Transitioning from a nonimmigrant L-1A status to an EB-1(c) green card (first employment-based category) can be streamlined, if you can establish the necessary qualifying criteria. This guide will explore the transition from L-1A visa to green card status in detail.

What is an L-1A Visa and Why Is It Advantageous for a Green Card?

L visas are available to employees of multi-national companies who (i) have specialized knowledge of the company; or (ii) are executives or managers of the company. An individual can stay in the United States for a maximum of 5 years in the specialized knowledge category and a maximum of 7 years in the executive or manager category.

If the petition is for an L-1A status, the prospective employment in the United States must be of managerial or executive capacity. One important advantage to this classification is that an L-1A executive or manager will often be eligible for “priority worker” classification for permanent residence / green card under EB-1(c) category. This allows the multi-national manager or executive to apply for permanent residence without undergoing the extensive process of labor certification.

L-1A foreign nationals must submit the following information in support of their petition, if appropriate:

  1. Degree or diploma with English translation and/or university transcripts with English translation if they demonstrate that the foreign national’s education qualifies him or her to perform the intended services in the United States. Please note however, unlike in an H-1B petition, there is no general requirement that the foreign national have a bachelor’s degree or any specific level of education.
  2. Detailed copy of resume showing that the foreign national has at least 1 year of continuous experience of full time employment abroad with the petitioner within the 3 years preceding the filing of the petition.
  3. Detailed description of the foreign national’s work with the related company abroad showing that the foreign national was employed in an executive/managerial capacity.
  4. Detailed description of foreign national’s proposed U.S. position showing that the foreign national will be employed in an executive/managerial capacity.
  5. Anticipated salary/compensation with the company abroad and the new U.S. company. Please note that while it is not necessary to establish “prevailing wage” in the L-1 petition, the L-1 foreign national must be “an employee” of the company, not simply the company’s owner, and the salary should be appropriate to that position.
  6. If the position is of managerial capacity, organization charts from the company demonstrating the hierarchy of personnel in the prospective employee’s department or division can be helpful.
  7. Copies of passport pages showing identity, validity or expiration date, any U.S. visas and any admission stamps.

How Can You Transition from an L-1A Visa to an EB-1(c) Green Card?

The applicant must demonstrate that they have been employed in a managerial or executive capacity at a company or organization outside of the United States for at least one (1) year during the three years preceding the filing of the immigrant petition. They must also demonstrate that they have entered the U.S. to continue employment for that company or organization, or an affiliate or subsidiary, again in a managerial or executive capacity.

The U.S. employer must have been doing business for at least one (1) year, as an affiliate, a subsidiary, or a parent branch of company that employed you abroad. There must continue to be a qualifying relationship between the U.S. and company abroad, meaning that there must be common ownership and control. The most advantageous aspect of the L-1A visa to Green Card path through an EB-1(c) category is that there is no PERM Labor Certification requirement with the Department of Labor.

Who is Eligible for an L-1 Visa?

L-1 non-immigrant status is employer-specific employment authorized non-immigrant status available to foreign nationals employed abroad who seek admission into the United States to work for qualifying affiliate U.S. employers in either managerial/executive capacity (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B). The L-1 foreign national is called an intracompany transferee.

The L-1 category requires that the foreign national has been employed abroad for the same or related employer for 1 full year within the 3-year period immediately prior to the transfer, which often means that the prospective transferee is currently employed overseas at the time of filing for the L-1.

For these reasons, it is often preferable for the foreign national to apply for the L-1 visa at the U.S. consulate overseas rather than a change of status, once the L-1 petition is approved and prior to beginning employment with the U.S. entity. L-1 status is generally approved for an initial period of 3 years.

The L-1A (manager/executive) can be extended up to a statutory limit of 7 years.

What is the Visa for Dependent Wife and Spouse of L-1 Applicant and Can L-2 Spouse Work in the U.S.?

Dependent family members (spouse and minor children) of an L-1 non-immigrant are eligible to apply for L-2 derivative status. Spouses in L-2 status may apply for employment authorization after obtaining the L-2 status. It is currently taking USCIS 6-12 months to process I-765 applications for employment authorization.

How Can You Transition from an L-1B Visa to a Green Card?

To gain permanent residence (green card) with an L-1B status, where a person is employed in a non-management role as a “specialized knowledge” employee, the eligible applicant will usually apply under the EB-2 category (“advanced degree”) or the EB-3 category (“skilled or professional worker”). The sponsoring employer would need to under a PERM Labor Certification process with U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish that there are no able, willing and minimally qualified U.S. workers and the employer will be paying a prevailing wage, before submitting an immigration petition with USCIS. The employer must also need to prove that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

Unfortunately, filing for a green card when on an L-1B visa can result in long waiting periods and delays, making the transition to green card for the L-1B visa holders generally a more complicated and protracted process than that for the L-1A visa holders.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card While on an L-1A or L-1B Visa?

In most cases, the processing time to transition from an L-1A status to green card can take up to 12-18 months (depending on USCIS backlogs), while for the L-1B visa holders can take upwards of 18-24 months, depending on when your priority date becomes current.

Let Us Help With Your L-1A Visa to Green Card Process

Work with a business immigration attorney who understands the interworking of the L-1A visa to green card process. Reach out to Batrakova Law to learn about your immigration options and enjoy all the benefits of working with an experienced immigration lawyer in Portland, Oregon.