Making The American Dream Come True

How to Switch from a L1 Visa to Green Card

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Dec 29, 2017 11:30:00 PM
3D person jumping from one team to another isolated over a white background-084993-edited-121989-edited.jpegThe L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that allows foreign executives, managers, or individuals with specialized knowledge to temporarily transfer to the U.S., in order to work for their employer’s U.S.-based parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate. The L1-A visa for managers and executives is valid for up to 7 years, including extensions. The L1-B visa for individuals with specialized knowledge is valid for up to 5 years, including extensions. 

If you are currently living and working in the U.S. on an L1 visa, but wish to obtain permanent residency status so that you can legally remain in the country and continue your career, here are the basics of switching from an L1 visa to Green Card (the following applies to both L1A and L1B visa holders):

Requirements

All petitioners who want to switch from an L1 visa to a Green Card must meet all of the following requirements: 

  • The petitioner must have worked for a company outside of the U.S. for at least 1 year in the last 3 years.
  • The petitioner’s foreign employer and US employer have a qualifying relationship (e.g. parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate).
  • The U.S. employer must have been operational for at least 1 year.
  • The petitioner must not have a criminal record that would render him or her inadmissible.

Employer-Led Application

Notably, to switch from an L1 visa to Green Card, a petitioner’s U.S. employer must apply on their behalf — ideally for an EB-1C visa, which is a “first preference” (priority worker) category. The application process is complex, and has multiple stages. However, the good news is that U.S. employers do not have to undertake the PERM labor certification process, which is time-consuming and costly.  

Dual Intent 

Some people who wish to switch from an L1 visa to a Green Card are worried about running afoul of USCIC’s policy against “dual intent.” These rules prevent foreigners who apply for a temporary non-immigrant visa from also having the desire (i.e. intention) to apply for a Green Card after arriving in the U.S. 

Simply put, this is not a concern for L1 visa holders, as USCIC allows dual intent for those who want to switch to a Green Card. In fact, the petitioner’s L1 visa status, along with all other pertinent information, must be included in their application (which as noted above is employer-led, and not petitioner-led).

Learn More

While switching from an L1 visa to Green Card is possible, it is by no means automatic — or quick. USCIS is under no obligation (and frankly, will not) expedite an application if a petitioner’s L1 visa is expiring soon. It is 100% up the petitioner to be aware of timelines and expiration dates. 

If you are considering obtaining a Green Card so that you can remain in the U.S. when your L1 visa expires — or if together with your U.S. employer you have decided to pursue this option — then contact the Pollak PLLC team today. We will lead you and your employer through every step of the process. 

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Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at karenlp@pollakimmigration or under her twitter handle law_immigration.

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