13 Aug Don’t be Afraid, The Truth Behind the L1 Visa Extension Process
The L1 visa extension process can be a fairly straight forward procedure; even less complicated than your initial L1 visa application process. In all honesty, it can be simple and hassle free. With that in mind, I wrote this short guide to make your extension process simple, efficient, and, more importantly, smooth and relatively stress-free or, at least, headache free.
What are L1A & L1B visas?
The process for L1A and L1B visa extensions are the same, despite the fact that they are slightly different.
Remember the duration time is the main difference; an L1A visa lasts for 7 years whereas an L1B is good for 5 years.
There is the option of converting the L1B to the L1A visa, however your case for the L1A visa conversion must be a strong one. This includes having proper support from your employer and an advanced skill set. If you are unsure if you qualify, consult an attorney to verify if the case for an L1A visa conversion is a possibility for you.
Don’t worry if the petition for L1A conversion is denied, there is still the L1B visa extension. The visa extension (for both L1A & L1B) are covered below.
L1 visa memory lane brings you to your current situation.
You, L1 visa holder, remember this scenario, right? You received this news some years ago when you were still living in your native country. You remember your family’s reaction when you told them the news. Everyone was elated, but you recall how both thrilling and terrifying it was. More specifically the process for the L1 visa. All the paperwork, all the official documents, all the appointments, long waiting lines and phone calls. It was, to say the least, exhausting. No one said it would be easy and you know from personal experience that it was, indeed, not. Now, some year(s) later, it looks like a new process is upon you again. How time flies. How frightening it is to have to face another visa process again. Don’t worry, you are not alone. You are not the first nor the last. You are, however, closer than you think. So let’s talk about where you are today.
Currently, you are living in the US and are reaching the end of your L1 visa stay. Your company wants you to stay, you want to stay, but that annoying expiration date is taunting you. Now you must hunt down new forms and applications, dig out old files and documents, and revisit the date on all documents. Not to mention, you are probably well established at work and with your life in the US. Your partner has her/her life, too. The kids have their friends, are happy at school, and are active in the neighborhood. Your house is now a home. So going back to your country, or the country where you previously lived, isn’t an option. The only option that is in front of you is to stay which means extending your L1 visa. Well, let’s talk about that.
Also, before I discuss the process in detail, be aware that the L1 visa extension lasts for 2 years. Pay attention here, please:
- Each extension you will be granted 2 additional years in the US. Don’t rely on the original years given to you on the first L1 visa.
- This is L1 visa extension, therefore the rules are a little different. So every 2 years you will have to apply for a new L1 visa, unless you choose to pursue the Green Card route (see below)
Document gathering can be a headache, but not if you have everything in order.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on the proper documentation required. You must submit the following documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Proof of employment during time of residency in the US.
- Letter from foreign employer explaining applicant’s employment dates, responsibilities, and income in the prior three years.
- Letter of support from petitioner, detailing the applicant’s schedule, salary, responsibilities, other terms of employment, and related information.
- Recapturing time outside the U.S involves some paperwork, yes, but it’s well worth it if you have spent extensive time away from the US. This can give you some days or weeks in which to complete the L1 visa extension process.
- 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 any 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.
- Form I-129 and, of course, the USCIS filing fee.
Don’t underestimate expiration dates.
- First, which L1 visa do you have? The L1A lasts for 7 years and the L1B for 5 years. The standard L1 lasts between 1 and 3 years. Make sure you are aware of the expiration date of your L1 visa in order to facilitate the process of the L1 visa extension.
- Second, did you come to the US on a regular L1 visa or a blanket L1 visa. This makes a huge difference and you want to be sure that the paperwork you are filling out coincides with the correct L1 visa you were given by your company. If you don’t know are aren’t sure, please, ask your company or an immigration lawyer.
- Regular and blanket visas (Form I-129) are distinct. The L1 visa can be obtained in two different ways. Blanket visas are different from standard visas, which require application and approval per person, because they exist for employers who hire in large volumes or are able to transfer in large volumes from overseas. Please be attentive when filing paperwork in order to complete the application successfully.
- Finally, and more important than the first or the second, is make sure that your passport will not expire any time soon. Be sure that during the time of L1 visa extension your passport will not expire otherwise the situation could become complicated. To avoid all such issues, pay attention to expiration dates.
When should you apply? Good question.
You are able to apply up to 6 months in advance. That’s to say, 6 months prior to the expiration date. L-1 extension can be applied even 1 month prior to expiration date. As long as the extension petition reaches USCIS prior to current I-94/L-1 expiration date, you should be fine.
Now that you’re familiar with the procedure, can we address some real concerns like the L2 extension for your family. Here we go. Read slowly, read multiple times, and if you still have questions consult an immigration lawyer or a visa expert.
Let’s address family first because, after all, family comes first.
First and foremost, there are two forms. One if for the L1 visa holder and the other is for the L2 visa holder. I-129 is for the L1 visa holder and the I-539 is for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21.
If your employer files a Form I-129 to extend your L1 visa status, and your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 also want to extend their L-2 status, they will need to file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status. Dependents cannot be included on Form I-129, however they can all be included on one Form I-539 to extend L-2 status.
To extend the stay for your family in the United States, the L2 visa holder should file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status, with USCIS before the visa expires. If you are not sure about the current departure date for the L2 visa holder, check the date on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. Again, I cannot stress the importance of expiration dates. Know them, write them down, don’t let them slip between your fingers.
USCIS recommend that you apply to extend the L2 visa stay at least 45 days before the authorized stay expires, but the USCIS Service Center must receive Form I-539 application before the expiration day of authorized stay.
After the Form I-539 form has been submitted to extend L-2 status, USCIS will mail a receipt. This receipt will provide a number assigned to track Form I-539 application, as well as the projected processing time. An extension of stay is not automatic, be advised. USCIS will look at the situation, the status, and the reasons you want to extend L-2 status, then they will decide whether to grant the Form I-539 application.
If the application is received by USCIS before the L2 visa holder status expires, and if he/she has not violated the terms of his/her status and meet the basic eligibility requirements, he/she may continue his/her previously approved activities in the United States (including previously authorized work) for a maximum period of 240 days. Or at the very least the L2 holder can continue his/her activity until a decision is made by USCIS on your application or the reason for your requested extension has been accomplished.
If Form I-539 application for an extension is approved, the L2 applicant will be issued a replacement I-94 with a new departure date. Keep track of dates. They can make a difference between acceptance and rejection.
L1 to Green Card is a possibility, don’t be afraid to apply.
If you did not know that you are eligible for a Green Card from your L1 status, well, now you know. Here are some useful pieces of information to help you in your journey if you are interested in applying for a Green Card from L-1 status:
If you are eligible for or now have an L-1 visa as either a manager or an executive, you may also be eligible for a green card through employment. In addition to your eligibility, you also have the benefit of being able to get the green card without going through the rigorous procedures of Labor Certification, which is usually the first step required for those seeking green cards through employment. The purpose of the Labor Certification procedure is to show that there are no American workers available to take the U.S. job that has been offered to you. However, if you qualify for L-1 status as a manager or executive, you also fall under a green card preference category called priority workers. This category is exempt from Labor Certification requirements.
Go forth and make the L1 visa extension a reality.
Now that you know the process, you should feel both confident and informed. The most important part about applying for any visa is having the proper documents in order and turning in those documents on time. If at any point you feel stressed or hopeless, please consult an attorney or an expert in immigrant law. They exist to help people just like you, so don’t feel shy, ashamed, or nervous to speak with them. Use their services as frequently as makes you feel comfortable.
Remember to pay attention to deadlines and expiration dates.
Don’t apply too late or too early.
Have all documents in order; make sure you have filled them out properly with
the correct data and completed them with signatures.
Don’t forget about the L2 visa holders in your household. The process for them is different.
Pay the required application fee.
L1 visas can be tuned into Green Cards if you choose to pursue that path.