On October 8, 2015, the Department of State (DOS) clarified that the endorsement validity dates of a Form I-129S control the period of a worker’s blanket L-1 classification. In response to this DOS clarification, employers and holders of Blanket L visas are advised to verify the I-129S validity dates as soon as the endorsed form is issued by a Consulate or Embassy and prior to traveling to the United States. Unfortunately, it is likely that employers will continue to see different expiration dates for endorsed I-129S Forms, L-1 visa stamps, and I-94 records. Given these variables, it is important to keep in mind the following:
- Depending on the reciprocity agreement between the United States and the worker’s home country, an L visa may be issued for up to five years.
- Pursuant to current regulations and the Foreign Affairs Manual, I-129S forms can only be endorsed for three-year periods.
- I-94 records should be issued for a three-year period upon an individual’s initial admission and up to the expiration date of the I-129S on subsequent admissions; however, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) frequently issues I-94 records with five-year validity periods.
The inconsistencies in the administration of current policy often result in confusion for employers and holders of Blanket L visas. For example, if an individual is issued a visa stamp with a limited period of validity, but has an I-129S endorsement that is valid beyond the period of the visa stamp, the individual may apply for a new visa stamp at a Consulate or Embassy without being required to submit a new, fully documented Blanket L visa application. An individual who is issued a five year visa stamp, however, and who has a three year I-129S endorsement, will be required to make a new Blanket L-1 visa application in order to obtain a new endorsed I-129S.
Employers will continue to be confronted with different expiration dates for the I-129S, the I-94, and the L-1 visa stamp. To ensure I-9 compliance, the I-94 should always be viewed as the controlling status document for purposes of employment eligibility.