The L1 visa is a temporary visa that allows a company to transfer a foreign managers, executives and employees with specialized knowledge from one of the company’s overseas offices to the company’s office, branch, subsidiary or branch in the USA.
The aim of the L1 visa is to ease the process of transferring the foreign employees to the US office.
Furthermore, the L1 visa allows the foreign employee to bring their spouse and children to the United States, and the spouse can work in the US without restrictions – the spouse of an L1 visa holder can be self-employed, work part time or full time for a company or for the company sponsoring the L1 visa.
The L1 visa is of two types – the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager and the L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge. The L-1A as the name suggests is for foreign employees coming to the United States temporarily to perform services in a managerial or executive role and the L-1B is for foreign employees coming to perform services that requires specialized knowledge. If you are a Canadian citizen, you can find out more here about L-1 visa for Canadians.
The path from L1 to green card is one of the best paths to becoming a permanent resident in the United States, and is especially painless for L1A visa holders and their spouse and children, mainly because the L1 visa is a dual intent visa.
But before we discuss what a dual intent visa is and the options to convert an L1 visa into a green card, it is important to note that once a green card holder, you are a permanent resident of the United States and you together with your spouse and children have the right to live and work in the USA indefinitely.
L1 Visa Dual Intent
Unlike other temporary US business visas such as the E-2 Investor visa, the L1 visa is a dual intent visa according to the USCIS, meaning that L1 visa holders can, during their stay in the USA, apply for green card (permanent residence) without violating their visa status and facing negative consequences.
In contrast, the E-2 business visa for treaty investor, is not a dual intent visa and requires that the E-2 visa holder maintain nonimmigrant intent throughout their stay in the United States. This means that if an E-2 visa holder files for green card during their stay in the USA, they can be violating their E-2 visa status requiring no intention to permanently immigrate, and as a result can face negative consequences, especially when requesting renewal of the E-2 visa.
However, in the case of the L1 visa, the foreign employee can apply for green card while in the United States on an L1 visa without having to worry about violating their status.
How to go from an L1 visa to green card? Options, process and requirements
There are a few options for L1 visa holders to obtain a green card (permanent residency) and certain green card options are more restrictive to L-1B visa holders.
The employees in L1 status may be eligible for the following green card options if they meet each category’s requirements and process:
Employees in L-1A visa status usually qualify for EB-1C visa, but L-1B visa holders qualify only in limited situations.
The EB-1C visa is an option for those foreign employees that were employed in management and executive positions with the foreign company, and typically providing an easier path for holders of L-1A visa. The L-1B visa holders for foreign employees with special knowledge generally do not qualify for the EB-1C visa, unless the employee can show that he or she worked as a manager or executive for the company overseas and they are offered a new position in the USA as manager or executive.
The top requirements an L-1A holder must satisfy to qualify for an EB-1C green card are:
- The foreign employee was employed overseas for a minimum of 1 year in the last 3 years prior to submitting the EB-1C visa application with a sister, parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the US company. If the foreign employee left his or her employment with the foreign company for more than two years in the last 3 years preceding the EB-1C application, then it does not satisfy the 1 in 3 years foreign employment requirement and the employee must be employed for an additional year with the foreign company to become eligible for the EB-1C visa.
- The foreign employee was employed abroad in a managerial or executive capacity.
- The sponsored position in the United States is a manager or executive position.
- The US sponsoring company must be doing business in the United States for at least 1 year.
- The US sponsoring company and the foreign sister, parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate must continue to conduct business regularly.
The EB-1C visa category does not require the PERM Labor Certification from the DOL.
The major advantage of the EB-1C visa is that it does not require that the employer file an application for a PERM Labor Certification with the Department of Labor (DOL) prior to applying for a green card and instead, the employer can petition for the foreign employee’s EB-1C green card directly with USCIS which saves a substantial amount of time and funds.
Applicants who had or have an L-1A status are favored when applying for the EB-1C green card.
In addition, foreign employees who in the past had an L-1A visa or have an L-1A status at the time of application are viewed more favorably for the EB-1C green card, although having an L-1A visa prior is not a requirement.
The application process for EB-1C green card is straightforward but not simple and processing time is less than a year. There is premium processing available.
To apply for an EB-1C green card, the US employing company must file with the USCIS a petition on behalf of the foreign employee and offer the foreign employee a management or executive position. Generally, the processing time for going from an L-1A visa to an EB-1C green card is less than 1 year and can be 45 days with premium processing.
The date on which the USCIS receives the petition is the priority date for permanent residency (green card). Typically, the priority dates for the EB-1C visa are current meaning that the foreign employee can file for adjustment of status or go through consular processing as soon as the petition is approved.
The processing time for the adjustment of status petition will vary depending on the category of adjustment being petitioned for and it takes on average 6 months. Once the complete and correct adjustment of status package is sent to the USCIS, the USCIS takes approximately 2-3 weeks to send a receipt confirmation letter. Next, after 3 to 5 weeks, you receive a notice of your biometrics appointment. The biometrics appointment usually takes place around 5 to 8 weeks after your adjustment of status application is filed.
Employees in L-1A visa and L-1B visa status can qualify for EB-2 visa for Foreign Individuals with Advance Degree or Exceptional Ability.
The EB-2 green card for individuals holding a foreign degree or having exceptional ability is a path to green card for both L-1A and L-1B visa holders. This means that if the foreign employee was or is in the United States on an L-1A visa or an L-1B visa, he or she can apply for this category of green card. Of course, the foreign employee must meet the requirements for EB-2 Advance Degree or EB-2 Exceptional Ability in order to be eligible to apply and obtain a green card. Below, we discuss the requirements for both advance degree and exceptional ability.
The top requirements an L-1A and L-1B visa holder must satisfy to qualify for an EB-2 Advance Degree are:
- The foreign employee must have a job offer from a US sponsoring employer
- The position in the United States must require an advance degree
- The foreign employee must have a degree beyond a U.S. bachelor’s degree, such as a Master’s or Doctorate, or a bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of work experience in the field.
The top requirements an L-1A and L-1B visa holder must satisfy to qualify for an EB-2 Exceptional Ability are:
- The foreign employee must have a job offer from a US sponsoring company
- The position in the United States must require exceptional ability
- The foreign employee must have exceptional ability in the art, business, or science and meet at least 3 of the following criteria:
- Official academic record showing that the foreign employee has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to his or her area of exceptional ability
- Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in the foreign employee’s occupation
- A license to practice the profession or certification for the profession or occupation
- Evidence that the foreign employee has commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates the exceptional ability
- Membership in a professional association(s)
- Recognition for the foreign employee’s achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by the peers, government entities, professional or business organizations
- Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.
The EB-2 Advance Degree and Exceptional Ability visas require the PERM Labor Certification from the DOL.
In order to apply for the EB-2 Advance Degree and Exceptional Ability green card, the foreign employee must have a US employer sponsoring them and cannot apply on their own. The US employer must offer a job to the foreign employee, pay a certain salary and obtain a PERM Labor Certification from the DOL.
The PERM Labor Certification program is a complex process that requires the sponsoring employer to certify that they have a job position available for the foreign employee in a professional field, that the job is also available to US workers, that the salary for the job position is at the prevailing industry rate in the area where it is available and that there are no US workers qualified for the position.
The application process for EB-2 Advance Degree and Exceptional Ability green card is complicated and processing time is over a year.
To obtain a EB-2 green card, the foreign employee and the sponsoring employer must follow a multi-step process.
First the sponsoring company must file the PERM Labor Certification with DOL. As part of the PERM Labor Certification process, the sponsoring employer must go through an extensive recruitment process. The PERM Labor Certification usually takes about 8 months to complete.
After the PERM Labor Certification is approved, the sponsoring company must file the petition for the EB-2 Advance Degree or Exceptional Ability visa with USCIS. When USCIS received the petition, it assigns and EB-2 priority date. The processing time for the EB-2 Advanced Degree or Exception Ability petition is approximately 6 months, but it depends on the workload of the USCIS.
Finally, after the priority date is current, the foreign employee can submit the application for adjustment of status or go through consular processing, which will take around another 6 months to process.
As part of the application process, the employer must be able to demonstrate a continuing ability to pay the offered wage as of the priority date. The employer may use an annual report, federal income tax return, or audited financial statement to demonstrate a continuing ability to pay the wage.
3. EB-2 (Green Card) with National Interest Waiver (NIW)
Employees in L-1A visa status and L-1B visa holders can qualify for EB-2 NIW visa.
The EB-2 NIW visa is available to both L-1A and L-1B visa holders and individuals with other visa categories as long as the foreign applicants meet the requirements for the EB-2 NIW visa classification.
Please keep in mind that there are different requirements for EB-2 NIW visa and EB-2 visa for Foreign Individuals with Advance Degree or Exceptional Ability discussed above.
The EB-2 NIW is a path to green card for foreign employees on L-1A visa and L-1B visa and the L-1A visa is not favored over the L-1B visa when applying for the EB-2 NIW green card.
The EB-2 NIW is an option for those foreign employees in L-1A or L-1B visa status who meet the requirements for EB-2 visa for Foreign Individuals with Advance Degree or Exceptional Ability discussed above and in addition, can meet the following 3 requirements.
In other words, in addition to showing that the foreign employee has an advance degree or exceptional ability discussed above, the applicant must show that it is in the national interest of the United States for the applicant to become a permanent resident by satisfying the 3 requirements below.
The top requirements an L-1A and L-1B visa holder must satisfy to qualify for an EB-2 NIW green card are:
- The proposed undertaking has both substantial merit and national importance.
- You are well positioned to advance the proposed undertaking.
- It would be beneficial to the USA to waive the requirements of a job offer, and the PERM Labor Certification from DOL.
The EB-2 NIW visa category does not require the PERM Labor Certification from the DOL.
Unlike the EB-2 visa for Foreign Individuals with Advance Degree or Exceptional Ability, the EB-2 NIW does not need to be accompanied by an approved PERM Labor Certification, making this category less time consuming and less expensive.
Because there is no PERM Labor Certification requirement, the foreign applicant does not need a job offer and can petition for an EB-2 NIW with USCIS on their own without needing a US employer to sponsor them.
The application process for EB-2 NIW green card is straightforward and processing time is less than a year. Premium processing is available.
To apply for EB-2 NIW, the foreign employee can file the petition directly with USCIS. The date on which the USCIS receives the petition is the priority date for EB-2 NIW permanent residency (green card). When the priority date becomes current and the petition is approved, the foreign employee can file for adjustment of status or go through consular processing.
The processing time for the EB-2 NIW varies depending on the time of the year and the number of applications pending in the category before the USCIS. However, on average the processing time for EB-2 NIW visa is less than 1 year. USCIS offers premium processing for EB-2 NIW petition for an additional fee and the processing time for the application is 45 calendar days. The adjustment of status processing time is approximately 6 months.
If the petition is approved, then the applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can apply for admission to the United States in immigrant status.
4. EB-3 (Green Card) for Skilled Workers, Professionals or Unskilled Workers
For the EB-3 visa category, the application process is similar to the EB-2 visa for Advance Degree and Exceptional Ability discussed above.
Malescu Law can assist
The US employment immigration is complex and difficult.
Our business immigration lawyers in Miami, Florida USA can assist you navigate the path from an L1 to green card and every stage of your green card application and advise with the various options to go from an L1 visa to green card. Contact us today or book a consultation.
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers