US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) centers are struggling to process L-1 visa (both L-1A and L-1B visas) petition extensions and H-1B visa extension applications, resulting in severe delays. In this situation it may be advisable to pay the additional Government fee of US$1225 and use premium processing. An 'overwhelming backlog' is said to be the cause, however, USCIS has not publicly disclosed why delays have occurred and have not yet provided any explanation for the backlog.
It is understood that the situation is creating problems for many US employers with service centers experiencing the greatest delays with the processing of H-1B visa petition extensions. Currently, facilities in California and Vermont are taking up to seven months to complete the processing of visa extensions.
In addition, H-1B visa and to a lesser extent L-1 visa extension applications at the Vermont Service Center are experiencing long delays. Given the situation visa H-1B and L-1 visa extensions should be filed six months prior to the visa expiring, As long as the visa extension is applied for before the visa expires work authorization is granted for up to 240 days after the expiry date of the visa. However, due to lengthy delays in H-1B visa and L-1 visa processing this may not be long enough.
Consequently, visa holders are suffering in several ways:
- Driving: US states have strict policies concerning the renewal of driving licences, with many requiring a visa extension to be approved. Consequently, visa holders in several states will struggle to acquire renewed drivers' licences. In some instances, departments of motor vehicles may require monthly renewals while an extension is pending and until a visa extension is granted.
- Travel: In-country visa extension approval requires the beneficiary to stay in the US while awaiting a petition. Therefore, the delayed processing by USCIS could result in individuals being unable to perform work-related travel duties or visit relatives.
- Work Authorization for Spouses: Visa holders with dependant spouses – with work authorizations subject to the approval of a visa extension – could experience gaps in work authorization while an extension is pending. This can be problematic for families and employers in trying to determine when a spouse can return to work.
US Visa Premium processing
To avoid extensive delays of a visa extension, it's recommended that affected employers and employees pursue premium processing for swifter approval of a visa extension. Premium processing ensures a response to a petition or request for evidence within 15 calendar days of the initial filing date.
However, the US government does charge an additional fee - on top of the usual charges - of $1,225 for premium processing. The service is available for the majority of non-immigrant visa processing, except E-3s visas. Premium process payments can be made by an employer or visa holder.
Equally, if premium processing is considered to be too expensive, employers and employees can try and make sure that visas are filed as soon as they're permitted. This should avoid the risk that the work authorisation period will end (240 days after the expiry date) before the visa is processed. Cases should be prepared months in advance to ensure that they're absolutely ready to be filed as soon the window opens. For instance, filings for H-1B, for which a Labor Condition Application can be filed no more than six months before expiration, should be started eight months prior to expiration leaving two months for a labor condition application. Subsequently, this will mean that all the necessary documentation needed is immediately available for filing on the first day that you are allowed to make a visa extension application.
US Visa Consular processing
For certain visa categories, including L-1A, L-1B, E-1, E-2 and TNs, consulate renewal is permitted. This is a much faster option when available. For anyone travelling overseas, getting a petition processed at the consulate is a convenient and quicker way to get a renewal.
Workpermit.com can help with L-1, E-1, E-2 visas and other types of US visas
For more information, or to find out if you are eligible for an US work visa contact workpermit.com on 0344 991 9222.