L1 visa holders are also commonly referred to as international intracompany transferees. To be eligible for an L1 visa, an employee of a foreign office must be a manager, executive, or worker with specialized knowledge. Before an L1 visa petition can be approved, the visa applicant must work in an overseas office for at least one year during the three years. Additionally, their intracompany transfer must be to a U.S. office location that is a branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the employer’s company or parent company.
The L1 visa is considered a nonimmigrant visa, but the applicant may have dual intent at the time of the application. Meaning, the L1 visa is an exception to the general rule that work visa applicants must intend to return to their country of origin once their visa expires. As a result, many L1 visa applicants openly hope to remain in the U.S. once their initial three-year visa term expires. To remain in the U.S., L1 visa holders must extend the terms of their visa or apply for an alternative visa.
L1 Visa Extensions Periods – The Basics
In general, an initial three-year L1 visa term may be extended in two-year increments. Unless an exception applies, L1-B visa holders (employees with specialized knowledge) have a maximum visa term of five years. Meaning, L1-B visa holders can generally extend their initial three-year visa term once. By contrast, L1-A visa holders can generally request two extension periods for a maximum visa stay of seven years. It’s important to understand that these maximum limits only apply to time spent working in the U.S. If an L1 visa holder spends significant time outside U.S. borders for business or pleasure, this time may not “count” toward the visa’s term limits. Generally, visa holders may seek to “recapture” time spent outside the U.S. when seeking an extension of their current visa term. Just as employers must file L1 visa applications on behalf of their employees, employers must also file paperwork for L1 visa extensions.
L1 Visa Extensions – Documents
When an employer seeks to extend the visa term of an L1 visa holder employee, the employer must submit forms and supporting documentation to the government. Before the current visa expires, the foreign employer will need to provide proof that the L1 visa holder has been employed in a qualifying position during their stay in the U.S. The foreign employer will also need to document the visa holder’s job description and responsibilities, salary, work schedule, the dates of U.S. employment, and terms of the visa holder’s employment position.
If the worker needs to have time spent abroad during the visa term “recaptured” that request will need to be made when seeking the extension. The government will ask for an itinerary of time spent abroad and evidence that supports the itinerary. An example is travel receipts. Finally, a filing fee will need to be submitted with the extension petition. If the L1 visa holder’s spouse and/or children are in the U.S. on L2 visas, the employer will also need to submit forms requesting the extension of their visa terms as well. Corresponding L2 visa terms are not automatically extended when an L1 visa extension request is granted.
L1 Visa Extensions – Fees and Processing Time
It is important to seek a visa extension request in advance of the current visa’s expiration date. If an employer is not interested in paying for premium processing, the visa extension request could take anywhere from six to eight months or more to process. By contrast, L1 visa extensions benefitting from premium processing are generally decided in 15 calendar days. The fee for premium processing is more than $1,400, but it can be worth the price to ensure that a decision is made quickly. The fees associated with filing for an L1 visa extension depend upon a few factors. The upfront cost to file the I-129 extension paperwork is $460.
Each request is also assessed a $500 fraud prevention and detection fee. If an employer opts for premium processing, that fee is just over $1,400. Finally, if the L1 visa holder needs dependent L2 visa extensions processed for a spouse and/or children, this single request for all affected family members will cost $370.
Legal Guidance Is Available
If you’re an L1 visa holder and your visa is set to expire soon, the experienced immigration attorneys at LawTrades can help. Similarly, if you represent a company that needs to file L1 visa extension paperwork on behalf of an employee, we’ll help navigate this process efficiently and effectively. We look forward to speaking with you.