If you are an employer who has at least one employee in the United States on an L-1 visa, you might be wondering if it is possible to renew your employee’s visa and how long this will take. The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant work visa that allows for companies with branches in both the United States and other countries to transfer employees to an office inside the U.S. Read on to learn about how you can extend your employee’s L-1 visa and about the processing times!
L-1 Visa Extension Process
The L-1 visa is granted to employees in 2-year increments at a time for up to a maximum duration that varies by category of L-1 visa. The L-1A visa, which is for managers and executives, has a maximum duration of 7 years. The L-1B visa, which is for workers with specialized knowledge, has a maximum duration of 5 years. Keep in mind, employees in L-1A status under a new office petition are originally granted the visa for one year, after which they become eligible for extensions in 2-year increments. If you would like to extend your employee’s stay beyond these windows of time, you will need to explore other options like transitioning your employee to Lawful Permanent Resident Status. If you would like to learn more about this option, check out our blog post Pathway to Green Card From an L-1a Temporary Visa to an Eb-1c Permanent Residence Visa.
There are two ways to extend an L-1 visa beyond the initial 2-year window of validity. The first way to extend an L-1 visa is through a regular extension. This is when the employer files a separate petition on behalf of an individual beneficiary before the L-1A validity period ends. Employers should seek out this extension option if they are looking to renew individual employees at different times. The second way to extend an L-1 visa is through a blanket petition. This allows the employer to file one petition for a substantial number of L-1 transferees at the same time, which is the most efficient way to file if you are looking to extend the petition for a lot of visa holders at once.
How to Apply for an L-1 Visa Extension
To apply for any L-1 visa extension, your employer must file a new Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on your behalf. Additionally, you will need to provide supporting evidence demonstrating your identity, your current employment, your history with the company, and letters of support from your employers. It’s important to consult with your immigration attorney before filing for an extension so you can put together a strong petition.
To apply for a blanket petition, the company must meet the following requirements:
- The U.S. branch must have at least 1,000 employees;
- The company must have obtained L-1 visas for at least 10 employees within the past year; and
- The company must have combined sales of at least $25 million.
The employer can submit the extension request up to 6 months in advance of the employee’s I-94 expiration date. While it is best to apply as early as possible, you will still be able to get the extension as long as the petition is received by USCIS before the expiration date.
L-1 Visa Extension Processing Time
Although the processing time is roughly the same for both L-1A and L-1B visas, there can be variation in processing times for other reasons. The most common one is backlogs at the service center that the petition is being processed at. While most extensions are processed within a few months, administrative backlogs can cause the processing time to take 8 months or longer. If your status expiration date lapses while your request is still being processed, you have 240 more days to continue working at the same company. If the request is still pending after that period, you can stay in the United States but will not be permitted to work. From there, you will have to leave the United States if the extension request is denied, or you can resume working at your previous employer if the extension request is approved.
If you would like to expedite the extension process and are willing to pay additional fees to do so, USCIS offers premium processing. With this option, your petition will be processed within 15 days. While premium processing provides the benefit of taking much less time, it is important to be aware that it does not guarantee any greater level of success with your petition than regular processing; it only guarantees the shorter processing time.
If you would like to learn more about how to extend an L-1 visa, please contact us for an assessment. We are happy to walk you through the process of keeping your company’s employees in the United States for as long as you need to achieve your company’s objectives.