L1 Visa Dual Intent (Eligible for US Green Card?)
Can L1 visa holders become eligible for a US Green Card? The L1 visa offers many benefits to visa holders, one of which is the potential to become eligible for a US Green Card due to the dual intent status of the L category.
What is meant by ‘dual intent’ and what does this mean for permanent residence eligibility?
Under US immigration law, there are two different types of visa. Immigrant visas, such as the spouse visa, allow for permanent residence in the US and as such, are required where an individual wants to enter the US to reside indefinitely.
Nonimmigrant visas allow for temporary permission to travel to the US for a specified purpose. While each category carries its own eligibility requirements, one of the defining features of nonimmigrant visas is the requirement on the applicant to evidence their intention to depart the US on visa expiry. This is achieved by providing evidence of ‘sufficient ties’ to the individual’s country of residence.
Compelling ties to the country of residence could include family relationships (e.g. your spouse and children live there), proof of ownership of a residence outside the US (e.g. mortgage statement for your home), or the applicant’s employment circumstances (e.g. a letter from your employer cofirming you will be returning to work).
While the L1 visa is classed as a nonimmigrant visa given it provides only time-limited permission to work in the US , it is however exempt from the requirement to show intention to leave. It is known as a ‘dual intent’ visa.
What is dual intent?
Dual intent in relation to US visas means that a foreign national is allowed to be temporarily living in the country with the known intent of possibly immigrating permanently.
This is significant as most other temporary US visas have strict requirements that prohibit this and strictly require the holder to show intent of returning home after the visa expires.
L1 visa dual intent
With the L1 visa you are permitted by the US government to reside in the country as a non-immigrant while also retaining the option to apply for permanent residence through a US green card.
The L1 visa is one of a few US employment visas that inherently brings with it the possibility of becoming a permanent resident in the US, so you can indicate an intention to do this when you submit your application. However, for your L1 visa to be approved you must be able to demonstrate credibly to the US consular officer who assesses your case that you will return home when your visa expires if you are not granted a green card. You will need to provide documentation that proves this such as links to family, property or business in your home country.
There are a number of different ways and sponsorship routes you can take to become eligble for a green card.
L1 visa to US Green Card
The L1 visa is commonly regarded as a good platform for securing a green card. There are various types of green cards that you could consider applying for while holding L1 status:
If you are eligible for an L1 visa it is likely you will have the professional qualifications you need to apply for the EB-1C green card. The EB-1 category of green card is specifically for multinational managers or executives.
To gain this type of green card you need to be sponsored by your US employer and they will nee to apply for the green card on your behalf. To qualify you need to have held an executive or managerial position in a qualifying company for at least one of the previous three years prior to arriving in the country and now be holding a similar position in the US.
Your employer will not be required to embark on the lengthy and costly labor certification process as part of your green card application as you will be classed as a ‘priority worker’ for the process. Instead your employer will need to file a visa petition using the Form I-140. Several documents will need to be filed with the form including evidence of your L-1 approval, documents proving you have worked for the required time as an executive or manager, evidence and a detail of your job duties, financial statements from the company and other financial information such as recent tax returns.
Another green card that requires employer sponsorship is the EB-2 green card. This is designed for people who are the very top of their field and have exceptional ability. To prove your eligibility you will need to be in a job that you can clearly show needs your extraordinary skills, or provide evidence that you have an advanced degree in that field. ‘Extraordinary ability’ can be seen to be a subjective measure so you may wish to seek legal advice from a specialist who can help you prepare evidence that demonstrates how you meet this requirement. Because of dual intent you can apply for the EB-2 green card while working in the US on an L1 visa.
Another route to a green card that l1 visa dual intent could help you towards is family sponsorship. If you hold an L1 visa and a member of your family is a US citizen over the age of 21 they should be able to sponsor your application for a green card. The time this application process takes can vary depending on the immediacy of their relationship with you and also your home country.
If you are being sponsored by your child who is a US citizen for example, your application process could be as little as 12 months but if you are being sponsored by a sibling who is a US citizen the process could take as long as 10 years. Similarly, if you are applying from a country that submits many applications for green cards to the US – the Philippines or Mexico for example – then you are likely to encounter very long wait times compared to applicants from countries where US green applications are less frequent.
Regardless of your nationality or the nature of your relationship, moving initially to the US on an L1 visa could be a good option until your green card is secured.
Spousal sponsorship is another route to a green card you can consider. If currently married your spouse could get their green card sponsored through an employer which would then enable them to sponsor you further down the line. Or if you meet and marry a US citizen this relationship could entitle you to a green card.
Dual intent status is designed to be advantageous for visa applicants. Without having to prove intention to leave, L1 visa holders will not have to compile and submit evidence in support. This can make the initial visa application processing more straightforward.
However, the path from L-1 visa to Green Card can be complex and unclear. With no multiple routes potentially available, it will be important to assess which option is the most approriate for your circumstances and eligibility, and to take guidance on the process to be followed and likey timecasles.
NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys. From our central London base, we support companies from across the globe with L-1 visa petitions, ensuring initial eligibility and helping to minimize the L1 application processing time. We also provide guidance to the employer and employee through the petitioning process, and also extension applications.
If you have a question about the L-1 visa application process or eligibility requirements, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.