I have an L1A Visa and it is valid for 7 years (3+2+2). 3 years have passed and it is time for me and my wife, that has an L2 Visa, to renew it. Many things went wrong with the renewal. The immigration lawyer firm that handled my case did a lot of mistakes but in the end, all went well.
Let me tell you what i know and what you need to do to avoid these mistakes.
One of the things that you need to remember is in order to have a driver’s license renewal you need to have the renew Visa and I94. The rules change in every state so be dure to call DMV to know more about it.
The lawyer company needs to give you the I-129S with the case number 3 months before the expiration date so you can arrange a Visa interview in time. There are waiting times for the interview that you need to check to plan ahead. Use this link for that https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html.
To renew thins kind of visa you need to leave the US and go to a US embassy. If things are done properly your wife can stay and ask for an extension to USCIS while in the Us by mail. I’ll get to that later. I am from the EU and to avoid travelling so far i thought i could go to a US Embassy in Canada and just to it there. You can the problem is that the waiting times, if you are not Canadian or living in Canada are much higher than the ones displayed in the above link. They can go to 4-6 months waiting time.
First thing go to this website and fill the DS-160 online. https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
After you have a DS-160 go to the embassy website and book the interview. This link is an example if you want to go to the one in UK. https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gb/niv/users/sign_in
This is the paperwork you need to take with you:
- Form I-129, completed by US employer
- Prior L1 status
- Previous I-94
- L1 visa
- 3 x Pay stubs
- Confirmation Form W-2 that shows are employed with the L1 employer
- An extension support letter signed by the employer explain to USCIS the conditions of your employment and reason for your stay in the US
- 1 Photo 2×2 inches
- Passport valid for at least 6 months on the time you get in back into the US
So i went to EU to my home country and my wife stayed in the US. You can take your wife with you and she can renew it also at the some time. You both will get the I94 at the same time and can renew the driver’s license on the next day. If you decide to ask for an extension by mail for your wife, she probably only get an answer if it was approved after 2-3 months. So that is 2-3 months without the ability to drive.
Everything went ok in the embassy, they approved my renewal. After i had the ok from the embassy i had to wait 5 days to get my passport back. I enter the US with no problems and i gave my I94 to the lawyer company to start the process of renewing my wife’s Visa. Before you would get the I94 from the USCIS officer when you enter US. Now you go online and you print it. Just go to this website https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/.
I gave my I94 to the lawyer company 2 weeks before the Visa expiration and they failed to file in time the request to extend my wife’s Visa so the only option she had since she was out of status, was to get out of the country and do the same thing i did.
The request to USCIS to extend the visa must be filled at least 45 days before the Visa expiration. Have that in mind.
My concern now is that my wife is out of status and what can happen to her. The law firm told me she has a 6-month window to ask for renewal in a Us embassy without any consequences. I found that it was a half-truth. Legally if she renews the Visa max after 6 months of expiration she would not be penalized. If you do it after 6 months you will probably be banned from Us for a year.
I found out that if you are out of state, even if less than 6 months, even if the probability is very low when flying domestically a USCIS agent can ask for your status and extradite you. Another thing i read is the USCIS agent on customs when you re-enter US after the Visa renewal can deny you entry if you overstayed in the US.
Plan wisely, be aware of the time frames.
My interview and my wife’s last 5 min to have the renewal approved and in order for us both to travel to EU the costs were about $8000 (flight cost, hotel, car rental, food, etc)
I wish US had a better policy to renew the Visas where you could just go to a government agency in the US instead of leaving the country. The process is very costly and time-consuming.
Let me know if you need more details about the process and good luck. On the next post, i will speak about obtaining the Green Card process.