The Length of Your Stay Under an L-1 Visa in the U.S. May Surprise You

You’ve probably read that an L-1 visa will give you the ability to live and work in the U.S. for up to three years. However, depending on the company you work for and the position you hold, the length of your stay could be considerably longer—or shorter than you ever anticipated.

An L-1 visa in the U.S. may be terminated after:

  • Three Years – If a foreign company is sending an employee to work in a U.S. subsidiary that is an existing company, the approved employee will be allowed to remain in the United States for up to three years.
  • One Year – If the foreign company is setting up a U.S. subsidiary, USCIS will classify the endeavor as a "start-up" company. This means L-1 status will initially be approved for one year, at the end of which the owners and managers will have to demonstrate to the United States government that a viable business plan is in place and that the company will thrive. If successful, the employee may be granted an extension of three years.
  • Seven Years – The L-1A visa for managers and executives can be extended for up to seven years from the initial granting of the visa.
  • Five Years – The L-1B visa for employees with specialized knowledge may be granted extensions up to a total of five years from the initial issue date of the visa.
  • Any time – Unlike other work visas, the parent company is not required to retain the employee for the entire length of his or her visa period. Both the employee and employer are free to terminate their business relationship at any time.

While the California L-1 visa can be transitioned into a green card, it is important to note that it is up to the L-1 visa holder to apply for a green card while working in the U.S. If the employee reaches the end of his visa period without submitting an application for permanent residence, the employee will be forced to spend at least one year physically outside of the U.S. before he is eligible to apply for a new L-1 visa.