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How to Change from an L1A Visa to a Green Card
Are you interested in living in the United States permanently? Do you hold an L1 visa, or are you intending to apply for one?
If so, you are in luck. The L1 to green card path is one of the best and easiest paths to permanent residency—it’s especially painless if you hold an L1A visa.
But just because it’s one of the easier paths doesn’t mean it isn’t without any complexity or difficulty. Below we’ll outline the basic information you need to know about this process.
L-1A Visa to EB-1 Green Card Process
For those holding L-1A status, the most suitable route to a Green Card is via the EB-1 immigrant visa, especially the EB-1C category. Tailored for multinational executives and managers, this category aligns well with the L-1A status, providing a smoother transition. A standout benefit of the EB-1 first preference category is bypassing the often cumbersome PERM Labor Certification process. This exemption is primarily because L-1A visa holders are already affiliated with an international organization.
Eligibility for EB-1C
For L-1A visa holders seeking the EB-1C category, the conditions are:
- A year’s managerial or executive experience with the foreign company within the past three years.
- The foreign employer should have ties with the prospective U.S. employer, and the move to the U.S. should be to pursue a similar managerial or executive role.
- The U.S. business entity should have a minimum of one year’s operational history.
Given the similarities between the L-1A and EB-1C requisites, the latter naturally appeals to L-1A visa holders.
L-1A to Green Card Application Steps
- The U.S. employer must initiate the application by filing the Form I-140 (Immigration Petition for Alien Worker), accompanied by relevant documents that corroborate the employee’s Green Card eligibility.
- Upon the form’s receipt, the USCIS earmarks that day as the “priority date”.
- Regularly consult the monthly visa bulletin by the U.S. Department of State to ascertain when your priority date is current. Generally, EB-1 dates remain current, facilitating L-1A visa holders to file the Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residency) soon after their visa petition gets the nod. Additional interim steps, like biometric screenings and potential interviews, are organized by the USCIS and communicated accordingly.
It’s noteworthy that other EB-1 categories like EB-1A (reserved for those with exceptional proficiency in their field) and EB-1B (for acclaimed professors and researchers) might not be feasible routes for L-1 visa holders.
Benefits of the L-1A Route
One significant perk of moving from an L-1A visa to the EB-1 Green Card, especially the EB-1C category, is that the often cumbersome PERM Labor Certification is sidestepped. Instituted by the U.S. Department of Labor, this certification aims to safeguard U.S. workers by ensuring the job in question genuinely lacks suitable U.S. candidates. Bypassing this time-consuming and costly step is a boon for L-1A visa holders.
L1 To Green Card Processing Time
In this section, we’ll take a look at the general L1 to green card timeline and process as well as the Form I-485 processing time and process.
L-1B to Green Card Process
If you’re an L-1B visa holder aiming for a Green Card, your most realistic options are the EB-2 or EB-3 visas. The EB-1 may be challenging to secure given the stringent qualifications required. Generally, your path to permanent residency commences with your U.S. employer sponsoring you, with the exception of those seeking an EB-2 visa through the National Interest Waiver.
For the EB-2 visa:
- Advanced Degree Category: Typically, applicants need a Master’s or Doctorate. Alternatively, a combination of a Bachelor’s degree and five years of professional experience can suffice.
- Exceptional Ability Category: Applicants should exhibit notable proficiency in their respective fields, significantly surpassing the norm.
Given the specialized skills inherent to L-1B visa holders, the EB-3 visa is often the go-to. It has three subdivisions:
- Professionals: Those whose profession mandates a U.S. baccalaureate degree (or its foreign equivalent) and membership in the respective professional association.
- Skilled Workers: Individuals whose roles demand a minimum of two years of training or experience, not being temporary or seasonal.
- Unskilled Workers: Those engaged in roles requiring under two years of training or experience, not being temporary or seasonal.
L-1B to Green Card Application Steps
Shifting from L-1B to a Green Card bears resemblance to the L-1A’s path, with a distinctive initial step: the U.S. employer must secure a PERM Labor Certification for you before filing the I-140 petition. Once done, the steps echo the L-1A’s: determine your priority date and monitor the Department of State’s visa bulletin for its status.
When your priority date is active, proceed by filing the I-485 for adjustment of status to a permanent resident. Expect further procedural steps as mandated by the USCIS; you’ll receive notifications accordingly.
Timeline for L-1B to Green Card
Securing the PERM Labor Certification can extend the timeline by about eight months, and in instances like supervised recruitment or audits, this can even stretch to two years. On average, both the I-140 and I-485 processes take around six months each, depending on the respective Service Center.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing: Which is Right for You?
The choice between Adjustment of Status (AOS) and Consular Processing (CP) largely hinges on your location at the time of your petition submission.
Adjustment of Status
If you’re currently in the U.S., the AOS path allows you to submit the I-485 form directly to USCIS to change your status. It’s a straightforward procedure, but patience is required due to the average six-month processing duration. It’s worth noting that premium processing isn’t available for this specific petition.
For those outside the U.S., or even those within the country but choosing this route, CP necessitates visiting a designated U.S. embassy or consulate in your native country. Here, you’ll have an interview with a consular official. While this method might seem more burdensome because of the travel requirement, it often boasts a quicker processing timeframe.
When deciding between these options, enlisting the expertise of an immigration attorney can be invaluable. They can provide tailored advice, ensuring you choose the pathway best suited to your circumstances.
What is an L1 Visa?
The L1 Visa allows international companies to send specific employees, such as managers, executives, or those with specialized knowledge, to a related US company. This US entity should be a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign business. There are two categories within the L1 visa:
- L1A for managers and executives.
- L1B for those with specialized knowledge.
An individual cannot apply for this visa independently. The US company must act as the petitioner, filing on behalf of the incoming employee, who is deemed the beneficiary. Additionally, this visa grants the holder the right to live and work in the US for extended periods, also extending immigration benefits to their immediate family.
In essence, the L1 visa facilitates the transfer of specific employees from foreign businesses to their US counterparts.
Types of L1 Visas: L1A Visa and L1B Visa
Put briefly, an L1A visa is intended for executives or managers, while an L1B visa is intended for workers with some kind of specialized knowledge. But what exactly is covered by those two categories?
The definition of executive or manager for an L1A is quite strict. An executive or manager must have a certain level of authority and a mix of job duties involving the organization and the direction of other employees.
However, just because someone is involved in the ownership of a company, or has employees below them, does not mean they qualify for an L1A visa. The majority of their duties must involve operational or policy management—someone who primarily directs low-level employees or is involved in the actual products or services the company offers wouldn’t qualify.
For instance, a doctor who owns her own small business might have several employees she directs, such as a receptionist, a nurse, and so on. But since her primary duty is her job as a physician, she wouldn’t qualify for an L1A. Instead, she should apply for the next type of visa, the L1B, intended for specialists like her.
Types of L-1A Visa
The L-1A visa caters to a specific cohort: managers and executives within a multinational company. This contrasts with the L-1B visa which is tailored for employees possessing specialized knowledge, denoting those with profound expertise and distinct responsibilities in their field.
L-1A Managers: These are individuals wielding authority and control in the company. The defining attributes of an L-1A manager include:
- Exercising the power to hire and fire employees.
- Overseeing the daily operational aspects of the business.
- Supervising and guiding other managerial cadre employees in various company divisions.
- Being at the helm of management in departments, subsidiaries, or distinct business segments.
L-1A Executives: The criteria for an L-1A executive emphasize top-tier decision-making and company-wide policy formulation. To fit this category, you should:
- Spearhead and implement broad-spectrum executive decisions.
- Craft and institute company-wide policies.
- Command the managerial layer of the organization.
- Operate with minimal oversight, majorly from the very apex of the organization, such as stockholders or board members.
L-1A Visa Duration
L-1A visa beneficiaries can initially relish a one-year stay in the U.S. Subsequent to this, L-1A executives and managers have the latitude to seek periodic extensions. These renewals typically last for two years each, with the process being replicable every one to two years. However, an overarching cap exists: the cumulative stay for an L-1A visa holder cannot surpass seven years.
The L1B visa is intended for employees with specialist knowledge. Just like the L1A, there is a fairly strict definition of “specialist knowledge” and not everyone will qualify. The employee’s specialized knowledge must relate directly to whatever it is their company is in the business of making or selling.
The knowledge also has to relate to a product or service which is materially different from other products or services on the market. For instance, a visa applicant might be a head chef in a restaurant and have knowledge of the particular recipes or dishes the restaurant services. But he still wouldn’t qualify for an L1B visa, since a restaurant meal isn’t materially different from other restaurant meals.
Finally, the applicant must also be a “key” employee. Who the key employees depend on the size of a company. At a small or medium-sized business, every employee might well be considered key. A large business, on the other hand, should have a distinction between key and non-key personnel. Key personnel might have greater knowledge, more experience, or more responsibility—for instance, they might be in charge of particularly sensitive or mission-critical projects.
Understanding Dual Intent for L-1 Visa Holders
While the L-1 visa is inherently a non-immigrant visa, one of its standout features is the principle of “dual intent.” This characteristic means that even as L-1 visa holders enter the U.S. on a temporary basis, they can simultaneously aspire and apply for permanent residency (green card).
Importance of Dual Intent
Many non-immigrant visas come with the stringent condition of a demonstrated non-intent to permanently settle in the U.S. Essentially, the holder must affirm their commitment to return to their home country post the visa’s expiration. But the beauty of the dual intent, as seen in the L-1 visa, is the flexibility it offers. Not only can you work in the U.S., but you can also simultaneously initiate the green card process.
- L2 EAD: Everything You Need to Know
- L2 Visa: The Complete Guide
- The Complete Guide to L1 Visa Interview Questions
- L1 Visa: Requirements, Processing, and L1 Visa to Green Card
- The Complete Guide to L1 Visa Renewal
Final Thoughts on the L1 Visa to Green Card Process
While the process of moving from an L1 to a green card can be complex and long, it’s a worthwhile move for L1A and L1B visa holders just for the new benefits you’ll receive as a permanent resident in the U.S. There is a higher L1A to green card success rate than many other paths.
L-1 Visa to Green Card FAQs
Below, you will find some commonly asked questions about transitioning from an L-1 visa to a green card and their answers.
What is the most suitable green card category for L-1A visa holders?
L-1A visa holders are often best positioned to apply for the EB-1C immigrant visa category, which is specifically designed for multinational executives and managers.
Do L-1A visa holders need to undergo the PERM Labor Certification process when applying for a green card?
No, one significant benefit for L-1A visa holders transitioning to the EB-1C green card category is that they can bypass the PERM Labor Certification process.
How long does it usually take for an L-1A visa holder to transition to a green card?
Typically, the transition process from L-1A to an EB-1C green card can take anywhere from eight months to a year, although specific timelines might vary depending on individual cases and current processing times.
Can an L-1A visa holder apply for a green card without employer sponsorship?
In the context of the EB-1C category, the U.S. employer must sponsor the L-1A visa holder by filing the I-140 petition. However, there are other green card categories where self-petitioning might be an option, like the EB-1A (for individuals with extraordinary ability), but this would typically not be directly related to their L-1A status.
Is there a specific waiting period before an L-1A visa holder can apply for a green card?
No, there isn’t a mandated waiting period. L-1A visa holders can initiate the green card process as soon as they and their employer decide to move forward with the application.
Are there any restrictions on traveling outside the U.S. during the green card application process?
If an L-1A visa holder applies for a green card through adjustment of status and travels outside the U.S. without obtaining an Advance Parole document, their application can be considered abandoned. It’s crucial to consult with an immigration attorney before making international travel plans during this period.
If the L-1A visa expires while the green card application is in process, does the applicant need to leave the U.S.?
If the green card application (I-485) has been filed and is pending, the applicant typically does not have to leave the U.S. However, maintaining a valid L-1A status during the green card application process can be beneficial. It’s always best to consult with an immigration lawyer for specific advice tailored to one’s situation.
Does transitioning from an L-1A visa to a green card affect the L-1A holder’s family members?
L-1A visa holders’ dependent family members (spouse and children under 21) can also apply for a green card as derivatives of the principal applicant. Once the primary applicant’s green card is approved, dependent family members can also become permanent residents.