The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa with strict time limitations. Nevertheless, it is also a dual intent visa, which means that it is OK to seek permanent residence while you are in the US in L-1 status. You can also seek permanent residence for your spouse and children. Following is a brief description of how you might go about obtaining permanent residence in the US starting from L status.
The EB-1C Immigration Visa
To obtain a green card, you will need to apply for lawful permanent residence in the US based on a particular immigrant visa classification. You will then need to submit an immigration petition to the USCIS, obtain USCIS approval, and then either adjust your status to permanent residence within the US or apply for an immigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate overseas.
The EB-1C immigration visa is very similar to the L-1A visa, with the major difference being that if offers permanent residence instead of temporary worker status. It is for this reason that if you came to the US in L-1A status, the EB1C visa may well be your best bet. L-1B holders may face somewhat more difficulty (see below for details).
Similarities Between L1A and EB1C Requirements
The requirements for obtaining EB1C immigration status are almost the same as the requirements for obtaining L-1A status. Both statuses require a qualifying relationship between a US company and a foreign company, one year or continuous employment overseas, and a job description of manager or executive.
Differences Between L1A and EB1C Requirements
Although the L-1A and the EB1C are quite similar in many respects, important differences do exist:
- Although L-1A status allows you to transfer to a new office, EB1C status requires your office to have been doing business for at least one year prior to your application filing date.
- Since EB1C status allows you to remain in the US permanently while L status does not allow you to remain more than 7 years, you can expect that the USCIS will scrutinize an EB1C application for more thoroughly than it will an L-1A application. Having an approved L-1A application does not guarantee that your EB1C application will be approved. You will need to pay particular attention to your supporting documentation — the company business plan, for example.
- Another important difference between the L-1 visa is that you can obtain one on the basis of specialized knowledge without serving as an executive or manager. This option does not apply to EB1C applications (although it is not necessarily impossible for an L-1B holder to obtain EB1C status — see below).
If You are Starting from L-1B Status
If you are currently in L-1B status as a specialized knowledge employee, instead of in L-1A status as a manager or executive, you may face additional hurdles obtaining EB1C status. Under certain circumstances you may have to abandon your application altogether and seek immigration under another status. Under many circumstances, however, you can successfully transition from L-1B status to EB1C status.
The trick here is to be able to take your work as a “specialized knowledge employee” and show that it also fits the definition of “manager or executive.” You will need to do this even if you are applying for EB1C status as a manager or executive, because you must show an employment history as a manager or executive.
One way (among others) that you might do this is by taking advantage of the fact that an L-1A employee can be classified as a “manager” even without any subordinates to manage, as long as he heads a key department in the company (such as R&D). If you headed a key department as a “specialized knowledge employee”, it might not be so difficult to re-characterize this position as the manager of a “key department”, even without subordinates to manage.
The general procedure for moving from L-1 status to EB1C status is:
- Have your employer file Form I-140 with the USCIS on your behalf;
- Wait for your USCIS Approval Notice to arrive in the mail;
- File Form I-485 with the USCIS (if you are in the United States) or file form DS-260 with your nearest US embassy or consulate (if you are outside the United States). If you file from overseas, your immigration visa will be stamped onto your passport to allow you to enter the US. In both cases, your green card will be mailed to your US address.
Depending on your qualifications, you might also be eligible for immigration under the EB-2 or EB-3 visa categories (requiring labor certification) or under the EB-5 (investor) or EB1A (extraordinary ability) visa.