The maximum period of time an alien can remain in the United States under L-1A or L-1B status is seven years and five years, respectively. Following the expiration of their L-1 status, aliens aren’t eligible for readmission into the U.S. by way of a new L-1 visa unless they’ve lived outside of the country for at least one year.
What if work or vacation causes you to be outside the U.S. while under valid L-1 status?
Fortunately, the law provides that during your L-1 status, only time spent physically inside the United States counts towards your maximum L-1 period of stay. Thus, when an alien requests an extension of L-1 status, he or she can also “request that full days spent outside the U.S. during the period of petition validity be recaptured and added back to his or her total maximum period of stay.” A full day in this case is defined as 24 hours, and the reason for the alien’s travel is not relevant to an extension petition. Any trip of at least one 24-hour day outside of the country, for any purpose, whether it be business or pleasure, is eligible to be recaptured.
You should keep in mind that your days spent abroad are not automatically recaptured when you submit your L-1 extension petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The burden of proving your time abroad is on you, and you must submit independent documentary evidence that you were in fact physically outside of the United States for the time you are seeking to recapture.
If your petition to recapture time spent abroad is approved, your L-2 dependents are also eligible to recapture any time that you did.
A Recap of Recapturing
Let’s look at a real-world scenario to help clarify the recapture rules.
Cameron is an L-1B beneficiary at CamCan (his sponsoring employer), a company manufacturing high-tech camera equipment. Cameron returns to his home country, Cameroon, one week a year for each of the three years he has been in L-1 status. Luckily, Cameron can petition to recapture the three weeks in total he spent outside of the United States. If approved, he will have three weeks added to his two-year extension.
Unfortunately, however, partial days spent abroad cannot be recaptured. So if Cameron embarks for Cameroon on January 1st, spends seven days there, and returns to the U.S. on January 9, he can only petition to recapture the seven full days he was abroad, not the two days he was traveling.
Plus, since Cameron’s husband Camden and daughter Camilla are his L-2 dependents, Camden and Camilla are also eligible to extend their status by as much as Cameron does.
In order to recapture time, the L-1 petitioner and/or beneficiary is required to submit to USCIS evidence documenting the period of physical presence outside the United States. This is submitted along with an L-1A or L-1B extension petition. USCIS notes that “while petitioners often submit a summary and/or charts of travel and the number of days spent out of the United States,” petitioners are also required to submit evidence such as photocopies of passport stamps and I-94s that clearly demonstrate when they were out of the country. An alien will not be granted an extension of stay for periods of time that are not supported by documentary evidence. Further, USCIS will not send a request for additional evidence (RFE) for any claimed periods unsupported by evidence.
The information on this page is sourced largely from a USCIS memo establishing formal guidelines issued in 2005. You can read that memo in full here.
Don’t forget that the experienced immigration attorneys at Zhang & Associates are always ready to help you with all of your immigration needs, including your petitions to recapture time. Contact us today for a free evaluation.
For more information on the L-1 category, refer to the following links: