What is the L1B Extension Processing Time?
If you are an L1B visa holder currently living and working in the United States and looking to extend your stay, you will not only need to know how to apply for an extension, but it is only natural that you would also want to know the L1B extension processing times.
The following guide looks at both the application process, as well as the time it will take to have your L1B visa extension approved.
What is the duration of an L1B visa?
An L1 visa permits overseas employees of international companies to transfer to a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the same company in the United States.
The L1B visa sub-classification is specifically for employees who possess specialised knowledge about a company’s products, services or procedures such that they are integral to the success of that company.
L1B visa holders are commonly known as “specialized knowledge” employees.
As a specialised knowledge intra-company transferee, you will initially be granted an L1B visa for a period of three years.
Thereafter, and subject to continuing to meet the relevant criteria, you will be eligible to apply for a visa extension in increments of up to two years. However, this is subject to a maximum period of five years.
That said, under an L1B visa, any time spent outside the U.S. during this five-year period for either business or pleasure can potentially be recaptured. In other words, any holidays abroad or days otherwise spent overseas need not count towards your maximum limit, so long as you can provide evidence of your physical presence outside the country.
To recapture this time spent overseas you will need to submit a summary of your travel itinerary, supported by documentary evidence such as boarding passes, plane tickets, passport stamps and other records of your departure from, and arrival back into, the United States.
Who is eligible to apply for an L1B visa extension?
You will be eligible to apply for an L1B visa extension if you are continuing to work in a specialized knowledge role with your U.S. petitioning employer.
However, your petitioning employer will need to show that there continues to be a qualifying relationship between the overseas company and the U.S. parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of that company.
This means that there needs to be a high degree of common ownership and control between the two entities.
Can I apply for an L1A visa extension instead?
By way of alternative, if you have transferred into an executive or managerial role during your time in the U.S, you may be able to adjust your status such that you are eligible for an L1A visa instead.
The L1A visa classification is for employees who have a certain level of authority within the company or organisation, and are responsible for either running the business, or part thereof, and/or managing employees.
In this way you may be able to take advantage of the longer maximum permissible period under L1A classification of seven years, although any change of status would need to be approved at least 6 months before you reach the maximum five-year period under an L1B visa.
What is the process for applying for an L1B visa extension?
The process for obtaining an L1B visa extension is similar to the process of petitioning for your initial L1 status. It requires your U.S. employer to file a fresh petition using Form I-129 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This must be submitted prior to the expiry of your existing L1B permission. The date can be found on Form I-94, an electronic record of when you are required to depart the United States under your initial visa.
To avoid overstaying, your petition must be received by the USCIS prior to your departure date. You will then be able to continue working with your U.S. employer pending approval of your L1B visa extension.
What is the lead-time for applying for an L1B visa extension?
Once your L1B petition has been filed, the processing time is usually between 30 to 90 days, although in some cases in can take as long as 6-8 months depending on the backlog of the particular service centre used.
Your U.S. employer can opt to pay an additional fee to expedite the processing time to within 15 calendar days of receipt. However, at a cost of $1,410 this is an expensive option to extend an L1B visa, and does not guarantee your application will be successful.
Please note that if the USCIS fails to process your petition within the prescribed 15 days, the premium processing fee should be refunded.
What are the challenges applying for an L1B visa extension?
As an L1B visa extension requires your employer to file a fresh petition, this will also require additional and detailed documentation in support.
In the event that your petitioning employer fails to file the correct or complete documentation, this may delay your application, or worse still, result in your application being completely denied.
Needless to say, without an approved L1B visa extension you will be required to leave the United States and, by default, your U.S. job. To be able to reapply for an L1B visa you would need to work abroad for a minimum period of one year.
Further, to reapply for an L1B visa, you would need to satisfy the same criteria as you did on your initial application, namely that you have been employed as a specialised knowledge employee by the parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the U.S. company for one year out of the three years immediately preceding your (re-) admission to the United States.
Can I apply for permanent residence as an L1B visa holder?
If you are looking to settle in the U.S. on a more permanent basis, the L1B visa provides the overseas employee with the option to apply for an employment-based immigrant visa. This is known as a dual intent visa.
A dual intent visa does not require you to show that you will return to your home country upon expiry of your permission to stay.
Instead you will be allowed 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 U.S.
However, the process for adjusting your status from L1B classification can be complicated and protracted, not least because your petitioning employer will be required to obtain what’s known as approved labor certification prior to submitting an immigration petition on your behalf.
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.
Seeking an L1B visa extension is not necessarily straightforward. Even though you have already obtained approved L1 classification, you will still need to satisfy the relevant criteria on a continuing basis.
The requirement for a fresh petition means additional and detailed documentation in support. In many instances, the documentation here will differ to the documentation filed in the first instance.
It is therefore always best to seek expert legal advice to ensure that your application for an L1B visa extension is correctly submitted and in a timely fashion. Your legal adviser can also provide you with a much clearer idea of L1B extension processing times based on your particular case.
The visa period under there L route will depend the classification you are eligible under. It is advisable to take advice on your immigration options and explore other routes which may better suit your requirements and eligibility.
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.