Update to Critical Restrictions on French Nationals (E and L Visas) as of November 12, 2019

Worker is applying for Visa to Paris France.
Photo credit: iStock.com/junce

By Frida P. Glucoft and Janice Luo

Today, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) changed the reciprocity schedule for France to reflect decreased E-1, E-2, and L-1 visa validity periods. Specifically, effective November 12, 2019, E-1 and E-2 visas are now limited to a validity of only 25 months per visa issuance. Similarly, L-1 visas are now limited to a validity of only 17 months per visa issuance. Until this change, E and L visas have had validity for 60 months.

In general, different types of U.S. nonimmigrant visas have different allowable validity periods depending on the nationality of the applicant, because the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires the DOS to set country-specific visa policies based on reciprocity. The validity periods, number of entries, and visa fees for different types of visas are based on each country’s treatment of similar classes of U.S. visitors to its territory, as well as national security, immigration, and other considerations. Since August 2019, there have been announcements by the U.S. Embassy in France regarding decreased E visa validity periods for French nationals. According to the U.S. Embassy in France’s website at that time, the reduction in validity time on E visas was implemented to correspond with the “treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by the Government of France”. However, until today, the DOS has not changed the reciprocity schedule to reflect the changes.

Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation. E-1 visas are for applicants who are coming to the U.S. to “engage in substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, in qualifying activities, principally between the United States and the treaty country,” whereas E-2 visas are for applicants who are coming to the U.S. to “develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which you have invested a substantial amount of capital.” While there is no “cap” or maximum duration of stay for E-1 and E-2 visa holders under U.S. immigration regulations, U.S. Embassies will now only issue E visas to French nationals for a maximum duration of 25 months at a time.

Multinational Executive or Manager (L-1A) and Specialized Knowledge (L-1B) work visas enable intracompany transfer of employees from foreign to U.S. companies. The foreign and U.S. companies must have a qualifying corporate relationship as parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate. Also, the qualifying L applicant must have worked for the related foreign company in an executive/managerial or specialized knowledge capacity for at least 1 year within the 3 years before transfer to the U.S. company. While L-1 visa validity has been reduced to 17 months now for French nationals. The “cap” or maximum duration of stay for L-1A visa holders remains 7 years; and the maximum duration for L-1B holders remains 5 years under U.S. immigration regulations.

The DOS’s Reciprocity Schedule for France, which can be found here, was updated today with the new and shortened E and L visa validity dates. While there have been hints by a French elected official that U.S. authorities plan to simplify visa renewal procedures in the coming months, the DOS has not provided instructions for applicants or further information on how the reduced E and L visa validity periods will be implemented by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs Border Protection, and U.S. Embassies in France. We are monitoring the changes closely and will provide more information as it becomes available.

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