The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows multinational companies to transfer certain employees from overseas offices to U.S. locations. Initially valid for a period of one to three years, an L-1 visa can be extended for either seven years (for L-1A visas) or five years (for L-1B visas).
The L-1 Extension Process
To file for a L-1 visa extension, a petitioner must submit Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with the appropriate filing fees and supporting documentation. The basic evidence that must be submitted includes:
- Proof that the individual has been employed while living in the country;
- Support letter from the employer/petitioner providing details of the individual’s salary, work schedule, job duties and other employment information;
- Information regarding the individual’s degree or its foreign equivalent;
- Letter from foreign qualifying employer regarding the individual’s dates of employment, responsibilities and salary in the prior years of employment (to specifically demonstrate managerial or executive responsibilities for the L-1A or specialized knowledge for the L-1B);
- Information related to any time spent outside of the United States;
- Evidence demonstrating that the Employer Continues to be “Doing Business”;
- Evidence of the Continued Relationship of the Foreign and Domestic Companies.
In April 2017, President Trump initiated a new “Buy American, Hire American” policy that significantly changed how L-1 visa renewals are processed. Previously, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) deferred to the original decision made on the L-1 visa if the facts of the petition were unchanged. Under current guidelines, each renewal petition is treated as an original application. As a result, denials of both L-1 visas and L-1 visa renewal petitions have increased under the Trump administration’s policy. In fact, since 2015, denials of L-1As (both extensions and initial applications combined) have increased by 70%! In the current climate all of the information underlying the original L-1A approval can be re-examined including the Employee’s original role with the qualifying foreign company even if that was years ago.
Standard and Premium Processing for L-1 Visas
While it can take up to a year or longer to be approved for an initial L-1 visa, obtaining an extension has historically been a much faster process. Currently, L-1 visa extension (which are processed with Form I-129 through the Texas Service Center) are listed by USCIS to take approximately five and a half months; however, in our experience, the Texas Service Center has been very inconsistent overall in processing L-1 extensions and it may take far longer (or slightly shorter) than that time frame to obtain an adjudication.
There is an option to speed up the process via premium processing. For Form I-129, the employer can pay a fee of $1,410 and file an additional form for expedited processing. Instead of a wait time of almost six months, the petition will be processed or, at a minimum, a Request for Evidence will be issued, within fifteen days. If USCIS does not process the petition within that time, then the fee will be refunded. The fee for premium process is paid on top of the regular fees for a L-1 visa extension petition.
Factors That May Impact Processing Time
Because of the new policy guidance for nonimmigrant worker visa renewals, USCIS officers are now examining each L-1 visa renewal petition as though it were an original application — even if the underlying facts and other details have not changed. As a result, renewals are closely examined for inconsistencies or errors, and supporting documentation is analyzed for sufficiency.
If USCIS believes that there is insufficient evidence to support a L-1 visa renewal, then it may send a Request for Evidence (RFE). A RFE is not a denial of a petition, but it can extend the overall processing time for your visa renewal. A skilled L-1 visa extension lawyer can work with you to help you develop a strategy to respond to the RFE.
Each L-1 visa renewal petition will face increased scrutiny under the Trump administration’s new process. This makes it all the more important to carefully fill out your immigration forms and assemble the supporting documentation.
At Colombo & Hurd, we have an excellent record representing investors who wish to obtain a US visa to conduct business, manage their investments, or work for a US branch or subsidiary. Our law firm handles all corporate and international work on behalf of the client to ensure that not only the initial visa is approved but also to maximize the chances of approval for a renewal in the future. If you are interested in learning more about L1 visas and specifically the L1 extension process, please contact our knowledgeable and experienced L-1 attorneys in Orlando at (407) 478-1111, Tampa at (813) 444-1114 and Miami at (305) 455-0590 for a consultation.