfer. The benefit of an L-1 blanket petition is once it’s approved, the company is able to transfer employees rather quickly without the need to file separate petitions. L-1B blanket visa extensions may be added on indefinitely.
To qualify for an L-1 blanket extension petition, the U.S. company must have at least 1,000 employees, must have obtained L-1 visas for at least 10 employees in the past year and have combined sales of at least $25 million.
When to Apply for L-1 Visa Extension
You must apply for your L-1 visa extension before your current status expires. The expiration date of your current status is clearly stated on your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. If you don’t have a copy of your I-94 with you, you can access information about your status expiration on this Customs and Border Protection Website.
Your employer can submit your extension request to the USCIS as early as six months before the expiration date indicated on your I-94. You can apply even in a month before the expiration—what matters is that your petition reaches the USCIS before your status expires. However, keep in mind that, when it comes to any immigration process, especially visa extension, it’s always best to submit your petition as early as possible.
Spouses and Relatives of L-1 Workers
Transferring employees (L-1 workers) can have their spouses and children (unmarried) accompany them by seeking an L2 nonimmigrant status. If their petition is approved, they will be granted the same period of stay as the L-1 worker.
However, it is important to note that filing for an extension on your L-1 visa does not automatically grant an extension to your L2 dependents or spouse. To request a change of status or extension of stay under L2 status, while in the U.S., the relatives may apply together on Form I-539 Application to change or extend nonimmigrant status.
If you are a spouse of an L-1 worker, you are permitted to apply for work authorization by filling out Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the fee. Once approved, there aren’t any restrictions on where the L2 spouse can work.
L-1 Visa Extension Processing Time
The L-1 visa extension processing time varies depending on the service center that is processing your I-129 petition. If it is a popular service center with a backlog, the processing time can take 8 months or more. On average, many petitions are processed in about 6 months.
Because all L visa extensions require the same I-129 petition, the processing times usually do not differ. This means that the L-1A extension processing time and the L-1B extension processing time will not necessarily be different because of their classification.
What Happens to My Status While My L-1 Visa Extension Petition Is Being Processed?
Submitting your petition to the USCIS doesn’t automatically extend your L-1 status. You will need to wait for the USCIS to adjudicate the request and make a decision as to whether or not you merit an extension.
If your status expires while your case is still pending with the USCIS, you will have an extra 240 days after your I-94 expiration to continue working with the same company. If your petition is approved within the 240 days, the added years in the extension will start counting immediately after you receive the approval notice.
If after the 240 days, your case is still pending without an approval or denial notice, you can continue staying in the United States, but you may not be allowed to continue working. Though your stay has expired, this won’t be counted as unlawful presence as long as the case remains pending. However, if your petition is denied, you will need to leave the U.S. immediately after you receive the denial notice.
L-1 Premium Processing
L-1 premium processing is available (for an additional fee) when the employer is filing the petition. Otherwise, the regular processing fee is available. Essentially what premium processing does is provide an expedited application process. According to USCIS, your petition should be handled within 15 calendar days if you select this option. As it stands, the current fee is $1,440.
It is important to note that opting for premium processing will not guarantee that your L-1 visa renewal will be approved. It only guarantees a 15-day processing time for your petition. If the USCIS fails to process your petition, you will be refunded the premium processing fee.
From L-1 Visa to Green Card
If you are aiming to change your visa status from L-1A to EB-1C green card, your employer will first need to submit a Petition for Alien Worker (I-140 form) to the USCIS. Assuming priority dates are current, your employer can jointly file for your adjustment of status. If you (applicant) are living outside the U.S., you must wait for your I-140 to be approved through consular processing.
For those on L-1B status, you will be required to go through the PERM Labor Certification process. You’ll then need to file for your green card under EB2 or EB3 status depending on your eligibility. A qualified immigration attorney can help you determine which option is most appropriate.
L-1 Visa Extension Fees
Filing for an L-1A or L-1B visa extension is very similar to filing for the initial visa. Therefore the fees are also very similar. Your employer will be responsible for these costs:
- I-129 basic filing fee of $460
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500
It is important to note that the Public Law 114-113 fee and ACWIA fee are only applicable to the initial filing. As for the premium processing fee, it can be paid by either you or your employer. Depending on your situation, premium processing may or may not be appropriate for your case.
It is also important to note that filing for an extension for any L-2 dependent visas will subject your employer to a $370 filing fee for the I-539 petition.
Do I keep my status if I am fired from my job while under L-1 status?
If you happen to lose your job while on L-1 visa status, you need to immediately find another job from an employer who will sponsor you for another work visa such as an H-1B. In some instances, you may be required to return to your home country since L-1 to H-1B transfers are subject to a numerical cap each year.
Fortunately, if you are able to transfer your status to H-1B, you will be given a 60-day grace period after H1B employment termination to find a new employer, transfer your status, or leave the country.
Can I Renew My L-1 Visa After Seven Year Stay?
While L-1 visa holders are allowed to renew their status, the overall period of stay is a maximum of seven years for L-1A holders (L-1B holders can only stay for a maximum of five years. This is the three-year initial period plus every other added year in the extension request. Once you have reached the seven-year validity period and you still want to continue living and working in the U.S. with an L-1 visa, you will need to reapply for a new visa.
This means that you will need to leave the United States and work abroad for at least one year to be qualified to request another L-1 petition. Reapplying for an L-1 visa will require the same procedure as the original process. However, instead of exhausting your entire seven-year validity period and risk being out of status, you can apply for an employment-based green card for L-1 holders, which will afford you the opportunity of permanent residency in the United States.
Can I Apply for a Green Card After Receiving L-1A Approval?
You can receive permanent residency after being issued an L-1A visa because it is considered a “dual intent” visa. This means that, under L-1A visa extension status, you are able to apply for lawful permanent residency without jeopardizing your nonimmigrant status. Therefore, it doesn’t have the issues that some other visas have (such as the H-1B or J-1) when it comes to transferring to immigrant status. Learn more about L-1A to EB Green Card process.
L-1 Visa Extension Denial
The USCIS reserves the right to approve, reject, or deny an L-1 visa extension request. Keep in mind that rejection and denial are two different things. Rejection means there are certain missing elements in your petition packet. If your petition is rejected, you have the opportunity of refiling it, and ensure the missing documents in the former petition are added this time around.
However, if you receive a denial notice, this indicates that an evaluating officer has looked at your case and deemed either you, your employer, or both of you unqualified for the extension, and has thereby denied your request. A denied L-1 visa extension cannot be refiled, but may be overturned by leveraging certain options.
Common Reasons for L-1 Visa Extension Denial
If the USCIS suspects anything suspicious from a sponsor or beneficiary of an extension petition, they can issue a denial notice. The following are some of the common reasons for L-1 visa extension:
- Job Change: This may occur if you have changed job positions in the last three years and the current position and job description do not match the description of an executive, manager, or specialized employee as indicated by the USCIS.
- Suspicion of Fraud: If the USCIS suspects that your visa extension was filed fraudulently or you gave deliberate misinformation or misrepresentation in your petition, your request may be denied.
- Criminal Charges: Generally, a past criminal record is a red flag that can impact your immigration case. Regardless of how minor the crime might seem, it may have a negative effect on your visa application, whether you are applying afresh or you are seeking an extension.
What to Do If Your L-1 Visa Extension Petition Is Denied
Visa extension denial is, of course, a big disappointment. However, it doesn’t mean the end of your petition, as there are some options to explore to possibly turnaround the situation. U.S. immigration law gives visa applicants two options. The first is to seek a motion to reopen or reconsider the case or file an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).
Keep in mind, however, that each of these two options usually involves a very long process and doesn’t guarantee a favorable outcome. This might eventually put you at the risk of being out of status should your I-94 expire while waiting for a decision.
To avoid this, you can also consider another nonimmigrant visa alternative, provided you still have enough time on your I-94 to process it. Whether you are opting for an appeal or reopening of the case or you are filing a new alternative visa, you will need to work closely with an immigration attorney. Your attorney is in the best position to help you evaluate the denial, recommend the best option to explore for the best and fastest outcome.
How We Can Help
VisaNation Law Group’s immigration attorneys can help you file an L-1 visa extension or renewal for yourself or your dependents. They’ve handled thousands of cases with an exceptional approval rating. What’s more, they will update you on the status of your case in a timely manner.
Schedule an immigration consultation or get assistance with any other immigration-related matter.