How to Change from an L1A Visa to a Green Card

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on November 15, 2022
At a Glance: 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, or intend to apply for one.

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.

What is an L1 Visa?

An L1 visa is intended to ease the process of transferring foreign managers, executives, and workers with specialized knowledge from their company overseas to the same company or a subsidiary in the US. An L1 visa also allows the holder’s spouse or children (at least those under 21 years of age) to apply for an L2 visa.

The L1 is a dual-purpose, temporary nonimmigrant visa. What does this mean? In general, nonimmigrant visas require that you prove that you don’t intend to move to the US before you get the visa. Proof generally entails maintaining a residence in your country of origin. But a dual-purpose visa doesn’t have these requirements. Many holders of L1 visas eventually apply for a green card, and in fact, the process of going from an L1 visa, especially an L1A visa, to a green card is (relatively) easy.

There are two types of L1 visas. You can get an L1A visa or an L1B visa. Below we’ll outline what you need to know about L1A vs L1B visas.

The Two Types of L1 Visas: L1A and L1B

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?

L1A Visa

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.

L1B Visa

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.

What Are the Requirements for Going from an L1A Visa to a Green Card?

Visas other than the L1A or L1B often require the applicant to prove that they intend to return to their home country. But if you have an L1 visa you can petition for a change of status and begin the process of applying for a green card. The path from an L1A visa to green card is smoother than most, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own complexities and pitfalls. The requirements for a change of status include the following:

  • You’ve been employed at a company outside of the US for at least one of the last three years.
  • Your position at your US employer is either that of a manager or executive, or you have specialized skills or knowledge.
  • Both your foreign and US employer have a qualifying relationship.
  • Both your US employer and your foreign employer will continue to be active through the application process.
  • Your US employer has been in business for at least a year or more.
  • If you have a criminal record, this could be grounds for inadmissibility.

If you have an L1A visa, you have several advantages during this process. The process will be less time-consuming in general, there is no conditional green card period, and you won’t have to go through the Permanent Labor Certification Program (PERM). On the other hand, if you hold an L1B visa, you will have to go through the PERM program. This can take years to complete, so if you intend to apply for a change of status, you should start the process as soon as possible.

How to Apply for an L1 to Green Card Status Change

If you have an L1A visa, your eligibility requirements for your green card fall into the EB1C category. To file in this category, your employer should file Form I-140. At the same time, you can file Form I-485, Adjustment of Status.

There is no special category to file in for the L1B visa. You’ll go through the PERM labor certification program and follow the same process as other applicants for employment-based green cards. However, if you served in a management position for a full year in the previous three years before being admitted to the US, you might be able to apply in the EB1C category if your employer offers you an executive or management position. Since the green card is for future employment, you will be able to apply as if you have an L1B visa, even though currently you are not employed as a manager or executive.

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.

How Long is the Processing Time for L1A to Green Card?

Unlike the process for an L1B visa, which can take several years to complete, the time it takes to update your L1A to a green card is fairly short. In most cases, the green card process takes less than one year.

The L1A visa is a great starting place if you or your family are interested in living in the United States. With the preceding information, you should be well-equipped to navigate the process from visa holder to permanent resident.

Form I-485 Processing Time

The processing time for a Form I-485 petition will vary depending on the category of adjustment being petitioned for. A general breakdown of the Form I-485 processing time can be found below.

Notice of Action

As long as your adjustment of status package is submitted completely and correctly, USCIS will follow up your petition with a confirmation of receipt letter known as an I-797C, Notice of Action. This will generally take 2 to 3 weeks.

Appointment Notice for Biometrics

Next, you will receive an appointment notice letting you know when your biometrics appointment date will be. Generally, your location will be your closest USCIS Application Support Center. Your biometrics appointment notice should arrive within 3 to 5 weeks of your application.

Biometrics Appointment

At the biometrics appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, photo, and signature to perform a criminal background check. Your biometrics appointment will usually occur 5 to 8 weeks after your application is filed.

Receive Your EAD Card

If you submitted a form I-131 (Application for Employment Authorization) and a Form I-765 (Application for Travel Document) when you filed for your adjustment of status, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as a work permit, which is also your advance parole travel document. You should receive this within 12 to 16 weeks of filing your application.

Notice of Interview

An interview is not always necessary as part of the I-485 processing. It may be waived. If it is necessary, you and your employer will receive a Notice of Interview (form I-797, Notice of Action). The interview will likely last 30 minutes and be scheduled at the USCIS facility nearest you. Your Notice of Interview, if needed, will arrive within 4 to 10 months of filing.

Adjustment of Status Interview

If an adjustment of status interview is necessary, It will take place 6 to 12 months after filing on the date noted on your Notice of Interview at the USCIS facility nearest you.

Receive Your Permanent Residence

In most cases, your permanent residence will be granted within 8 – 14 months of filing your form I-485. In some cases, permanent residence status may be granted at the completion of your adjustment of status interview, but this is not typical.

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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.

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