Many times, businesses require employees to take part in international work. It can be hard to maneuver all the paperwork, and to know which visa to apply for. As such, this article is about the L1 visa, what you need to know about it, and how to move from the L-1 visa to Green Card.
What is an L-1 Visa?
The L-1 is a work visa that allows a U.S. employer to temporarily transfer an employee from one of its foreign offices, to one of its offices in the United States. It is a non-immigrant working status.
There are two types of L-1: the L-1a and L-1b. The L-1a may be used by U.S. companies to transfer executives or managers into the United States. It also allows a foreign company that does not yet have a U.S. office, to send an executive or manager to the United States, with the purpose of establishing one. The L-1b may be used for the transfer of an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests, from a foreign office to an office in the United States. The L-1b also permits a foreign company without a U.S. office to send an employee with special knowledge to the United States to help establish one.
In order for an employee to qualify for an L1, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company.
- (Qualifying organizations include: parent companies, branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates.)
- Currently be, or will be doing business as an employer in the United States, and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States. In this context, doing business is defined as regular, systematic, and continuous providing of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization.
The presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad is not enough for this requirement. The company must be doing business in the US and in another country as well for the duration of the L1 recipient’s stay. Along with these requirements for the employer, there are different requirements for each the employees and the two types of L-1 visas.
For the L-1a the employee must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States.
- Be seeking to enter the United States to provide service in an executive, or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Executive capacity usually refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions within a wide scope of the company without negligence. Managerial capacity is the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees, and to manage the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization. It may also refer to the employee’s ability to manage an essential function of the organization at a high level, without direct supervision of others.
The L-1b has a few different requirements for the employee. They need:
- To have been working for the company abroad for one continuous year within three years of applying to work in the United States.
- To be providing specialized knowledge to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations instead of seeking to enter the US to provide managerial or executive services.
Specialized knowledge is an individual’s knowledge of the organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. Examples of people with specialized knowledge include doctors, engineers, architects, surgeons, teachers and professors.
L-1 Application Process
To start the application process, an employee must meet the requirements of years working for the company as stated above. Then an employer must file a Form I-129, known as a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with a fee, on behalf of the employee so they can be considered for an L-1. With that, they must determine which type of L-1 to file for: L-1a for executives and managers, or L-1b for employees with specialized knowledge. If you are only coming for meetings, conferences, trainings, or other such events, these are not considered productive employment. Apply for a business visa instead.
You do not need to be a full time US employee to obtain an L-1 visa. You may be principally employed outside the U.S. and receive one if you come to the U.S. to work on a short term basis.
For both an L-1a and L-1b, qualified employees coming the United States to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. For all other employees, the max initial stay is up to three years. For all L-1a employees, requests for extensions may be given in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years. For the L-1b, it is the same. The only exception being that only two extensions are allowed, resulting in a limit of five years in the United States.
L-1 Processing Time
After your employer has filled out Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, it usually takes about six months to a year to process the petition and issue the L1 visa. The processing time is about the same for both L-1a and the L-1b.
During the time that the L-1 recipients stay in the United States, the organization must continue to do business in the United States and at least one other country. The L-1 is not limited to specific countries. For family members of L-1 recipients, like spouses and unmarried children under 21, they can receive an L-2 visa and accompany their family member to the United States.
From L1 to Green Card
Many people with an L-1 eventually apply for a green card. Just like there are different L-1 visas, there are also different Green Cards.
Employment Based Green Cards
A Green Card is a permanent residence card for immigrants living in the United States. It allows permanent residency and employment in the United States. There are different avenues through which one can get a green card.
One way is through employment in the United States. These are Employment Based or “EB” Green Cards. There are three different levels or categories. The first one is called “First Preference” or “EB-1” for priority workers. These are for immigrants with extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, outstanding professors and researchers; or certain multinational managers and executives.
The second group is “Second Preference” or EB-2. This is for immigrants who have a profession that requires an advanced degree, have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or are seeking a national interest waiver. The third level is the “Third Preference” or EB-3. This is for for skilled workers, professionals, or other workers. The level or category of Green Card you apply for depends on the category you fall under within the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3.
L-1a To Green Card
For those with with an L-1 visa, the best Green Card to apply for is the EB-1. This is because they are most likely executives or managers within their company. A major advantage of acquiring your green card through the EB-1 category is that you can avoid the complex labor certification process. In the EB-1 category, the employer of the immigrant files Form I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker. However, the petition must be filed with certain documentation that proves that the employee is eligible for a green card. It must be filled out by their employer in the US, which also has to be their same employer in their home country.
Once the EB-1 status has been approved, then you must submit a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency, or Adjust Status, which is the basic Green Card application form.
Processing Time from L-1a to Green Card
Generally, the processing time for an EB-1 Visa is about 8 months. Once the EB-1 has been approved, it takes approximately 6 months to be issued permanent residence after the I-485 has been filled out and submitted. For help on how to fill out the I-485, check out SimpleCitizen. With them, the I-485 process becomes faster, and much more user-friendly.
L1-b to Green Card
The process from an L1-b to a green card is a little more difficult. First, you can choose to apply for either an EB-2 or EB-3 Green Card based on your skill set. The EB-2, as stated earlier, is an employment based Green Card that is for L1 holders who have exceptional ability. In order to qualify for the EB2 status, one must meet three of the following:
- Official academic record showing you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability.
- Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation.
- A license to practice your profession, or certification for your profession or occupation.
- Evidence that you have commanded a salary, or other compensation for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability.
- Membership in a professional association(s).
- Recognition for your achievements, and significant contributions to your industry or field. by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations.
- Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.
If you meet at least three of these requirements, then you can file for an EB-2. To qualify for an EB-2 visa, your employer must file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Along with the Form I-140 Form and under PERM Labor Certification, EB-2 petitions must generally be accompanied by an approved individual labor certification from the Department of Labor on Form ETA-750. Once the EB-2 status is approved, you can apply for a Green Card by using form I-485. Allow for extra processing time for both the EB2 and the green card.
Now let’s talk about the EB-3. This is the category for those who fall under the skilled worker, professional, or other worker status. Skilled workers are those whose jobs (that are temporary or seasonal) require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience. A professional is someone whose job requires at least a U.S. Bachelor’s degree, or foreign equivalent, and are a member of that profession. An unskilled worker is someone performing unskilled labor (that is not temporary or seasonal) requiring less than 2 years training or experience.
In order to qualify for an EB-3, each category has different requirements.
Skilled workers must:
- Be able to demonstrate at least 2 years of job experience or training.
- Be performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
- Be able to demonstrate possession of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree, or foreign degree equivalent. That Bachelor’s degree is the normal requirement for entry into the occupation.
- Education/experience may not be substituted for a baccalaureate degree.
- Be performing work for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
Unskilled workers must:
- Be able (at the time the petition is filed on your behalf) to perform unskilled labor that isn’t temporary or seasonal (requiring less than 2 years training or experience), for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
Along with the requirements for each of these categories, ALL of the above parties must provide evidence of labor certification, and a permanent, full-time job offer. Generally, these also must be accompanied by an approved, individual labor certification from the Department of Labor on Form ETA-9089. The above encompasses the labor certification process.
Processing Time for L-1b to Green Card
The PERM labor certification usually takes about 8 months. This includes a 30-day job order requirement, an extra 30-day waiting period after the job order, and a 6-month processing time for the ETA-9089 application.
Once you have your PERM labor certification done, your employer will need to sponsor you by filling out Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. The date that the USCIS receives your petition will become your “priority date”. You will have to wait until your priority date becomes current with final action dates given by the Department of State. The amount of time that you will to wait depends on the kind of green card that you apply for and your country of origin.
The I-140 has an average processing time of 6 months depending on the Service Center that is processing your I-140 form. Most EB-3 cards waiting period ranges from a few months to several years.
Once your priority date is current, you can submit your I-485 form to have your status adjusted to legal permanent resident. The I-485 once completed has an average wait period of 6 months as well. Once it has been approved and processed, you are officially a permanent resident. However, it might take a few months to receive the physical copy of your Green Card. As previously mentioned, to fill out the Form I-485 faster, look at SimpleCitizen which helps to simplify and speed up the I-485 process.
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