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Focus on Regulation

State Department “delinks” L visa validity from petition validity

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) changed its rule governing the duration of L visa validity in certain cases. Previously, all L visas were limited to the validity period of the petition, which, according to DHS regulations, cannot exceed three years for an initial petition or two years for an extension petition. The new rule ties L visa validity to reciprocity schedules provided to consular offices by the DOS. These schedules are based upon the reciprocal treatment the applicant’s country affords U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents, or aliens granted refugee status in the U.S.  The decoupling of L visa duration and petition validity periods leaves the former to be governed by 22 CFR 41.112.

The new rule benefits those individuals whose home countries’ reciprocity schedules allow L visa validity for a longer time period than the validity listed in the initial L petition approved by DHS, and who have extended their stay while in the United States.  For example, the reciprocity schedule for Spain reflects that L visas (L-1 and L-2) could be issued with a 5-year validity period.  As a result, a Spanish citizen can now obtain an L-1 visa with a 5-year validity period, even though the employer’s initial L petition would be approved for 3 years.  When that employer files an extension petition for that Spanish citizen and obtains approval of a 2-year extension of his/her stay in the United States, that Spanish citizen no longer needs to reapply for an L visa if and when he/she leaves the United States during the validity period of that extension petition because the existing L visa in his/her passport would continue to be valid.

For limitations of this new rule, please see the amended section 41.54 as published in the new rule, and 22 CFR 41.112.