Confusing Situation for L Visa Holders under Indefinite Blankets

In 2012, when the Department of State published regulations authorizing five-year visas for L visa holders regardless of the L petition validity period, it created a very confusing situation for employers, foreign nationals and many government officials at both ports of entry (CBP – Custom and Border Protection) and within the United States (USCIS – United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

When a foreign national is issued a five-year visa, upon entry into the United States, they are usually admitted for a three-year period regardless of the shorter endorsed approval on the I-129S and/or a shorter Petition Expiration Date (PED) often notated on the visa itself. This is comparable to the previously established two-year admission period for E visas which are also not dependent on a visa petition or visa expiration date. Thus, an L visa holder may be admitted and authorized to work until a date beyond the visa in his passport. The problem arises when after admission the foreign national must travel outside the United States and, to return, they must have an extended I-129S.

We have had direct contact with the American Consuls in Japan (and I assume other consuls will advise similarly) who indicated that they would adjudicate new I-129S petitions and issue new five-year visas to these applicants as described above. It would then be the responsibility of the CBP officer at the U.S. border to limit the admission period to a total of five years for L-1Bs or seven years to L-1As.

Another alternative the government has promised to address would be the possibility of the CBP officers to adjudicate the new I-129S petitions at the point of entry. This would require extra training for CBP officers and extensive delays at the time of readmission (probably a secondary inspection where the applicant for admission would face long delays).

Contributed by Charles M. Goldsmith

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