Renew an L-1 Visa
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How To Renew Your L1 Visa
The L-1 visa is non-immigrant visa that allows foreign executives or employees with specialized knowledge to come to the United States as a transferee to a parent company or a subsidiary. The visa issues for an initial period of up to three years. The employee can request visa extensions without having to return to the home country to put in a new visa application. An extension can be granted for up to 7 years for executives and up to 5 years for employees with specialized knowledge.
In this article, we discuss the process for securing the L-1 visa. Understanding this original application process is important for initially filing the visa application. Also, it is important to know if you are unable to extend your visa. You will need to make a new application to replace the existing L-1. Finally, we explain what is required to extend the visa.
How to Secure an L-1 Visa
As discussed, the L-1 is a non-immigrant visa. This means that the applicant must express their intentions to return to their home country at the expiration of the visa. The L-1 is a dual-intent visa. So, it will not destroy the status of the visa if the holder seeks to convert their visa status to another visa status or green card status while in the United States. The visa is only available under specific circumstances as follows.
• Visa Category - The L-1 applies to two categories of immigrant. The L-1A allows executives or managers of the foreign company to transfer to the US subsidiary or parent company. The L-1B allows employees with specialized knowledge or skills to come to the US subsidiary or parent company.
• Affiliated Company - As discussed there must generally be a parent company or subsidiary present in the United States. If there is no US subsidiary, the L-1 allows an executive or manager to come to the United States with the purpose of establishing such as subsidiary. The US company must demonstrate a connection with the foreign company (such as parent company, subsidiary, branch, or close affiliate). The foreign company must be currently engaged in US business or plan to do business in the US and with at least one other country during the period of the L-1 visa holder’s stay.
• Employee of Foreign Company - The immigrant must be an employee of a foreign company with either parent company or subsidiary company located in the United States. A parent company is typically one that exhibits control over one or more smaller subsidiary companies. Parent companies are typically larger, and may own stock in the smaller company (-ies) controlled.The immigrant must be an employee of the company for a minimum of one year during the preceding three years.
⁃ Executive Capacity - An executive is an individual charged with high-level supervision and decision-making. The USCIC defines “executive capacity” as follows:
⁃ The term "executive capacity" means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily-
⁃ (i) directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
⁃ (ii) establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
⁃ (iii) exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
⁃ (iv) receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.
⁃ Managerial Capacity - The second option under the L-1A visa is for managers. The qualifications as a manager are different than those for an executive. The USCIS defines “managerial capacity” as,
⁃ The term "managerial capacity" means an assignment within an organization in which the employee primarily-
⁃ (i) manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
⁃ (ii) supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
⁃ (iii) if another employee or other employees are directly supervised, has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those as well as other personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization) or, if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organizational hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
⁃ (iv) exercises discretion over the day- to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has authority. A first-line supervisor is not considered to be acting in a managerial capacity merely by virtue of the supervisor's supervisory duties unless the employees supervised are professional.
• Employer Petition - The employer must file form I-129 with the USCIS on behalf of the foreign workers. The applicant cannot self petition; though the employee may have responsibilities in the visa application process. Generally, the employer must include supporting documentation. The supporting documentation will relate to the employee, the foreign company, and the US company. Below are examples of informational documents used to support the application.
⁃ Employee biography - This should include (if applicable) a passport ID page, US Visa ID page; I-94 arrival/departure record; employment verification letter; Payroll summary, students, statements for the last year; resume.
⁃ Foreign Company Documents - Demonstrate employee’s status and length of employment with the company. It should demonstrate executive or managerial status or special skills. The company should include a specific statement explaining the employee’s specialized skills needed and how they are important to the company. Organizational documents (articles of incorporation/registration, board authorizations, lists of shareholders, federal income tax returns, property leases, copies of bills and directory listings, financial documents, employee lists, organizational charge, and evidence applicable to US subsidiary/parent/etc.
⁃ US Company Documents: - Letter from US company requiring foreign worker; Articles of incorporation; organizational minutes; EIN or IRS letter; stock ledger; stock certificates; bank statements for year; business license; organizational chart; business directory listings; pictures of location, etc.
There is also a provision for a “blanket L-1”. This allows a company to receive a blanket authorization for its executives, managers, or specialized employees. This allows the company to pre-qualify its employees. Generally, for a company to achieve this blanket authorization, it must be in a position to demonstrate the need for the regular transfer of employees between the entities. The company can get approval for an employee within weeks or days. It removes the need for a full petition for each employee. The employer must submit a form I-295 and send it to the employee with the Form I-797 (approval document). The L-1 visa is not subject to annual quotas.
How to Secure an Extension of the L-1 Visa?
The L-1 visa can be granted for up to 3 years. Often, the 3-year period is not sufficient for the executive or specialized employee to complete their work or objectives within the US. As such, the L-1 visa allows for extension. The length of extension is different for L-1A and L-1B visa holders. The L-1A (applicable to executives or managers) will allow for extension for up to seven years. The L-1B (applicable to works with special skills) will allow for extension up to 5 years.
Filing for an extension requires the employer to re-file a Form I-129 with the USCIS on behalf of the worker. While no additional documentation is required, it is a good idea to provide some supporting documentation regarding the work and purpose of the extension. This can be the same documentation supplied in the original Form I-129. The I-129 will be administratively processed in time. It is a good idea to file the extension at least 45 days prior to the expiration of the original visa. If the original L-l will expire before an extension is granted, the visa holder must return to her country of origin. Overstaying the visa could result in barring any future issuance of visas.