HomeResourcesThe ultimate guide to the L-1 visas
June 9th 2023

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visas

The L-1 nonimmigrant visa allows certain foreign nationals to temporarily transfer to the U.S/ branch office, parent, subsidiary or affiliate of a multinational company. We explain L-1 eligibility requirements and alternatives if you don't qualify.

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Large multinational companies seeking to transfer their employees to the United States can utilize the L-1 intracompany work visa and enjoy its plethora of accompanying benefits. 

Every year, thousands of people enter the U.S. to work for a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of a multinational company through the L-1 visa. It is is one of the most useful non-immigrant visas available to employees of foreign companies, especially since nationals of all countries are eligible, provided they can meet the specific qualifications for the visa. 

In this guide, we provide an overview of everything you need to know about the L-1 intracompany work visa, from eligibility requirements and application processes to extensions and even applying for a green card. 

What is an L-1 visa?

The L-1 visa is awarded by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to enable multinational companies to temporarily send executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees to their office or affiliate in the U.S. It is the foreign company that makes the petition with the USCIS, not the individual applicant. 

These companies can also use the L-1 visa to send their workers into the U.S. to establish a new branch or office in the country.

The L-1 visa comes with a number of advantages, including:

  • “Dual intent” for green card applications

  • No annual limit on visa issuance per fiscal year

  • No educational requirements

  • The possibility for blanket petitions

  • No Labor Condition Application requirement

Additionally, spouses and young unmarried children of L-1 visa holders can enter the U.S. on an L-2 visa. This visa enables these spouses and children to obtain a work permit and enroll in schools in the U.S.

We’ll dive deeper into these later in the article. 

L-1 Visa Requirements

For the employer

  • A qualifying relationship must exist between the multinational company making the L-1 visa petition and the U.S. company where the L-1 employee will work. This qualifying relationship can be in the form of a parent company, sister, subsidiary or affiliate.

  • The multinational company must currently be doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country for as long as the L-1 beneficiary’s stay in the U.S. If they’re not currently doing business in the U.S., they must have practical plans to do so and provide all the necessary supporting documentation. In this context, “doing business” means the regular and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and earning revenue.

For the employee

  • The L-1 visa beneficiary must have worked for the multinational company for a minimum period of one continuous year within the last three years prior to their transfer to the United States.

  • The L-1 visa applicant must have worked for the foreign company in an executive or managerial position, or in a specialized knowledge capacity and must be entering the U.S. to perform in a similar role. 

  • L-1 visa applicants must signify their intention to return to their home country at the expiration of their L-1 status.

  • L-1 visa holders must only work for the U.S. company through which the visa was granted for as long as their L-1 status remains valid. 

There are other requirements for the L-1 visa, but they’re pretty much dependent on the type of L-1 visa the foreign company is petitioning. 

Requirements for Establishing a new office in the U.S.

Multinational companies looking to petition the L-1 visa to transfer an employee to the U.S. for the purpose of establishing a new office are typically required to:

  • provide proof that it has acquired a physical space in the U.S. to set up the new office.

  • demonstrate their financial ability to commence business operations in the U.S. and pay the wages of the L-1 foreign worker for the duration of their stay.

Types of L-1 Visas

There are two main types of L-1 non-immigrant visas -- L-1A and L-1B visas. Each has its own set of strict requirements.

The L-1A visa

Also known as the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa, the L-1A visa facilitates the transfer of foreign executives and managers to their company's offices in the United States. A foreign company with no branches or affiliated offices in the United States can also use an L-1A visa to transfer an executive or manager for the purpose of establishing one there.

The USCIS has a number of stringent conditions that the L-1 visa applicant must fully meet if they’re to have any chance of obtaining the visa. For instance, just because the applicant bears the title of “Manager” and supervises lower-level employees in the company doesn't mean that they automatically qualify for the L-1A visa. 

Who is a manager or executive for L-1A visa purposes?

Applicants must meet the definition of an executive or manager role as stipulated by the USCIS. For the purpose of the L-1A visa, an executive is an individual who:

  • Oversees the day to day management of the company

  • Establishes the policies, procedures and goals of the company

  • Has the authority to make executive decisions at their discretion within and for the company

  • Supervises high-level employees in the company and only receives general supervision from high-level directors and stockholders

On the other hand, a manager in the context of the L-1 visa is an individual who:

  • Heads a key department within the company

  • Supervises and controls the work of higher-level workers, like those in professional, managerial or supervisory roles within the company

  • Has the authority to hire, fire and recommend personnel for vertical movement within the company

  • Directs the daily operations of the company

The L-1B Visa

The L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge visa facilitates the transfer of foreign workers with specialized knowledge into the United States. These specialized knowledge employees are essentially indispensable to various functions that relate to the interests of the company making the L-1 petition. There are no specific guidelines that outline these functions or company interests, so the adjudicating officers at the USCIS decide who meets the criteria at their discretion. If you have questions regarding your eligibility, consider consulting an immigration attorney. 

Similar to the L-1A visa, the L-1B visa can also be used to relocate employees to open a new branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of a foreign company in the United States. 

Generally, obtaining an L-1B visa means possession of “specialized knowledge” as defined by the USCIS. However, this definition can be quite subjective, which in turn makes it somewhat confusing for companies looking to take advantage of this visa type.

What is specialized knowledge for L-1B visa purposes?

Per the USCIS, specialized knowledge refers to the employee's extensive understanding of the company’s products, services, techniques, equipment, research, management processes or other key company interests and how they apply to international markets.

As you may have noticed, the definition can be somewhat ambiguous so it’s easy to assume that any worker with enough years of specialist experience would possess specialized knowledge. While this may be technically true, it is not quite enough to qualify for the L-1B visa. Instead, this special knowledge must also be unique enough to set the employee apart from others who have similar levels of experience and expertise in the company or industry. 

In some cases, it also means that the L-1B visa applicant must be a member of a particular profession, such as engineers, surgeons, architects, lawyers and teachers among others. 

Essentially, the foreign company making the petition must prove to the USCIS that the L-1B visa applicant’s specialized knowledge is not commonly held within the international market and is needed to handle key issues that directly relate to their business interests in the United States. The applicant must therefore be able to provide evidence of 

  • How long it took to acquire this specialized knowledge

  • How valuable the specialized knowledge will be to the U.S. company

  • How the specialized knowledge is unique and not something just anyone can do

Generally, the employee’s skill or knowledge must make them an indispensable component of the organization’s operations or functions. 

L-1 Visa Duration 

As a non-immigrant visa, the L-1 comes with a maximum stay duration of seven years for L-1A visa holders and five years for foreign workers in the L-1B visa category. In both cases, the USCIS typically issues the visas for an initial three-year period and then extends them in two-year terms until the maximum duration of stay allowed. So an L-1A visa holder may apply for visa extension twice to reach seven years, while the L-1B visa holder may apply only once to reach their max of five years. 

For organizations petitioning an L-1 visa for the purpose of establishing a new office in the U.S., the USCIS will usually grant the visa for an initial one year and extends it in two-year terms provided they meet the extension requirements.

L-1 Visa Benefits

The L-1 visa is one of the most sought after U.S. visas in the non-immigrant category, thanks to its array of appealing features for both the petitioning employer and the L-1 visa beneficiary. These include:

1. Relatively few eligibility requirements

There are many other types of non-immigrant visas that foreign nationals may obtain, but alas, most of them come with steep eligibility conditions. 

For example, applicants for the O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa category must be able to demonstrate their extraordinary abilities by way of sustained national or international acclaim. There’s also the H-1B visa, which requires applicants to possess at least a bachelor’s degree, and applications are chosen through a lottery system. Some work visas are only available to nationals from a particular country, like the TN Visa, which only caters to citizens of Canada and Mexico. 

The L-1 visa, on the other hand, only requires you to be a manager/executive or specialized knowledge worker in a multinational company in order to qualify. Granted, this can be a stringent requirement in and of itself, but it is the company that mostly bears the brunt. On the part of the individual, an executive/managerial or specialized knowledge position is the prevailing condition to meet. 

2. No quota limit 

Unlike other non-immigrant work visas like the H-1B, there is no limit on the number of L-1 visas awarded by the USCIS in a fiscal year. In the case of the H-1B visa, there is an annual quota limit of 65,000 visas for regular applicants and 20,000 for applicants with a Master’s degree, and application dates are fixed to the first business day of April every year. On the other hand, L-1 visas have no quota limits and you can file for them any time of the year. This makes it generally easier to obtain.

3. Immediate family members can transfer to the U.S. too

L-1 visa holders may bring their legal spouse and young unmarried children below 21 years old along with them to the U.S. The USCIS classifies them as dependents and issues them the L-2 dependents visa. What makes the L-2 visa even more appealing is that spouses are allowed to obtain a work permit through Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. L-2 children, on the other hand, are allowed to enroll in a U.S. school. 

4. Dual intent 

The L-1 visa is a dual intent visa, meaning beneficiaries may file for permanent resident status through the Green Card program without violating their L-1 status. Some other nonimmigrant work visas, like the H-1B and TN visas are not dual intent, which means holders are prohibited from pursuing a Green Card while their visas are still active. 

5. No minimum educational requirements

L-1 visa applicants are not required to have a minimum educational qualification in order to be eligible. This is unlike the  H-1B visa which requires applicants to have at least a Bachelor’s degree before they can apply. Of course, it is unlikely that a manager or executive or even a specialized knowledge professional will not have some form of formal education, but at least the educational qualification is not listed as a condition.

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How employers benefit from the L-1 visa

Both the foreign company and its U.S. counterpart also stand to benefit from petitioning the L-1 visa for their employees. These include: 

Blanket petition 

Certain companies are allowed to file a single L-1 petition to transfer multiple employees to the U.S. This feature is called a blanket petition. It can considerably reduce the processing time for the L-1 visa the petitioning employer is not required to prove eligibility every time they wish to transfer a foreign employee to the States. 

Prevailing wage 

Prevailing wage refers to the average or standard pay level for similarly skilled workers that must be paid to the foreign worker for the duration of their stay in the U.S. This pay level is determined by the State Employment Security Agency (SESA) based on the technical expertise, years of experience and responsibilities needed to suitably perform the role. This is one of the many requirements of the H-1B visa. However, there is no such prevailing wage requirement for companies petitioning the L-1 visa. Although, the employer must make sure to pay reasonable wages else they get flagged. 

Labor condition application (LCA) 

An LCA is a certification specifying that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers to perform the duties required for the role warranting the work visa petition. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issues this certificate and while it’s not so complicated, the process can take time to complete. The good news is that employers petitioning L-1 visas for their employee transfers need not obtain this LCA. 

Establishing a new office in the States

Foreign companies that don't currently have an office in the U.S. can do so through the L-1 visa. This also applies to medium-sized business owners who are looking to expand into the U.S. with a minimal investment.  However, the prevailing condition here is that the business must continue its operations even after the L-1 visa beneficiary has transferred to the U.S.  

Limitations of the L-1 Visa 

The L-1 visa boasts many benefits but it is not without its drawbacks. These include:

Candidates must already be employed. And not just any kind of employment, but must be an executive, manager or specialized knowledge worker for at least one continuous year. Plus the company they work for must be large enough to have a qualifying organization in the U.S. or at least the wherewithal to open one. 

Fixed maximum stay period. Once the L-1 visa holder has reached their maximum allowed duration of stay, there can be no more extensions and they must either switch to a different visa that allows them to stay longer or file for a permanent residency. If not, then they must depart the U.S. and have their employer apply for a new L-1 visa. 

Limited types of eligible companies. The L-1 visa is only available to multinational companies that have a branch, parent, subsidiary or affiliate in the U.S. Additionally, other work visas, like the H-1B allow you to be employed with any U.S. employer, but the L-1 visa restricts you to only the company that sponsored your visa. 

L-1 Visa Holders and their Immediate Family Members

As mentioned above, the spouse and young unmarried children under 21 years old are eligible to accompany the L-1 visa holder into the United States on the L-2 dependents visa. It is also possible for all eligible family members to apply for their L-2 visas at the same time that the L-1 visa holder is filing his or her petition so that they can all travel to the U.S. together. The U.S. government does not recognize multiple spouses, so L-1 applicants with more than one spouse will have to choose only one to receive the visa. Same-sex partners may also apply as long as their union is legally valid.

Keep in mind that the USCIS has a strict definition of what constitutes an L-1 beneficiary’s immediate family members. Only legal spouses and unmarried children below 21 years old of the principal L1 visa holder are eligible for the L-2 visa. Parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives do not qualify for L-2 status, even where the L-1 visa holder is their primary caretaker.

L-2 visa holders are also allowed to travel in and out of the U.S. as long as their L-2 status remains valid.  Additionally, they’re not required to apply for Advance Parole when departing the U.S. on L-2 Status. For many other visa types, obtaining an Advance Parole Document is necessary to facilitate their re-entry into the U.S. should they choose to leave the country. It’s like a temporary travel authorization that works like a second visa for non-immigrants returning to the U.S.

L-2 Visa Duration

As a dependent visa, an L-2 visa comes with the same period of stay as the primary L-1 visa holder -- five years for dependents of L-1B visa holders and seven years for spouses and children of L-1A visa holders. L-2 visa holders may also extend their status following the extension of the L-1 visa holder’s status and they can remain in the U.S. for the entire process. 

However, L-2 visa holders who are outside of the United States when their L-2 status expires must extend it at the U.S. embassy or consulate before they can re-enter the country. The processing time for L-2 visa extensions typically depends on the current workload and backlogs of the U.S. consulate or embassy handling the extension request. 

What is the L-2 EAD? 

An L-2 spouse may file for the Employment Authorization Document upon their entry to the U.S. which they can then use to find work with any U.S. employer. That’s right, L-2 spouses are allowed to work anywhere and for any legal employer as long as they have an approved EAD. This is a great benefit for many families since it means they can have more than one income stream for their household. Keep in mind that children on L-2 status are not allowed to apply for EADs, but they may enroll in a learning institution in the U.S. 

L-1 Visa Application Process

There are two ways to obtain an L-1 visa --the regular procedure and the blanket petition. The main difference between them is the number of L-1 visa applications that may be approved from a single petition. Either way, the L-1 visa application process is less complex compared to other visa types. There are three major steps in the regular process:

  • Filing Form DS-160, Non-immigrant Visa Application

    -- The company making the L-1 petition begins the visa application process by submitting Form DS-160 online, along with necessary documents, including a copy of the applicant’s passport and two current passport-sized photographs. 

  • Filing Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker

    -- Next, the company submits the L-1 petition at a USCIS service center. The company must file the petition at least 45 days before the expected start date of the L-1 beneficiary. 

  • Adjudication

    -- The USCIS will evaluate both forms and assess whether the petitioning company meets its requirements for the L-1 visa. 

  • Consular Processing

    -- The company sends the approved forms to the L-1 applicant who will then take them along with his or her application documents to the U.S. consulate or embassy in the home country. The consular officer there will conduct an interview and decide on whether the applicant meets the full requirements for an L-1 visa. In some cases, there might be a request for evidence (RFE) or other documents before the visa application is processed. But once the consulate approves the applicant, the USCIS will issue the visa. 

Required Documents for L-1 Visa Petition

  • Current passports

  • Recent passport size photograph

  • Approved Form DS-160

  • Original and photocopies of the consular interview appointment letter 

  • Receipt for payment of I-129 petition fee

  • Visa issuance fee demand draft

  • Resume or CV

  • Detailed job description of the applicant’s position at the foreign company

  • A detailed job description outlining the applicant’s job in the U.S.

  • General information for both the US company and the foreign company, including photographs of the locations

  • Proof of past work experience from previous employers

  • Certificates of training undertaken, degree 

  • Bank records for the past six months

Application through blanket petitions

An L-1 blanket visa petition essentially removes the need to file a separate petition for each individual L-1 visa applicant. As such qualified foreign companies can transfer several employees to the U.S. at once under a single petition and on short notice. 

The application process is somewhat similar, except in this case, the company need only send a copy of the L-1 blanket petition approval notice and the completed Form I-129S to the L-1 visa applicant. There is no need to wait for the USCIS adjudication process and the applicant can simply skip to the consular processing stage for the visa stamping 

You should note that an approved blanket petition does not automatically guarantee that the applicant is awarded an L-1 visa. The final decision still rests with the consular officer. 

What companies may file blanket L-1 petitions? 

The L-1 blanket visa procedure is only available to organizations that meet the following criteria:

  • Must have an office in the U.S. that has been in operation for no less than one year

  • Must be established enough to have at least three other branches, affiliates or subsidiaries across the globe

  • Must have a minimum of 1,000 employees

  • Must have combined annual revenue of at least 25 million dollars

  • Must have successfully been approved for at least 10 L-1 approvals within the 12 months before filing the blanket petition

  • They must also provide the following documents

  • Annual report and financials for the last three years

  • Company brochure or equivalent marketing material

  • Copy of lease for business premise

  • Evidence of qualifying employer with the U.S. company

  • A detailed organizational chart with a breakdown of the L-1 candidate’s role

  • A job offer letter detailing duties to be performed by the candidate while in the U.S.

L-1 Requests for Evidence

The USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if they find a discrepancy or inconsistency in an applicant’s petition, rather than deny the petition outright. This RFE typically involves situations where the petition is incomplete or the applicant didn’t provide sufficient information to support their application. For instance, if the USCIS officer is not satisfied that an L-1B visa applicant actually possesses special knowledge that is both unique and useful in the international market, they may issue an RFE. 

There is a relatively short window for responding to an RFE so if you receive one, you’ll want to act quickly. Consider also talking to your immigration attorney so you can better understand your options for responding to the RFE.

L-1 Visa Processing Time

This typically varies depending on the USCIS service center where the L-1 petition was submitted and the country from where the foreign national files their application. On average, the processing time for the I-129 petition can take about six months. The consular processing time could also take up to six months or even longer in the case of RFEs. 

Premium Processing

Under this system, the USCIS guarantees that it will process an application within 15 calendar days, instead of the expected six months. However, this does come with a fee of around $1,440 and does not guarantee that the visa will be issued. If the USCIS fails to process the application within 15 days, they will issue a full refund. 

L-1 Visa Costs

There are five main fees associated with the L-1 visa:

1. USCIS Filing Fee (Form I-129) - $460

This filing fee must be submitted along with the Form I-129 and is required for first time L-1 petitions, change of status to L-1 and applications for L-1 status extensions. Immediate family members filing for a change of status to L-2 or extending their L-2 status will need to file Form I-539, which comes with a filing fee of $370.

Important Note: Canadian citizens are not required to pay the usual filing fee for Form I-129 since they can apply for their L-1 status at the port of entry to the U.S. Instead, they’ll pay an $825 fee which covers the I-129 processing fee and the USCIS Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee. 

2. USCIS Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee - $500

The USCIS charges an additional fee to investigate fraudulent filings for initial L-1 petitions or if the applicant is filing for a change of employer. The U.S. employer is responsible for paying this fee. 

3. Visa Application Fee for Consular Processing- $190

Once the USCIS approves the Form I-129, the applicant will then proceed to the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country to apply for the L-1 visa. The applicant is responsible for paying the application fee. 

4. Premium Processing Fee (Optional) - $1440

There is no specific restriction as to who is responsible for paying this fee. 

5. Public Law 114-113 Fee - $4,500

This fee only applies to U.S. employers who have more than 50 employees with more than half of them being L-1 or H-1B visa holders. 

Other fees to consider

Business Entity Formation - Varies

This applies to petitioners looking to establish a new office in the United States and covers the costs of setting up a new company such as an LLC or a corporation.  The company making the L-1petition is responsible for this fee.

Immigration Lawyer Legal Fee - Varies 

Working with an immigration lawyer to prepare and file an L-1 petition can be a big help for the entire application process. The actual fee will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of work to be done and the experience level of the lawyer. Many immigration lawyers charge on an hourly rate or a flat fee basis (one-time fee). The latter is more ideal since hourly billing fees can quickly pile up and you might end up spending more on legal fees than expected. 

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L-1 Visa Extension

It is important to note that just because an L-1 visa is extendable doesn't always mean the USCIS will grant the extension. L-1 visa holders must first meet the following conditions to qualify for an extension:

  • Must hold a valid L-1 visa when filing for the extension

  • Must have a clean criminal record throughout their stay so far in the U.S.

  • Must have abided by all the conditions of their admission into the U.S. from the time the initial L-1 visa was issued

  • Must hold a valid passport for the remainder of their stay in the U.S.

Remember to file your L-1 visa extension at least 45 days before the scheduled expiration date so that there is enough time for the USCIS to process the request. 

Extension Process

Extending an L-1 visa is somewhat similar to the process of obtaining a new one. The U.S. employer will file Form i-129 with the USCIS and the L-1 visa holder will provide the required documents to support the application. These documents include: 

  • The previous L-1 approval notice

  • Evidence showing that the L-1 visa holder has been employed with the petitioning U.S. employer, such as payslips and IRS tax forms

  • Receipt for the filing fee 

  • Evidence showing that the company is still doing business in the United States, such as audited financial statements and recent tax returns

  • Any other documents deemed necessary by the USCIS

In the case of L-1 visas for establishing a new office in the U.S., the USCIS will evaluate the company’s operations for the past year and determine if they qualify for an L-1 status extension. 

Why the L-1 visa application might be denied

  • Inability to meet the minimum managed employees requirement.

    This mostly applies to L-1A visa candidates under managerial capacity. The USCIS expects managers to have a certain number of employees under their supervision. However, there is no fixed minimum of required supervised employees so the final decision will be at the discretion of the USCIS officer.

  • Proposed wages are not at par with industry standards.

    The USCIS may deny the petition if the L-1 candidate’s proposed salary is considerably lower or higher than industry standards. That’s why the petitioning company must make sure to check the industry-standard wages for each position before filing an L-1 petition.

  • The job title and the proposed duties don't match.

    This is one of the most common reasons for an L-1A petition denial. For example, an account executive or manager is applying for an L-1 visa to work for the company’s U.S. office, and his duties include working closely with customers and seeing to their concerns. His application would most likely be denied because, even though his title includes “executive” or “manager,” his job duties do not reflect his ability to oversee daily operations or influence the company’s decisions.

  • Work is not deemed specialized.

    It can be hard to prove to the USCIS that the L-1 candidate’s specialized knowledge is invaluable to the company and that a U.S. worker could not be found to handle the same tasks. Even if the employee meets the eligibility requirements, both the company and the L-1 visa applicant must provide sufficient documentation to support the application.

What can you do if your L-1 visa petition is denied?

If the L1 visa application is denied under section 221(g) for inadequate documentation, then the candidate must provide the additional documents as requested by the USCIS.

If the application is denied according to section 214(b) for insufficient information demonstrating the candidate’s ties to their home country and intention to return upon the expiry of their L1 visa, then provide any requested proof. This can be in the form of documented properties or assets back in the home country, family members and the financial capacity to visit the U.S. and return.

Unfortunately, the decision of the USCIS is final. There is no option to appeal, but you can always re-apply in the future or see if you qualify for an alternative visa. 

Possible alternatives to the L-1 visa

The only other nonimmigrant work visa directly comparable to the L1 is probably the H-1B (specialty occupation) visa. The E-2 Investor Visa may also be an alternative route for some professionals, although it requires the applicant to commit to investing a substantial amount in the United States. 

Other types of U.S. visas that you might wish to consider include:

  • B-1 Visa -- For persons who want to enter the U.S. for temporary work

  • E-1 Visa -- Similar to the E-2 Investor Visa but for traders who sell a substantial amount of goods in the U.S.

  • E-B5 Visa -- This is for investors who are willing and able to put at least $500,000 into a U.S. commercial enterprise.

  • E-B1 Visa -- This is for persons of extraordinary ability in their profession and outstanding researchers and professors.

L-1 Visa to Green Card

The L-1 visa offers one of the easiest ways to obtain permanent resident status, but the process typically depends on if you have an L-1A or L-1B visa.

L-1A Visa to Green Card

As an L-1A visa holder, the simplest way to obtain a green card is to adjust their visa status to the EB-1C immigrant visa. The requirements of the EB-1C green card are quite similar to those of the L-1A visa, in that they both cater to managers and executives of a qualifying U.S. organization. There’s also no need to go through the complex PERM labor certification process, which usually takes around eight months or more to obtain.

To apply for the green card, the U.S. employer must file an I-140 petition, Immigration Petition for Alien Worker with the USCIS on behalf of the L-1A visa holder. Once approved, the candidate can then file for an adjustment of status to permanent resident through I-485 form with the USCIS. If the candidate is outside the U.S. when the petition is approved, then they will have to go through consular processing to obtain their green card. 

The process can take around eight months to a year to complete so L-1 visa holders may want to consider applying for their green cards long before their visa is set to expire. 

L-1B Visa to Green Card

The most ideal green cards available to L-1B visa holders are the EB-2 and the EB-3 visas. The application process is pretty much the same, except the U.S. employer must first obtain a PERM labor certification before filing the  I-140 petition with the USCIS. This certification is issued by the U.S. Department of Labor and demonstrates that the green card applicant is not depriving qualified U.S. personnel of jobs and that the U.S. employer will pay the prevailing wage. After that, the rest of the process is the same as that of the L-1A visa -- wait for the application to be approved and file for an adjustment of status. 

Obtaining the PERM Labor Certification is the main limiting factor in the overall processing time since it can take around eight months to two years, especially in cases where the U.S. employer is subjected to an audit or supervised recruitment. The other petitions each have an average processing time of around six months, so the best-case scenario for obtaining a green card through the L-1B visa is at least one year and eight months. 

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L-2 Visa to Green Card

Since the L-2 visa is essentially dependent on the L-1 visa, holders are also eligible to apply for permanent residency. They may be included in the adjustment of status process at the same time as the L-1 visa holder’s green card application. However, they should make sure their L-2 status is still valid at the time of filing and should ideally be in the U.S. throughout the process.

Living in the U.S. with an L-1 visa

The L-1 visa offers an excellent opportunity to live and work in the United States. And while this guide aims to help you understand its many requirements, it’s equally important to know the next steps after receiving your approved L-1 visa.

For example, did you know that credit history doesn’t automatically transfer to the states after immigration? That means that U.S. companies and financial institutions will have no record of your previous financial history. In turn, that can make it very difficult to secure loans, secure an apartment lease, mobile phone companies, and other service providers.  

Nova Credit's Credit Passport® technology helps people bring their credit history with them when they move to the U.S. While this foreign credit history won’t be transferred to national bureau databases, Nova Credit partners with companies to include information from the Credit Passport® in applications to make it easier for newcomers to get approved for credit cards, loans and other products. Once you establish a U.S. credit account using the credit you’ve earned, you can start building a local credit history. Nova Credit currently connects to credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK.

The Takeaway

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for non-citizens.

Use your foreign credit history to start your U.S credit history

New to the U.S.? Check if you can use your country's credit history in the U.S. to apply for credit cards and start your U.S credit history using Nova Credit.

More from Nova Credit:

An overview of the L-1A visa for non-immigrant workers in the United States

A guide to the L-1B Visa for non-immigrant work in the United States

How to get an L-1 Visa extension

Everything you need to know about the L-2 Visa for L-1 dependents

L-1 vs. H-1B: Which work visa is right for you?

Everything You Need to Know About the Blanket Visa Petition for L-1 Visas

How to Transition From an L-1 Visa to an H-1B Visa

How to transition from an L-1 Visa to a Green Card

L-2 EAD: How to obtain work authorization for L-1 Visa Dependents

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