|March 9, 2012|
Previously published on March 6, 2012
The U.S. Department of State issued a revised regulation affecting the validity period of L-1 visas for certain countries. The new rule allows consular offices to issue L-1 visas for intracompany transferees with validity period longer than the visa petition approval issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), avoiding the need for visa renewals and thereby reducing travel time. Whether this change benefits individual L-1 foreign workers depends on the reciprocity schedule of the individual’s home country.
In the past, the regulation on its face limited L-1 visa validity to the petition expiration date issued by USCIS. For example, for companies in existence for longer than one year, USCIS would limit the duration of individual L-1 petitions to three years initially and to two years for extensions. Therefore, consulates would limit L-1 to the same date. Now, L-1 visas can be issued up to the period as determined by Department of State. The maximum reciprocity limit for any country is five years (e.g., Japan and Germany) but is less than three years for many countries (e.g., Brazil, China, and Russia two years; Mexico one year). Accordingly, the new rule does not benefit all foreign nationals. For a list of the reciprocity schedule limits visit: www.travel.state.gov.
Visa Applicants Should:
L-1 workers with individual petitions should specifically ask for L-1 visas valid for the reciprocity limit, pointing to the new regulation at 22 CFR 41.112. As of the time of this writing, clear guidance on the subject has not been issued by the Department of State, particularly the effect on L Blankets. However, instructions to consulates will likely be issued soon and published. What is clear is that when an employer obtains the first extension of an individual L-1 petition, the worker with five year visa validity will not need to obtain a new visa on the next international trip, saving significant travel time.
Employers and workers should take notice of the following: (1) the reciprocity limit is a function of the country of citizenship of the worker and family member, not where the worker is applying for the visa and, (2) family members who are citizens from a different country than the L-1 worker may receive a visa valid for a shorter period of time if the family member's country's reciprocity limit is shorter than the worker. Workers and family members are reminded to communicate their visa and admission period to their attorney to ensure that they remain in valid visa status.