Extending Your L-1 Work Visa Stay in the U.S.—Or Staying Permanently

Procedures for extending or renewing an L-1 visa as well as L-2 visas for family members, and on continuing on toward lawful permanent residence.

By , Attorney

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 company (L-1A), and
  • 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 are available under Working in the US.; also see the government regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(l).

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 L-1A or L-1B status.

When Must I Apply for an L-1 Work Visa Extension?

You must apply to USCIS to extend your L-1 work visa before your L-1 status expires. You'll find that date on your Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. The I-94 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.

The majority of U.S. visitors no longer receive a paper I-94 and instead can access this form on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

The date your status expires is the deadline by when you must apply to extend your L-1 work visa. (Note that if you changed to L-1 status in the U.S. and never left the U.S. after doing so, your I-94 card will be found on the bottom of your L-1 approval notice).

For example, let's say you enter the U.S. in L-1 status on January 1, 2022. The I-94 states exactly that; and also indicates that your status expires on December 31, 2025. You must therefore file your petition to extend your status by December 31, 2025.

As far as timing goes, it's 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. In other words, you don't need to worry about USCIS approving your employer's petition before your status expires.

Continuing with the example above, let's say your employer files your petition to extend L-1 status on December 1, 2025, and USCIS receives your petition on December 5, 2025. USCIS does not approve your petition until January 31, 2026, or approximately one month after your previous L-1 status expired. Because your employer filed your extension while you were still in status, however, you are authorized to remain in the U.S. while USCIS adjudicates your petition. You do NOT accrue unlawful presence if USCIS doesn't approve your petition until after your previous status expired.

You're also authorized to work for up to 240 days beyond your I-94 expiration while awaiting approval of the petition to extend status.

Additionally, be aware that you are not allowed to 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 might also have to option to apply for a green card and stay in the U.S. permanently.

What's the Procedure for Extending My L-1 Work Visa?

In order to extend your L-1 status in the United States, your employer must file an I-129 petition on your behalf with USCIS. At this time, you must be physically present in the United States. 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 (to 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 (to verify that your employer is still doing business in the U.S.).

This is only a general list of materials that should be submitted with the I-129 form. Your own circumstances might require that additional/different materials be included.

What Should an Employer Know About the L-1 Visa Extension Process?

Below are a few helpful pointers to assist employers in completing Form I-129. (There refer to USCIS's March 2021 version of the form.)

  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. (If any conditions in your employment have changed since your original I-129 filing, this might 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 11, 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, 2021 through November 30, 2024. In your L-1 extension, you may request that your period of stay be extended from December 1, 2024 through November 30, 2026. 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.

How Can I Get L-2 Extensions for Family Members?

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, USCIS 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 immigration statuses expire. All of your dependents may be listed on one I-539 petition, but each extra family member beyond the first must submit a separate I-539A, Supplemental Information form, which is also available at the I-539 website.

What About Getting a Green Card Following L-1 Status?

If you are in the United States with an L-1 visa (a temporary visa for intracompany transferees), applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) should be simpler than for most other temporary (nonimmigrant) visa holders.

However, there's no automatic stepping stone from L-1 status to a green card. You still must separately show eligibility for U.S. lawful permanent residence. You might do so based on employment (most likely through your current employer, if it is willing to sponsor you in one of the employment-based green card categories); or through a qualifying family relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; or in some other category of U.S. immigration law.

Advantages of Going From L-1 Status to U.S. Permanent Residence

Assuming you have a basis for green card eligibility, you will enjoy several advantages over other types of applicants, including:

  • being covered by the doctrine of dual intent, and
  • presumably having (by virtue of your eligibility for an L-1 visa as a manager or executive) professional qualifications that will allow you to avoid the process of labor certification in obtaining a green card, if your employer is indeed willing to sponsor you.

We'll elaborate on these points below.

How Dual Intent Doctrine Helps L-1 Visa Holders Get a Green Card

By way of background, most applicants for nonimmigrant visas must prove, as a condition of getting the visa, that they are not ultimately hoping to get a U.S. green card. Their sole intent must be to come to the U.S. on the nonimmigrant visa, maintain their status under that visa, and then leave the U.S. by the expected and allowed time. But with an L-1 visa, you are allowed to simultaneously intend to spend time as a nonimmigrant on your L-1 visa while also pursuing the possibility of a U.S. green card.

How L-1 Visa Holders Can Often Apply for an Employment-Based Green Card in Category EB-1C

Given your professional qualifications, your best bet in applying for green card might be to use the EB-1C category, which means employment-based first preference, a type of "priority worker." The EB-1 category specifically covers multinational executives and managers.

Your U.S. employer will need to apply on your behalf. You will need to have worked as an executive or manager in a qualifying company for at least one out of the three years before your arrival in the United States, and to be taking a similar position with a U.S. branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company.

Fortunately, your employer will not need to undertake the "PERM" or labor certification process on your behalf to help you obtain an EB-1C green card. Labor certification is an expensive, laborious, and lengthy process, in which the employer must attempt to recruit U.S. workers and establish that none of them are qualified, available, and willing to take your job.

Instead, your green card application process will start with your employer filing a visa petition on your behalf, on USCIS Form I-140. The petition will need to be accompanied by several documents, including proof of your L-1 approval, proof that you've worked for the appropriate amount of time as an executive or manager, a description of your job duties, the company's financial statements and recent tax returns, and so on.

Once the visa petition has been approved, you'll be able to submit your application for a green card, or to "adjust status." After several months, you'll be scheduled for an interview, and hopefully be approved as a U.S. permanent resident.

Getting Help From an Immigration Attorney

If you elect to hire a lawyer to represent you and handle the green card application process; not a bad idea if you think there might be complications; you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars.

Talk to an Immigration attorney.
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