The United States Department of State (DOS) periodically reviews the nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements between the United States and other counties in order to make any appropriate changes based on the treatment U.S. nationals by the foreign country. In their most recent review, the DOS updated the reciprocity schedule and increased the length of time for certain visas categories for Mexican nationals, particularly the E and L-1. Applicants requesting E and L-1 visas will now have the option to petition for a longer visa validity period – up to 48 months – as detailed below:
This update is highly beneficial to our neighbors to the south, as Mexican nationals can now request a longer visa validity period.
What are the benefits of the longer visa validity period?
Mexican nationals will have the opportunity to stay longer in the U.S. and thus dedicate themselves more fully to their work and investment without immigration interruptions or visa delays. For example, most of our Mexican investor clients and employees need to travel in and out of the country frequently, and under the old system, they were forced to renew their visa every six or eight months in order to trump any unexpected delay in the visa processing time. However, under the new regime, they can travel and have the benefit of having a valid visa for four years, without worrying about the one-year limitation.
Investors and companies will also have more time to fulfill their business plan and their targeted financial goals without frequent and long immigration interruptions. As an aside, it can take several months to be granted a renewal for an E and L-1 visa.
Will this change benefit only new applicants?
New applicants as well as those requesting renewals will be able to request the maximum amount of time of four years. However, each applicant must establish that his or her request is substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Consequently, the applicant must present a solid and well-documented petition and be prepared for the consular interview.
Will this increment be granted to all applicants who request it?
While the applicant can request a maximum of four years in the case of the E (investors and treaty traders) and L-1 (intracompany executives, managers, or specialized knowledge transferees) visas, it is not guaranteed that such a request will be approved. In fact, the consular officer has ultimate discretion to issue a visa for a specific amount of time, which can be shorter than requested. It is thus vital that the applicant understand the contents of the visa petition and be able to eloquently articulate to the consular officer how his or her investment or job duties warrant the maximum visa validity period.
What evidence would support the request for a longer visa validity period?
When properly drafted, the petition package should include all relevant documentation and strong arguments proving that you satisfy the specific requirements of the requested visa. For example, E-2 applicants must justify that the amount of the investment correlates well with the type of business, which is the substantiality requirement, clearly document the source and transfer of the invested funds, and create a business plan that properly details job creation and forecasts financial growth, among others. For L-1A applicants, the petition must fully describe the transferee’s job duties and present evidence of all the professional subordinate employees under them. In addition, it would be wise to show in the petition that the applicant satisfies the requirements of Buy American, Hire American, or BAHA.
The increase in the visa validity period for Mexican nationals will bring unprecedented opportunities for investors, workers and companies seeking to expand and grow in the U.S. In fact, we have already seen a sudden increase in Mexican nationals interested in requesting E and L visas. Given the closure of consulates because of COVID-19 and the increase in the visa validity period, the U.S. consular officers in Mexico will soon be inundated with visa petitions. Therefore, it is imperative that you present a well drafted visa petition and be fully prepared during your interview so that the merits of your case shine and your petition is differentiated among the many others.