The L-1 visa is a valuable tool for multinational companies and their employees as it allows talent transfer across borders.
This guide will walk you through L-1 visa extension step-by-step.
Understanding the L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant category designed to transfer employees of multinational entities from one overseas branch to a qualifying related entity in the United States, thus allowing these transferred employees to live and work in the United States for the duration of their visa.
To qualify for the L-1 visa, these employees must have been employed by the multinational company overseas for a minimum of 1 year before being transferred to the United States.
The L-1 visa has two categories:
L-1A is for employees in a managerial or executive position. An executive position is a high-level role with the authority to develop and implement policies and regulations and make important decisions. Meanwhile, a managerial position typically involves supervising and controlling the work of other employees under them, thus giving them the authority to manage personnel, recruit, and terminate.
L-1B, on the other hand, is for employees with roles requiring specialized knowledge. Specialized knowledge can be essential expertise or skills related to the company’s products, services, management, or processes. It often goes above the general knowledge found in the industry, thus making it vital to transfer these employees with specialized knowledge to the United States rather than hiring a U.S. worker, as these skills may be difficult to transfer.
Read our L-1 visa article for a more in-depth guide on the visa and its requirements.
While the L-1 visa is a non-immigration visa category, it is exempt from the requirement of showing an intention to leave. Thus, you technically do not need to provide evidence of having sufficient ties to your home country that confirms your intention to leave the U.S. upon your L-1 visa’s expiration.
As a result, you are allowed to live and work in the U.S. temporarily but also have the intention of possibly immigrating permanently in the future via a different immigrant visa path. This allows for greater flexibility in your plans and is a significant advantage since most non-immigrant visas are not dual intent.
L-1A Visa Duration
If you are a manager or executive on an L-1A visa, you may be given L-1 extensions in increments of 2 years for a maximum period of 7 years. Once you have reached the 7-year limit, you may be required to leave the U.S. and spend at least 1 year outside the U.S. before applying for another L-1A visa. However, if you have spent considerable time abroad during these 7 years, this time spent outside the U.S. can be recaptured, thus potentially extending your stay beyond the 7-year limit.
L-1B Visa Duration
If you are an employee with specialized knowledge on an L-1B visa, you may also be given L-1 extensions in increments of 2 years. However, you can only be granted a maximum of 5 years. After this five-year limit, you must leave the U.S. and spend at least 1 year abroad before applying for another L-1B visa, similar to the L-1A process. The recapturing works the same if a considerable time has been spent abroad during your 5-year limit.
How to Apply for an L-1 Extension?
Applying for an L-1 extension is similar to initially applying for an L-1 visa. Your U.S. petitioner/employer will file a petition on your behalf using Form I-129 before your Form I-94’s departure date expiration. Timing is crucial here as your L-1 visa cannot be renewed if it has expired before applying.
Your I-129 petition will need the following supplementary documents:
A letter from your U.S. employer discussing your employment and the reason you need an extension
Your initial L-1 approval notice and L-1 visa
Your Form I-94
Your W-2 (IRS tax) proving you are employed
A copy of your payslips
Your U.S. employer’s recent tax returns and audited financial statements
We recommend consulting with your immigration attorney for a more comprehensive list of evidence to submit with your petition. This is just a general guideline; depending on your circumstance, you may need additional evidence.
If you have dependents on L-2 visas, they will also have to renew their visas to remain in the U.S. with you, as their status depends on yours. To do this, file Form I-539 and submit it together with your Form I-129. Each dependent will need their own Form I-539.
L-1 Visa Extension Costs
Here is a breakdown of the costs associated with extending your L-1 visa:
Form I-129: $460
Premium processing (optional): $2,500
Form I-539 (if you have dependents): $370
Immigration attorney: varies depending on the provider
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