Many Japanese employees stationed to work in the U.S. acquire L-1 visas. We have been receiving many inquiries lately, where people have been confusing the visa stamp expiration date with the actual employment period. The visa stamp expiration date is separate from the approved employment period.
For example, let’s assume that you were recently approved by USCIS for a 3-year employment period under L-1 status. In order to obtain an L-1 visa stamp, you must undergo an interview at a foreign U.S. embassy or consulate. Despite the approval period being 3 years, the U.S. embassy will issue a 5-year visa stamp. In this case, you can check the “PED” on the bottom right corner of the visa stamp and this date should match with the USCIS employment expiration date. In other words, this date will be the period of stay and employment. Moreover, despite having a valid visa stamp, you must submit an application for extending L-1 status to USCIS before the PED. It is important to note that having a 5-year visa stamp will not allow you to enter the country as a L-1 visa holder if it is past the PED. Furthermore, simply having a valid L-1 visa stamp does not guarantee entry to the U.S., but the visa stamp should also be submitted with the valid I-797 approval notice from USCIS.
The PED on the L-1 visa stamp is easily overlooked, but is extremely important for maintaining your status and traveling internationally. We encourage everyone to check the PED once you are issued an L-1 visa stamp, and also to check your I-94 information online after you have entered the U.S. to ensure that your “admit until” date matches the PED. There have been cases where people have unknowingly accrued unlawful presence because they were unaware of the difference between the visa stamp expiration date and the PED. Please be advised that this also applies to L-2 visa holders (dependents of L-1 visa holders).