Extending Your L-1 Work Visa Stay

Tips on the application process to extend your L-1 visa.

The L-1 work visa is available to two types of foreign workers: workers who are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform services in a managerial/executive capacity for a U.S. company (L-1A) or workers who possess specialized knowledge who are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform work for a company (L-1B). Further articles regarding obtaining L-1 status is available under Working in the U.S.

In this article, we explain the procedures for extending your L-1 work visa and offer helpful hints and pointers to ensure that this process is as easy and fast as possible. Please note that these general strategies and procedures are the same whether you are seeking to extend either L-1A or L-1B status.

When Do I Have to Apply for an L-1 Work Visa Extension?

You must apply to extend your L-1 work visa before your L-1 status expires. The date on your Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record tells you the date that your status will expire. Prior to April 2013, all nonimmigrants received a paper I-94 at the port of entry. This card should have your name, an I-94 number (which is simply an 11-digit identification number), the date you entered the U.S., the status in which you entered the U.S., and the date your status expires. After April 2013, the majority of U.S. visitors no longer receive a paper I-94 and will instead be able to access this form on the Customs and Border Protection website. The date your status expires is the deadline when you must apply to extend your L-1 work visa. (Please note that if you changed to L-1 status in the U.S., and have not left the U.S. since you changed status to L-1, then your I-94 card may be found on the bottom of your L-1 approval notice).

For example, let’s say you entered the U.S. in L-1 status on January 1, 2013. The I-94 states that you entered the U.S. in L-1 status on January 1, 2012, and that your status expires on December 31, 2015. You must file your petition to extend your status by December 31, 2015.

Please note that it is only necessary that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive your petition to extend your L-1 status by the date your status expires – it is not necessary that USCIS approve your petition before your status expires. In the example above, let’s say that you file your petition to extend your L-1 status on December 1, 2015, and USCIS receives your petition on December 5, 2015. USCIS does not approve your petition until January 31, 2016 – approximately one month after your previous L-1 status expires. Because you filed your extension while you were still in status, you are considered to be maintaining status while USCIS adjudicates your petition. You do NOT accrue unlawful presence if USCIS doesn’t approve your petition until after your previous status expired.

Additionally, please be aware that you may not remain in the U.S. in L-1 status indefinitely. There is a seven-year maximum stay for L-1A visa holders and a five-year maximum stay for L-1B visa holders. Once you have reached your maximum stay, you may not extend your L-1 visa again until you have been outside of the U.S. for at least one year. Of course, you may also have to option to apply for a green card and stay permanently.

How Do I Extend My L-1 Work Visa?

In order to extend your L-1 status, your employer must file an I-129 petition on your behalf. This petition is filed with USCIS. Below is a list of documents that must be included with the Form I-129:

  1. Copies of your previous L-1 approval notice, L-1 visa, and Form I-94.
  2. Copies of your pay stubs and W-2 forms (these confirm you are employed with the L-1 employer).
  3. Letter in support of the extension signed by your employer, which outlines the conditions of your employment and explains to USCIS why your employer needs you to continue working in the United States.
  4. Copies of your employer’s recent tax returns and audited financial statements (these verify that your employer is still doing business in the U.S.).

Please note this is only a general list of materials that should be submitted with the I-129 form. Your own specific circumstances may require that additional/different materials be included.

What Should My Employer Know

Below are a few helpful pointers to assist in completing Form I-129.

  1. Part 2, Question 2, Basis For Classification: Your employer should select “B” for continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer. (Please note that if any conditions in your employment have changed since your original I-129 filing, this may not be the appropriate selection for you).
  2. Part 2, Question 4, Requested Action: Select “C” for extend the stay of each beneficiary, since the beneficiary now holds this status.
  3. Part 5, Question 10, Dates of Intended Employment: As stated above, for L-1A workers, there is a maximum period of stay of seven years. You may request two-year extensions until you reach the seven-year maximum. For example, let’s say your first L-1 petition was approved for December 1, 2012 through November 31, 2015. In your L-1 extension, you may request that your period of stay be extended from December 1, 2015 through November 31, 2017. Similarly, for L-1B visa holders, you may request two-year extensions, until you reach your five-year maximum.

For a more extensive overview of the employer's requirements, see Extension of a Work Visa: Employer's I-129 Application Process.

Other Important Issues to Consider

Here are a few other things to know about getting an extension of your L status.

  1. If you have dependents (spouse and/or children) who are in the U.S. in L-2 dependent status, you must file a separate form, Form I-539, to extend their L-2 statuses (and of course include documentation). The I-539 petition can be filed either (1) with your I-129 petition; (2) by itself, including a copy of the receipt notice for your I-129 petition; or (3) by itself, including a copy of the approval notice for your I-129 petition. Just like with your I-129 petition, your dependents’ I-539 petition must be received by USCIS before their statuses expire. All of your dependents may be listed on one I-539 petition.
  2. As long as your I-129 petition was timely filed (i.e. USCIS received the petition before your L-1 status expired), you may continue working for your employer, even while your extension is pending.
  3. You must be physically present in the U.S. when the I-129 petition is filed with USCIS.
  4. L-1 status by itself does not lead to permanent residence (getting a green card).

If you're interested in staying permanently, talk to a lawyer and see our articles on the subject.

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