THE PATH FROM L1 VISA TO GREEN CARD STATUS FOR MANAGERS AND EXECUTIVES
Business Immigration lawyers are commonly asked if it is possible to transition from the L1 Visa to green card status. Thankfully it is possible. In fact, it is quite common. This is especially true for multinational executives and managers who are in the US in the L1A Category. In this post, I will discuss the path that executives and managers can take from the L1 Visa to green card status so that you can determine if if would be a possible option for you.
Basic Requirements of the L1A Visa
If you have already successfully gone through the L1 Visa process, you can skip this section. If not, it is important to understand the basic L1 Visa requirements for managers and executives so that you can see the entire path to the green card.
Employment Requirement for The L1A Visa
First, in order to qualify, the manager or executive must have worked for one full year with the employer abroad. Time spent in the US will not reset the clock. However, that time will not count towards meeting the one year of employment abroad requirement.
Managerial or Executive Position
Second, the transferring employee must have duties that qualify them as a manager or executive. In the interest of brevity, I will not list all of the requirements. You can find them here. Instead, I will give you a general idea of who may qualify as a manager or executive.
Qualifying for an L1 Visa as an Executive
To qualify as an executive you will need to show that the employee sets the course for the organization. Executives that qualify under the L1A category determine strategy and operate with limited supervision. They also have wide latitude to make decisions that are critical to the business.
Qualifying for an L1 Visa as a Manager
Managers have to show that they manage other professionals or an essential function of the organization. First line managers who do not manage professionals will not qualify.
Third, in order to transfer an employee to the US via the L1 visa, there has to be a qualifying corporate relationship in place. The possible relationships include parent/subsidiary, branch office or affiliate. The relationship should be clearly demonstrated by organizational charts, formation documents etc.
The Green Card Option for L1A Managers and Executives
Once you have successfully gone through the L1A Visa process then you can start to consider a green card. There are a number of perks associated with the green card process for L1A Visa holders.
PERM is Not Required!
One major perk of going from the L1 Visa to Green Card Status is that you can avoid the dreaded PERM labor certification process. The PERM process is essentially a government-mandated test of the US Labor Market that is tedious and time consuming. Employers who are aware of PERM process appreciate the opportunity to forgo it completely by filing for a manager or executive in the Eb1 green card category.
Employers are Familiar with the Required Documentation
Another perk is that you will have already gathered evidence showing that the transferring employee is a manager or executive. This evidence that is required for the green card will be similar to the evidence that you will have already submitted with the L1 Visa application. However, although the standards and evidence are similar, the process is not easy.
A Smooth L1 Visa Process Does not Guarantee a Smooth Green Card Process
Many people have understandably fallen into the trap of thinking that the green card process for an L1 Manager or Executive will be a breeze. They have received the L1 with limited hassle. So, why would the green card process be any different?
The path from L1 Visa to green card is oftentimes more rocky than the L1 Visa process because green cards are permanent. L1 Visas are not. If someone comes to the US on a non immigrant visa, they will have to renew. This gives the government a chance to correct any initial mistakes. If, on the other hand, the government makes a mistake and approves a green card application that shouldn’t have been approved, then the effect of the mistake will be permanent. For this reason, you should expect a higher level of scrutiny.
The Mechanics of Going From L1 Visa to Green Card Status
The process for transitioning from L1 Visa to Green Card Status is relatively straightforward for a manager or executive that is already in the US. The process involves:
- Filing the form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker along with the filing fee and supporting documentation;
- Waiting for the priority date to become current;
- Filing form I-485, Applicant to Adjust Status along with the filing fee and required documentation;
- Attending a fingerprinting appointment;
- Responding to Requests for Evidence;
- Attending an Interview at a USCIS Field Office
Eb1 Green Card Requirements for Executives and Managers
Although the application process is not overly complex, it is challenging to present compelling documentation that clearly shows that each and every requirement has been met. These requirements closely track the requirements for the L1 Visa and include:
- Showing that there is a Qualifying corporate relationship;
- Demonstrating that the Employee was working for the company abroad for one of the past three years(at the time of entry into the US);
- Establishing that the employee qualifies as an executive or manager
Timing Issues When Transitioning from the L1 Visa to Green Card Status
Close attention should be paid to the expiration of the L1 Visa when thinking about transitioning from the L1 Visa to green card status. L1A Visas(except for new offices) are typically valid for an initial period of 3 years and can be extended for up to 7 years.
In order to be able to stay in the US and adjust status to the Eb1 Green Card, most people file long before the employee’s work authorization expires.
This is to account for any delay between the time of filing the application and the time when the green card will ultimately become available.
Conclusion–L1 Visa to Green Card Status
The path from L1 Visa to Green Card status is commonly taken. Whenever you are considering this option for an executive or manager, you should pay close attention to timing issues and the green card requirements. This is best accomplished by educating yourself and then working with a knowledgable business immigration lawyer.