Many people working in the United States on an L-1 visa assume that obtaining an extension is something of a formality if they are still performing the same or similar duties for the same employer—essentially, if circumstances are identical or very similar to those under which the initial application was approved. However, it is not always this simple.
In fiscal year 2014, 41% of petitions to extend L-1B visas were denied. That’s a higher denial rate than for new petitions during the same time period. You may also receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in connection with your extension application. If you’re looking to extend your L-1 visa, you can’t afford to cut corners. Do your homework, gather your documentation carefully, and get the professional legal help you need to make sure that you have the best possible chance for approval.
L-1 Visa Extension Basics
An L-1A visa is valid for a maximum of seven years and an L-1B visa for a maximum of five years. But, those numbers aren’t guaranteed. The initial visa is granted for a period of no more than three years, with the potential for renewal in two-year blocks up to the maximum. The first step, then, is to be very aware of the expiration date of your initial visa. While you may technically petition for an extension at any point when the existing visa is still valid, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you make your application at least 45 days in advance of your scheduled expiration date.
USCIS lists the following criteria for eligibility to apply to extend your stay:
- You hold current, valid non-immigrant visa status.
- You have not committed a crime that would make you ineligible for a visa or violated the conditions of your admission.
- You hold a valid passport which will remain valid for the duration of your stay.
L-1 Visa Extension Documentation Requirements
Some of the requirements for an L-1 visa application extension may seem repetitive or unnecessary in view of the original information provided. Don’t fall into that trap. Follow instructions to the letter, and if you are unsure about the process or any of the documentation required, consider working with an experienced immigration attorney.
Core elements of the extension application package will include:
- A letter from the overseas qualifying employer detailing employment over the three years prior to admission to the United States. This should include dates of employment, specific duties performed, job qualifications and salary information for the full three-year period.
- Evidence that the beneficiary has been employed in compliance with the terms of his visa for the duration of his or her stay in the U.S.
- A letter from the petitioning employer detailing the current job description, including the elements that make it a qualifying position (executive, managerial or requiring special skills), work schedule, salary, either an account of changes in terms of employment since the initial application or a statement that no such change has occurred, a description of the current relationship between the U.S. and foreign employers or a statement that no change in this relationship has occurred since the original petition, and a statement establishing that the employer remains a qualifying organization and continues to do business in the United States and abroad.
And, of course, the filing fee. If time is of the essence, a petitioning employer may pay an additional fee for premium processing, which allow most applications to be processed in about 15 days.
Change of L-1 Visa Status
The L1-B visa may be extended for up to five years total stay in the United States, but the L1-A visa, for managers and executives, may be extended to a total of seven years. In some cases, an L1-B visa holder may be eligible for an adjustment of status to L-1A.
The Adjustment of Status petition must be filed by the employer, and must be approved at least six months prior to the expiration of the initial five year term. So, if this is something you are considering, you’ll need to make the decision and begin the process well in advance. It would be wise to speak with an experienced immigration attorney approximately one year in advance of the expiration of the initial five year period.
Recapturing Time Spent Outside of the United States
The five and seven year limits refer to time actually spent in the United States. Therefore, if you’ve spent significant time abroad during your visa period, you may be able to recapture that time while seeking an extension.
Recapturing time requires detailed documentation and if your submission is insufficient you won’t receive a Request for Evidence. If you don’t get it right the first time, your request to recapture time will simply be denied.
Contact KPPB Law Today!
As you can see, the L-1 visa extension process can be more complex than you might have imagined, and the stakes are high—particularly for L-1B visa holders, whose applications for extension are denied at a very high rate. Don’t gamble with your future. Contact the immigration attorneys at KPPB law today by calling or sending a message online and give yourself the best chance possible.