What to Do, Prepare, and Expect
Understanding the extension process is crucial to maintaining your work status if you are an international employee working in the U.S. under an L1 visa.
This article will walk you through the L1 visa extension steps, documents to prepare, duration, and fees and provide some useful tips and tricks to navigate the L1 visa extension process smoothly.
L1 Visa Overview
The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category allowing employers of multinational companies to petition to temporarily transfer their employees from an overseas branch to a related entity in the U.S. This process will allow these employees or beneficiaries to live and work in the U.S. for the duration of their visa. To qualify, these employees would need to have been employed by the petitioner overseas for at least one year before their transfer to the U.S.
The L1 visa has two categories:
L1A is for intracompany employees in an executive or managerial position. Executive roles are high-level positions within the company. They have the power to implement policies and regulations and make vital decisions. On the other hand, managerial roles generally involve the supervision and control of the work of other employees. They have the authority to manage personnel matters, including recruitment and termination.
L1B is for intracompany employees with positions requiring specialized knowledge. This specialized knowledge refers to expertise deeply specific to the company’s offerings, processes, management, or techniques. This expertise goes beyond the general knowledge or skills commonly found in the industry, making it necessary to transfer these employees to the U.S. instead of hiring a U.S. worker. Employees with specialized knowledge have essential skills that are not easily transferable.
For a more in-depth guide, read our article on the L1 visa.
L1 Visa Extension
L1 visa extension are granted in two-year increments up to the maximum duration of your L1 visa category.
For L1A visa holders (managers and executives), the maximum period of stay is seven years. On the other hand, L1B visa holders (workers with specialized knowledge) have a maximum stay of five years. These durations of stay refer to actual time spent in the U.S. Any time spent outside for business or personal reasons can be recaptured for the L1 visa extension.
If you have family members with you, they will also be required to extend their visas to remain in the U.S. You can request an L1 visa extension on your dependents’ L-2 visas by filing Form I-539 along with your completed Form I-129.
Before you begin the L1 visa extension process, make sure you meet the eligibility criteria:
Continuation of employment – To be eligible for an L1 visa extension, you must continue to work for the same U.S. employer or its affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company that sponsored your initial L1 visa.
Valid visa status – Ensure your L1 status is still valid throughout your stay in the U.S. prior to filing for an L1 visa extension and not have engaged in any unauthorized employment.
Employment terms – Your employment terms, including job responsibilities and position, should remain consistent with those outlined in your initial L1 petition.
How to Apply for an L1 Extension
The process is similar to when you first applied for an L1 visa. Your employer or petitioner will file a separate petition for you through Form I-129 before your departure date expires, as indicated on your Form I-94.
Form I-129 costs $460 to file and must be supplemented by supporting documents. To stay updated on the latest fees, check this fee schedule by the USCIS. Premium processing adds $2,500. This is optional for applicants on a tight schedule.
After paying the fee and submitting Form I-129 and supporting documents, all that is left is to wait for the USCIS to decide. The USCIS will send a notice once a decision has been made.
If you need to travel while your extension is pending, consult your immigration attorney before making plans to avoid any hitch on your application.
L1 Visa Extension Documents to Prepare
As previously mentioned, Form I-129 needs to be filed with supporting documents. Here is a handy list of documents you must prepare and submit:
Form I-129. Complete with accurate information. Your employer files this.
A cover letter. This details the purpose of your petition, provides an overview of your job position and responsibilities, and lists the supporting documents in your petition.
A copy of your previous L1 approval notice
A copy of your L1 visa
A copy of your Form I-94
Proof of employment with the petitioning employer. E.g., employment contract, payslips, a letter from your employer confirming your continued employment and reason for the L1 extension, and W-2 form (IRS tax form).
Your employer’s documents. E.g., audited financial statements and recent tax returns.
Organizational chart. This shows your position within the company and the positions you supervise (if applicable).
Personal documents. These include your passport and passport-sized photographs. Include your family’s documents if they are also extending their stay in the U.S. as your dependents.
Tips for a Successful L1 Visa Extension
The L1 visa extension process can be challenging. To help you navigate the process and ensure you have a smooth experience, here are some helpful tips:
Consult an immigration attorney. An experienced immigration attorney can provide you with tailored advice throughout the extension process. They can help you navigate complexities with regulations, prepare a strong petition, and deal with complications specific to your case. They are also updated with the latest information per USCIS.
Start early. It is best to start the process well in advance of your initial L1 visa’s expiration to stay ahead of any challenges that may arise. This also ensures you avoid paying for premium processing in case of delay.
Gather strong evidence. Compile comprehensive and updated documentation that proves your continued employment and either specialized knowledge or managerial or executive position within the company. You can include organizational charts, performance reviews, and more.
Be consistent. Ensure your job responsibilities, job titles, and other employment terms and information are consistent with the facts you provided in your initial L1 application to avoid raising concerns or red flags during your extension process.
Stay informed. Regularly check the USCIS website for any changes to fees, forms, and procedures. Policies and requirements can change, which is one reason why hiring an immigration attorney is helpful. It is best to stay on top of the latest news.
Prepare for additional requests for evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, work closely with your immigration attorney to promptly provide the correct additional evidence.
L1 Visa Extension Processing Time
Since both L1A and L1B visa extensions utilizes the same Form I-129, there is no difference in the processing time for both visa categories.
The actual processing time for an L1 visa extension can vary depending on factors like the workload at the USCIS, the service center where your petition is being processed, the specific details of your case, and whether you choose to pay for premium processing. It often takes several months, from two to six months, depending on the workload and your particular case.
It is best to check the USCIS website for the most updated information or consult with your immigration attorney.
Need help with your L1 visa extension?
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