What is the L1 Visa Maximum Stay?
If you are an overseas employee being temporarily transferred to an affiliated US office, or you are currently working in the US under L1 status, you will need to know the maximum stay that is permissible under this type of visa.
Staying in the US beyond your visa expiry can result in serious consequences, such as being barred for a number of years from returning to the US. This makes it critical to ensure you are organized and have secured new, lawful status beyond your permitted period of stay.
In this guide, we discuss how long you can remain in the United States under an L1 visa and the options to extend your status lawfully.
US immigrant & nonimmigrant visas
The length of stay under a US visa will largely be determined by whether the visa is classed as an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. An immigrant visa allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States, whereas a nonimmigrant visa is for foreign nationals to enter and remain in the United States on a temporary basis.
The L1 visa is a nonimmigrant, temporary visa. In other words, it affords permission to intracompany transferees for a limited period of time. Accordingly, an employee with L1 nonimmigrant status will only have permission to stay in the US for a limited period of time.
L1A and L1B visa maximum periods of stay
The L-1 visa is for professional employees of an international company to transfer to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. It can also be used for professional employees coming to the US to set up a new affiliated office. There are also two different categories of L1 visa: the L1A visa and the L1B visa.
The L1A visa is for professional employees working in an executive or managerial capacity.
The L1B visa is for employees who have specialised knowledge about a company’s products, services and procedures.
In either case, the employee must have been working within this role for at least one year out of the preceding three years and be intending to undertake the same or similar role in the United States.
For both the L-1A and L-1B visas, the maximum initial stay is three years. Transferees entering the US to establish a new office will be granted a maximum initial stay of one year.
Beyond this initial 3-year period, it is possible to apply to extend the L-1 visa in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years for the L-1A visa and a maximum of five years under an L-1B visa.
How easy it will be for you to extend your L1 visa will depend upon the nature of your continued role within the company, and whether the overseas and affiliated US office have continued to have a qualifying relationship for the duration of your stay.
Where you have been responsible for setting up a new office in the United States, your application for an extension of stay will depend upon the overall viability of the US operations.
Beyond the L-1 maximum stay
Having exhausted the maximum permissible stay under an L1 visa, a foreign employee must work outside the United States for a minimum period of one year before a new application can be made for L1 status.
For L1B visa-holders whose maximum permissible stay is limited to five years, it may be possible to transfer from an L1B to an L1A visa. However, your application would need to be approved six months prior to the expiry of your existing visa. You would also need to satisfy the eligibility criteria for an L1A visa by working in an executive or managerial capacity.
To reapply for an L1 visa, you would need to satisfy the same criteria as you did on your initial application, namely that you have been employed by the parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the US company for one year out of the three years immediately preceding your admission to the United States.
L1 visa to Green Card?
Although the L-1 is a nonimmigrant visa is, and as such provides temporary permission to work in the US, the L1 is a ‘dual intent visa’ and can still provide the worker with a pathway to permanent residence.
Under a standard visa, as a prerequisite to being granted entry clearance you will need to show that you do not intend moving to the US, for example, by maintaining a residence in your country of origin. A dual intent visa does not require such proof, rather it will allow you to lawfully enter the United States on a time-limited nonimmigrant basis, albeit with immigrant intent, thereby enabling you to petition for a change of status while present in the US.
This means if you’re looking to remain in the US on a more permanent basis, the L1 visa provides the overseas employee with the option to apply for an employment-based immigrant visa (also known as a Green Card) whilst still in the United States.
Under an L1A visa you can apply for permanent residency under the EB1C route. The criteria under this category are similar to those for L1A status, whereby many overseas executives and managers come to the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa, then apply at a later date to change their status.
However, given that you will need to have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity at a company outside the U.S. for at least a year during the three years preceding the petition, your EB1C application will need to be made within two years of being in the United States.
To gain permanent residency with L1B status, where you are working in a non-management role as a specialised knowledge employee, you must instead use the EB2 category (advanced degree) or the EB3 category (skilled or professional worker).
The adjustment of status process for L1B visa-holders is far less straightforward than for those with L1A status, requiring your U.S. employer to obtain an approved labor certification before submitting the immigration petition.
Known as the PERM Labor Certification requirement, this is to satisfy the U.S. Department of Labor that there are insufficient available, qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage, and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
NNU Immigration specializes in advising employers and employees on their US business immigration options. Our US immigration attorneys have particular expertise in the L1 visa, including petitions for Blanket L petitions and L1 visa extensions. Contact us for advice with your L visa.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.