L1 Visa to Green Card

Updated on August 23, 2020

L1 is a nonimmigrant working visa that may be an appropriate choice for a professional who works for a multinational company and is willing to enter the United States as an intracompany transferee. Congress created the L1 visa in 1970, in order to allow employers to more efficiently transfer personnel within their companies from foreign countries to the United States.  Moreover, foreigners with L1A visa may be eligible for green card under the category of EB-1C.

The USCIS may award these temporary visas to executives, managers, or those with specialized knowledge. If you are interested in applying to the USCIS for an L1 nonimmigrant visa, it may be prudent to consult with a visa attorney who is familiar with this type of intracompany transfer.
L1 Visa to Green Card

1. Two Types of L1 Visa

Foreigners who work for multinational businesses may qualify for either an L1A or an L1B visa.

L1A Visa

Executives or managers who have been working continuously for a company with multinational offices for at least one of the past three years may be eligible to receive an L1A visa. The USCIS defines an executive as someone who has the authority to “make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight.” A qualifying manager should be in a role in which they supervise professionals, control at least a department of an organization, or manage an essential function of the business at a high level.

L1B Visa

An L1B visa may be a viable option for a professional with specialized knowledge relating to the interests of the multinational organization. In general, the USCIS may consider a foreign professional for an L1B intracompany transfer if they possess advanced knowledge of the company’s processes and procedures or other interests that are applicable to international markets. With this type of nonimmigrant visa, the holder may also be able to enter the United States to establish a U.S. office if they meet the criteria to do so.

2. Qualifying for an L1 Intracompany Transfer Visa

In order to establish eligibility with the USCIS for either an L1A or an L1B intracompany transfer visa, both the organization and the candidate employee must meet certain requirements.

Qualifying as a Multinational Employer

Generally, an United States organization may be able to qualify as a multinational employer for L1 visa purposes if it meets two criteria:

  • Has a qualifying relationship (parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate) with a foreign company
  • Is, or will be, doing business in both the United States and at least one other foreign nation for the duration of the L1 beneficiary’s stay in America

Requirements for L1 Employees

Whether the L1 visa applicant for an intracompany transfer is an executive, manager, or professional with specialized knowledge, they will need to meet several qualifications. To become eligible for an L1A or L1B visa, the petitioner should have worked continuously for a company with multinational offices for at least one of the past three years in a role that qualifies them as an L1 executive, manager, or professional with specialized knowledge.

3. Benefits of Obtaining an L1 Visa

An L1 visa has several advantages over other types of nonimmigrant statuses. These include the following:

  • L2 children can enroll public schools until 21 years of age
  • No quantity limit and can file immediately vs. H-1B working visas with the limited numbers and can only file within specific timeframe every year
  • Renewable for a period of up to 7 years (L1A) or 5 years (L1B)
  • Qualified employers may apply for blanket L1 visas
  • An L1 visa may help with qualifying for an EB-1C green card

4. L1 Visa Application Process

The L1 visa application process starts with completing Form I-129 and submitting it with supporting documentation to the USCIS. Sponsoring employers (Petitioner) may seek the assistance of an L1 visa attorney with completing and assembling the documents.

If the USCIS determines that the application meets the requirements for an L1 visa and approves the petition, the sponsored employee can apply for an L1 visa from a U.S. consulate in their country of origin. If the sponsored employee had been in legal status when filing the I-129 form and requested change of status in the I-129 form, never left the United States after filing, the sponsored employee’s status will be changed to L1 status directly. However, if the L1 employee leaves the United States, he or she must obtain a L1 visa first in order to re-enter the United States as a L1 visa worker.

5. L1 Visa Extension Applications

The L1 nonimmigrant, intracompany transfer visa generally has an initial stay of 1 to 3 years, depending on the type of L1 and the age and circumstances of the sponsoring company. However, a L1 visa holder may also apply to the USCIS for an extension. As with the initial L1 visa petition process, an applicant will need to complete paperwork and submit supporting documentation to the USCIS.

6. L1 Visa Blanket Petitions

Certain American companies that are engaged in commercial trade or services may be able qualify themselves as multinational companies via an L1 visa blanket petition. If the organization has already obtained 10 or more L1 intracompany transfers for its foreign employees within a year’s time or has qualifying size or assets, it might consider applying for an L1 visa blanket petition. A visa lawyer who is well-versed in L1 blanket petitions can advise the principals of organizations who believe they might qualify.

7. Going from an L1 Visa to a Green Card

L1A Visa to Green Card

An L1 visa is a nonimmigrant working visa in the United States. It is not a green card. However, an individual who obtains an L1A visa (not L1B visa) may be qualified for EB-1C green card.

EB-1C is an immigrant visa classification for multinational managers and executives. An alternative to the EB-5 immigrant investor green card, EB-1C may be a viable option for entrepreneurs who have established themselves in businesses abroad.

Having worked in an executive or managerial capacity in their foreign business, a foreigner may be able to purchase a similar business in the United States and gain a 1-year L-1A visa to enter the country to develop the venture. After the U.S. branch of the company has flourished for a year or more, the entrepreneur might consider applying for an EB-1C multinational executives and managers green card by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with the USCIS.

Filing Form I-140 is just the first step for their green card applications. In order to eventually obtain a green card, L-1A visa holders should file Form I-485 with the USCIS. If an immigrant visa number indicated in the visa bulletin is current, they can concurrently file Form I-485 with Form I-140. Otherwise, they must wait until an immigrant visa number is available to file their I-485 form.

The entire processing times from an L1A visa to receiving a green card ranges from 3-6 years. The foreign company and the sponsoring company in the U.S. must maintain qualifying relationship and business operations until the grant of green card.

L1B Visa to Green Card

L1B visa holders can’t apply for EB-1C green card. Nevertheless, it is possible for them to apply for a green card under the category of EB-2 (alien workers with advanced degree/exceptional ability) or EB-3 (professionals, skilled workers and other workers).

Different from EB-1C, their employers will need to obtain a labor certification (PERM) from the Department of Labor, and then file I-140 form with the PERM.

Similar as EB-1C, L1B visa holders who apply for a green card based on EB-2 or EB-3 cannot file I-485 application until an immigrant visa number is available to them.

The processing time for L1B to green card varies significantly because the waiting time for an immigrant visa number has huge difference. For example, applicants born in India have to wait more than 10 years while those who born in Germany only wait about 1 year even no waiting time at all.

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