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How to Change Status From an L-1 Visa to an Employment Green Card

Learn the process, timeline, and other important steps for changing from an L-1 to a green card

A popular work visa program in the U.S. is the L-1 visa, designed for intracompany transferees. As L-1 visa holders contribute their expertise to U.S. companies, it’s common for them and their sponsoring employers to explore opportunities for long-term immigration. Although the L-1 is considered a non-immigrant visa, there are still paths available for L-1 visa holders to pursue employment-based green cards.

In this guide for L-1 visa holders and their sponsoring employers, we’ll explain the process of transitioning from an L-1 visa to an employment-based green card.


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L-1 Visa Basics

Before delving into the green card application process, it’s crucial to understand the basics of the L-1 visa. The L-1 visa is divided into two categories: L-1A for managers and executives, and L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. L-1 visa holders are typically employed by multinational companies, with the visa facilitating their transfer to a U.S. office.

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Learn more details about the L-1 visa in Boundless’ guide.


Employment-Based Green Card Options for L-1 Visa Holders

To obtain a green card, L-1 visa holders and their sponsoring employers must choose the most suitable employment-based immigrant category. This is determined by the L-1 visa holders position, skill set, educational background, as well as the details of the sponsoring employer. 

Depending on these various factors mentioned above, some green card categories that L-1 visa holders may be eligible for include:

In the next section, we’ll cover the step-by-step process on how to apply for these various employment immigration categories.


L-1 to Employment-Based Green Card Process

Here is the a general overview of the step-by-step process to transition from an L-1 visa to an employment green card:

1. PERM Labor Certification (if applicable): Some employment-based green card categories require employers to obtain a labor certification (PERM) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). NOTE: This step is required for the EB-2 and EB-3 categories, but is generally not required for those applying for the EB-1C visa.

2. File Immigrant Petition (Form I-140): The sponsoring employer must file Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the eligibility of the L-1 visa holder for a green card.

3. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: L-1 visa holders living in the U.S. can apply for a green card through the adjustment of status process (Form I-485). Those outside the U.S. will apply via consular processing at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in their country of residence. This involves filing the DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application).


Cost

Form I-140 has a $700 filing fee, typically paid by the employer. Some employers also opt for “premium processing” of Form I-140, which comes with an additional $2805 fee. 

For applicants applying from within the U.S., Form I-485 costs $1140. There is also a biometrics appointment fee of $85. 

For applicants applying from outside the U.S., the DS-260 costs $325.

Timeline

For Form I-140, the current processing time is around 4 months, according to historic processing times data from USCIS. Employers that opt for premium processing will receive a decision on Form I-140 typically within 15 days. 

The average processing time for Form I-485 (for employment-based green card applications) is currently 7.5 to 32.5 months. 

Keep in mind that processing times may vary based on the applicant’s specific situation and where they live.

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