L1 Visa to Green Card
If you currently hold a temporary L-1 work visa but are looking to settle in the United States on a permanent basis, you may be able to apply to transition from the L-1 visa to a Green Card based on your employment.
Can you apply for Green Card while on an L1 visa?
The Intra-Company Transfer, or L-1, visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for a qualifying employee of a multinational company to be temporarily transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States.
Once granted, the L1 visa can be renewed in increments of two years at a time until you have reached the maximum permissible period. This will depend upon the subcategory of visa that you currently hold.
The L1A visa, for employees transferring to the US in a managerial or executive capacity, can be renewed for a maximum period of up to seven years.
The L1B visa, for those with specialized knowledge about the products, procedures or management within their organisation, can only be extended for a period of up to five years.
If you have been granted an L1 visa to open a new office in the United States, your visa will initially last for just one year. Where you are an employee transferring to a US affiliated office, your L1 visa will be granted for a period of three years.
It is possible to transfer from an L1B to an L1A visa, although any application must be approved six months prior to the expiry of your existing visa. You must also satisfy the eligibility criteria for an L1A visa, namely by being employed in a managerial or executive role.
To remain in the US beyond the maximum visa period, L-1 visa holders will need to make an application to adjust their status under a relevant immigration category, such as applying for permanent residence to stay in the US indefinitely.
The L1 visa is known as a ‘dual intent’ visa, which means holders are permitted to lawfully enter the United States on a time-limited nonimmigrant basis, while at the same time allowing potential intent to change to immigrant status while present in the US once you become eligible.
This also means holders do not have to show intent to leave the US at the end of their visa period, for example, by maintaining a residence in their country of origin.
How to go from the L1 visa to Green Card
The process of changing status from L1 visa to Green Card is known as an adjustment of status, whereby you are applying for lawful permanent resident status while already present in the United States. The requirements will depend on whether you hold an L-1A or L-1B visa.
L-1 A visa to Green Card
As an executive or manager of a multinational company, you would generally be looking to file for an employment Green Card under the EB1C category. The criteria under this Green Card category are similar to those for the L-1A requirements.
To be eligible for an EB1C visa you must:
- Have been employed in a managerial or executive capacity at a company or organisation outside the United States for at least a year during the three years preceding the petition.
- Have entered the US to continue service with that company or organisation, or an affiliate or subsidiary, again in a managerial or executive capacity.
- Your US employer must have been doing business for at least one year, as an affiliate, a subsidiary, or as the same company or organisation that employed you abroad.
- There must continue to be a qualifying relationship between the U.S. and overseas company or organisation, meaning that there needs to be common ownership and control.
A significant benefit of the L1 visa to Green Card path via the EB1C category is that there is no PERM Labor Certification requirement.
In most cases there are two sets of forms to be submitted: an immigrant petition and the Green Card application.
To begin the petition process for an EB1C visa your US, employer must complete and sign Form I-140, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
Typically, you will be required to have an approved immigrant petition before you can file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, although in some cases you may be able to file both forms concurrently.
Once your I-485 application is received, you will be given notice of your biometrics appointment. Your biometric information, ie; your fingerprints, photo and signature, will be used to verify your identity and conduct required background and security checks.
Your case will then be reviewed to determine whether or not an adjustment of status interview is necessary. If so, you will be required to appear at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding your Form I‑485. You must bring originals of all documentation submitted with your application, including your passport or official travel documents.
Assuming no further documentation is required, USCIS will make a decision on your application and you will be sent written notice of this. If your application is approved, you may receive an approval notice first and your green card later.
If your application is denied, the decision notice will tell you the reason(s) why and whether you may appeal the decision. Generally, you cannot appeal the decision to deny an adjustment of status application, although you may still be eligible to file a motion to reopen or reconsider.
L-1B visa to Green Card
To gain permanent residency with L1B status, where you are working in a non-management role as a “specialized knowledge” worker, eligible applicants will usually apply under the EB2 category (advanced degree) or the EB2 category (skilled or professional worker).
This requires your US employer to obtain an approved labor certification from the US Department of Labor (DOL) before submitting the immigration petition. The DOL labor certification verifies the following:
- That there are insufficient available, qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage.
- Hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
Unfortunately, this process can result in extremely long delays, making the change to Green Card for L1B visa holders generally more complicated and protracted than for L1A visa holders.
The first stage is for your sponsoring employer to obtain a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. Essentially, this requires the employer to confirm you will be paid the prevailing wage rate and to test the US residential market and confirm that no US citizen or US permanent residents are available to undertake the role in question. This is inevitably a complex and lengthy process, generally taking around 8 months to complete, which includes a 30-day job order requirement, the subsequent 30-day waiting period and the 6-month processing time for the ETA-9089 application.
Following the PERM labour certification, your sponsor is to file the I-140 petition for you. The overall processing time will also be dependent on when your priority date becomes current. Your priority date will be set as the date USCIS receive your petition. You will need to follow the US Visa Bulletin to check when your priority date has become current – which means you can then proceed to submit your form I-485 and have your status adjusted to legal permanent resident if in the US or go through consular processing and a visa interview if you are overseas.
Premium processing of your I-140 form is available for a fee, which reduces processing from six months to 15 calendar days.
How long does it take to get Green Card on L1 visa?
In most cases, the processing time to go from L-1A visa to Green Card can be up to twelve months, while the L-1B to Green card can take upwards of 18 months, depending on when your priority date becomes current.
For L-1B visa holders, the PERM Labor Certification stage can take around 8 months, but this may be closer to two years if your sponsor is subject to supervised recruitment or an audit. Processing of the I-140 form can take 6 months to process, although this will depend on the caseload and service status of the centre that is processing the petition. You will then need to wait for your priority date to become current, which for EB2 categories can take anywhere from a few months to a number of years. It can take between 8 and 15 months for the I-485 form to be processed, with a further wait of around 6 months for your Green Card to be issued to you.
Can L2 visa holders apply for a Green Card?
L-2 visa holders can also apply for a Green Card by being included in the primary L-1 visa holder’s application to adjust status.
The eligibility criteria for going from L1 visa to Green Card are strict and you should prepare for high levels of scrutiny throughout the application process.
NNU Immigration specializes in the L1 visa route and Green Card applications. Our US immigration attorneys are on hand to support you throughout the petitioning process and advise on the necessary supporting documentation to evidence your eligibility. Contact us for advice.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.