L-1 Visa to Green Card
If you still have questions or prefer to get help directly from an agent, please submit a request.
We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
- Marketing, Advertising, Sales & PR
- Accounting, Taxation, and Reporting
- Professionalism & Career Development
Law, Transactions, & Risk Management
Government, Legal System, Administrative Law, & Constitutional Law Legal Disputes - Civil & Criminal Law Agency Law HR, Employment, Labor, & Discrimination Business Entities, Corporate Governance & Ownership Business Transactions, Antitrust, & Securities Law Real Estate, Personal, & Intellectual Property Commercial Law: Contract, Payments, Security Interests, & Bankruptcy Consumer Protection Insurance & Risk Management Immigration Law Environmental Protection Law Inheritance, Estates, and Trusts
- Business Management & Operations
- Economics, Finance, & Analytics
L1 Visa to Green Card
The L-1 visa allows companies wishing to transfer executives, managers, or employees with specialized skills between a foreign company and a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate in the United States.
The employees that come over on the L-1 visa are non-immigrant status. This means that they do not intend to remain in the United States permanently. Fortunately for the L-1 holder, the L-1 is a dual-intent visa. This means that the visa holder can apply for another visa or permanent residency status (a green card) while in the United States on L-1 visa status.
In this article, we explain the requirements for the L-1 visa, the options for converting to permanent residency status, and the procedure for doing so.
Requirements for an L-1 Visa
There are several requirements for securing an L-1 visa. They depend upon the category of visa you are pursuing. The L-1 has two categories. The L-1A is for executives or managers of the foreign company seeking to transfer to the US subsidiary or parent company. The L-1B is for employees with specialized knowledge or skills seeking to to come to the US subsidiary or parent company.
A foreign employee cannot self petition for an L-1 visa. The employer located in the United Staes must file a From I-129 on behalf of the foreign worker. The application must include supporting documentation concerning the employee, the foreign company, and the US company. Once approved, the foreign worker will receive a visa stamp allowing her to travel to the United States. There is no wait or delay in processing for the L-1 visa. It is always current. Also, there is no cap on the number of L-1 visas granted in a year.
Choosing a Green Card Program
As previously stated, the L-1 is a non-immigrant visa. This means that it will not lead to a green card for the worker. The L-1, however, is a dual-intent visa. This means that you can apply for a green card while holding the L-1 visa.
The first step in converting from an L-1 visa to lawful permanent resident is to choose a green card program to petition.
Because the L-1 is for executives, managers, or specialized employees, there are a couple of green card programs that would fit well for the applicant.
The EB-1 visa category allows foreign nationals with 'extraordinary ability' in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. The requirements for demonstrating exceptional ability may be very difficult and go beyond the requirements for L-1 business executives or managers. There is, however, a category of the EB-1 that is created just for executives and managers who wish to transfer between multi-national companies. This is the EB-1C visa program. This specific program is discuss in detail further below.
If the applicant qualifies, however, the EB-1 category is for priority workers. It takes precedent and has a more direct route for employees to achieve green card status. It is, however, far more difficult to qualify for this class of visa.
Another viable option is the EB-2 visa. The EB-2 visa is split into three categories:
• EB-2(a): Foreign workers who have a degree beyond a U.S. bachelor’s degree (Master’s or Doctorate) or its foreign equivalent, or a bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of work experience in the field.
• EB2(b): Foreign workers who have a specialized degree and hold a significant competence in either art, business, or science.
• EB2(c): Foreign workers seeking to have the Foreign Labor Certification Process waived because it is in the national interest of the United States to do so.
Generally, a specialized employee or an executive or manager in a multi-national company will see the EB-2 requirements.
Employer Sponsorship & Labor Certification
The next step in the process will be to ask the US employer to sponsor the employee for a green card. There is a limited exception to the requirement that an employer sponsor the employee if the employee coming to the United States is in the best interest of the United States. This is known as a “National Interest Waiver”. The EB-1C and the EB-2 allow for a national interest waiver for the employer sponsor process. The national interest waiver has numerous requirements and is difficult to satisfy.
In the process of sponsoring the employee, the employer may need to obtain a PERM Labor Certification from the US Department of Labor. The labor certification process does not apply to EB-1 immigrants. It would, however, apply to EB-2 applicants.
The labor certification process requires the employer to undertake the recruitment process and demonstrate that there are no qualified US workers who could fill the position with the company. This ensures that employing the foreign worker will not negatively impact US workers. The labor certification is designed to protect US employees from foreign employees coming to the US and taking their jobs. While this is generally a good thing for US employees, it can be difficult for employers seeking to obtain the best talent for the available position. Also, the labor certification is very time consuming and can be expensive. This can burden the employer and the applicant.
Remember, the EB-1C visa program allows the employer of the immigrant to avoid conducting a labor certification through the department of labor. As such, seeking to fit under this classification can be very advantageous.
Employer and Immigrant Applications
After the PERM process is done, your employer will have to file an I-140 petition for you (except in the case of National Interest Waiver). The date that the USCIS receives your petition will become your “priority date”.
The priority date is the applicant’s place in line when processing visas. When there is a backlog, the I-140 will not be processed until the applicant’s priority date is “current”.
For visas or green card programs with a large number of applicants and a cap on the number of eligible immigrants, it can take several years for the priority date to become current. You will need to wait until that priority date becomes current. Fortunately, most EB-1 visa applications are always current.
The final action dates released in the Department of State’s monthly visa bulletin. The amount of time that you will need to wait depends on the kind of green card that you apply for and your country of origin.
The US Employer files a form I-140 (Petition for Immigrant Worker). As stated, the national interest waiver is the only opportunity for the employee to file her own petition. The application must include documentation to demonstrate that the identified worker is eligible for a US green card. This will vary based upon the visa program under which the employer and immigrant are petitioning. For example, the EB-1C will require a showing that the immigrant was an employee of the foreign company for at least 12 months within the previously three years.
Specific Requirements for the EB-1C
The L-1 visa holder may best qualify for the EB-1C program. This applies specifically executives or managers who are employed in another country and wish to be transferred to a subsidiary or parent company in the United States.
The worker must have been employed outside of the US (as an executive or manager) for a minimum of 12 months during the previous three years prior to arriving in the United States. This applies to employees who are already in the United States.
The employer must also include documentation to demonstrate that the employee will be employed as an executive or manager within the United States. The documentation should include a detailed explanation of the employee’s responsibilities.
The US employer must be an affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company of the foreign company. It must have been operating within the United States for at least one year.
Once the visa petition is approved, the employer would then need to submit a form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status). This is the application for a green card or to adjust status to lawful permanent resident. Adjusting status allows the immigrant who is already in the United States to adjust from L-1 to the green card status.
As such, you should plan to include various other documents as evidence that you are eligible for adjustment of statute from L-1 to Green Card. You may also need to provide proof of any prior criminal convictions, Forms G325A, I-693, I-864, I-765, and I-131.
The application must also include two recent color photos, a birth certificate with an English translation, a copy of the non-immigrant visa passport page,
any criminal convictions, Forms G325A, I-693, I-864, I-765, and I-131, as well as two color photos taken within the last 30 days, your birth certificate with an English translation, a photocopy of the non-immigrant visa page in your passport, and a fee for the application and fingerprinting.
After submitting the completed application, it will generally take several months for the USCIS to process the application.
If the application is accepted, you will be slotted for an interview with the US Consulate or embassy nearest to you. The consular officer will complete the final adjudication of whether to move forward and grant the green card petition.
How Long Does All of this Take?
The PERM labor certification generally takes 6 months to process. There is also a 30-day period for submitting the job order and a 30-day waiting period after the job order.
The I-140 generally takes approximately 6 months to process, depending upon how business the Service Center is at the time of application. This can be shortened to 15 days if you pay an additional $1,225 for premium processing. Remember, the I-140 will not be processed until the priority date is current. This can take weeks to years. Fortunately, the EB-1 and EB-2 applications are always current.
The I-485 generally takes about 6 months to process on average. Once approved, you will be approved and issued a green card representing legal permanent resident status. It often takes up to another 6 months for the USCIS to send the green card to the immigrant.