There is a difference between the L status and the L visa stamp. L status is required to stay legally in the U.S. while L visa stamp is required to enter the U.S.
Prior to February 14, 2012, the L visa stamp duration was limited to the petition validity period, which is up to a maximum of three years. If the alien traveled outside the U.S. after the approval of L1 visa status extension, he/she needed to go for the L visa stamping before being able to enter into the U.S. again, as the L visa stamp would have already expired by then.
Effective February 14, 2012, L visa stamp validity will be based on the reciprocal treatment the applicant’s country accords U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or aliens granted refugees status in the U.S.
Therefore, if the alien is a citizen of the country for which the reciprocity schedules allows visa validity for a longer period of time than the initial validity indicated in the petition, and if they extend their L status while in the U.S., they may not need to go for L visa stamping again at the U.S. Consulate in order to enter the U.S. again.
It is very important to understand that this rule does not increase the time the L visa holder is allowed to stay in the U.S. at a time, which is up to 3 years, regardless of the duration of the L visa stamp. That means, aliens may enter the U.S. in L status only while the individual or blanket petition is valid.
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This rule allows aliens (foreign national workers and their dependents) to get L visa valid up to 5 years, depending upon their country of citizenship.
E.g., India, UK, Germany, Japan – 5 Years
However, this rule does not benefit the citizens of all countries. If a particular country allows a shorter visa duration, citizens of those countries would be at disadvantage in terms of visa duration.
E.g. Brazil, China, Russia – 2 years; Mexico – 1 year
It is important to know that duration of visa stamp validity is based on the country of citizenship and not the location of the consulate where the visa is being applied. E.g., a citizen of India would get 5 years visa, irrespective of whether he/she applies from India, Brazil, or Mexico.
If the dependent family members are citizens of a different country than the primary visa holder (L1 visa holder), they may get a different visa stamp duration based on their own country of citizenship. E.g., L1 visa applicant who is a citizen of India would get a 5-year L1 visa, but if his wife is a citizen of China, she would only get a 2-year L2 visa.
In short, with this rule, L visa validity has been delinked with petition validity.