Navigating the L1 Visa to Green Card Process


If you hold an L1 visa and want to make the United States your permanent home, here’s how to transition to a green card. The process varies for executives and managers on an L1A visa compared to specialized knowledge professionals on an L1B visa. This article outlines the steps you’ll need to take, from fulfilling eligibility requirements to completing the application process, and provides tips to streamline your journey from L1 visa to green card status.

Key Takeaways

  • The L1 visa is for international company transfers but doesn’t guarantee a green card—you need a separate application process based on your job role (L1A for managers/executives, L1B for specialized knowledge workers).
  • L1A visa holders have a direct green card path via the EB-1C category without labor certification, while L1B visa holders need PERM Labor Certification for EB-2 or EB-3 categories, making the process longer.
  • L1 visas have dual intent, allowing holders to apply for green cards without conflict of interest, and the final stage of the process is known as Adjustment of Status

Mapping the L1 Visa to Green Card Journey

The L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa primarily for foreign company employees transferring to a related U.S. company. Roles eligible for this nonimmigrant visa include managers, executives, or specialized knowledge workers, with an initial stay duration of up to 3 years and the possibility for extensions. However, the L1 visa doesn’t automatically lead to a green card. In order to transition from an L1 visa to a green card, visa holders need to apply for and receive approval for an immigrant visa classification. This process involves meeting specific eligibility criteria and adhering to the application requirements.

This journey might sound daunting, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a smooth and manageable process. This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the entire process, helping you navigate the various stages from L1 visa status to obtaining a green card.

The L1 Visa Breakdown: Categories and Criteria

Before we delve into the green card process, it’s essential to understand the two types of L1 visas: L-1A and L-1B. These categories depend on your role within the company and significantly impact your journey towards permanent residency.

L-1A Visa: For Managers and Executives

The L-1A visa is designated for managers or executives. This visa category is typically granted for an initial period of three years, with the possibility for extensions. This means that if you’re in a managerial or executive position, you could potentially stay in the U.S. for up to seven years on your L-1A visa. However, after these seven years, you’ll need to transition to a different status, which is often a green card.

This transition is where things get interesting. For L-1A visa holders, the EB-1C green card category typically offers a more efficient and financially less risky pathway to permanent residency. We’ll delve deeper into this later, but for now, it’s essential to note that your role as a manager or executive plays a vital part in your journey from L-1A visa to green card.

L-1B Visa: Specialized Knowledge Worker

The L-1B visa is designed specifically for foreign workers with specialized knowledge, such as an in-depth understanding of the company’s products or processes. To qualify for this visa, you must have been employed full-time for at least one year within the three years preceding the petition and be transferring within a company that has a qualified relationship like a parent/subsidiary, branch, or affiliate.

Navigating the transition process from an L-1B visa to a green card can be a bit more complex. This is primarily due to the additional requirement of an approved PERM Labor Certification, which we’ll discuss further later. However, L-1B visa holders may also explore the EB-2 visa category with a national interest waiver as an alternative pathway to a green card, which does not require labor certification. Obtaining an NIW is very difficult as you have to prove your skillset is of national importance.

The Dual Intent of the L1 Visa

A key characteristic of the L1 visa is its dual intent nature, often referred to as a dual intent visa. This means that as an L1 visa holder, you’re allowed to legally intend to immigrate to the United States while retaining your temporary worker status. This is a significant advantage as it acknowledges the possibility that you may apply for a green card while working on your non-immigrant visa, without any conflict of intent.

In other words, you can legally apply for a green card following your arrival in the United States on an L1 visa. This is crucial as it eliminates the need for you to maintain a residence abroad, a requirement for many other non-immigrant visas, and allows you to pursue permanent residency without jeopardizing your existing visa status.

Eligibility and Process for L1 Visa Holders Seeking Green Cards

To transition from an L1 visa to a green card, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements and follow specific procedures. This includes full-time continuous work for one year in the past three years in a managerial, executive position (L1A), or providing specialized skills or knowledge (L1B).

It’s also important that your sponsoring employer has a qualifying relationship with foreign companies, including a foreign company with the ability to do business in the U.S. and another country directly or through a subsidiary. Additionally, L1B visa holders with exceptional ability in their field or whose employment in the United States would greatly benefit the nation may consider the National Interest Waiver as part of the EB-2 visa category, offering a pathway to obtain a green card without the need for employer sponsorship.

EB-1C: Direct Path for L-1A Visa Holders

As mentioned earlier, the EB-1C immigrant visa category provides a direct path for L-1A visa holders to obtain a green card. This category is ideal for multinational managers or executives as it offers a more efficient pathway to permanent residency than an investment based immigrant visa, such as the EB-5 visa or other slower options, like the H1B or L1B visa.

To qualify for the EB-1C green card, you must have been employed abroad in a managerial or executive capacity for at least one year, and the U.S. company you’re transferring to must have been active for at least one year. This pathway is particularly advantageous given its directness and the fact that it bypasses the labor certification process required for other employment-based green card categories.

PERM Labor Certification: A Step for L-1B Visa Holders

For L-1B visa holders, the journey towards a green card typically involves the EB-2 or EB-3 visa categories, which require an approved labor certification, also known as PERM Labor Certification. This certification is proof that no suitable U.S. workers are available for the job you’re being sponsored for.

Obtaining this labor certification requires your U.S. employer to demonstrate that they have conducted recruitment efforts, are offering a full-time permanent position at the prevailing wage, and have the financial ability to pay the offered wage. This process can extend the green card application process by about eight months, with the possibility of stretching up to two years in cases of audits or supervised recruitment.

Thus, the first step for an L-1B visa holder seeking an EB-2 or EB-3 green card is to have their current U.S. employer agree to sponsor their green card application.

Adjustment of Status

Once you’ve navigated the initial stages of the green card process, you’ll be ready to file an Adjustment of Status. Adjustment of Status involves applying for a green card without leaving the U.S. To qualify, you must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S., be eligible for an immigrant visa, and not be inadmissible. This process also includes biometric registration and is common among individuals who entered on temporary visas.

The timing of when the AOS can be filed depends on whether there is a backlog in your category or not. For example, if you are born in India and filing in any category – EB1, EB2 or EB3, you have to wait until your priority date is current to file the Adjustment of Status (I-485) application. If there is no backlog, you may file your I-140 petition at the same time as your I-485 petition (Adjustment of Status). This is known as a concurrent filing. The State Department publishes priority dates by employment category in its monthly visa bulletin. More on timelines below.

If you are outside the U.S., you would go through consular processing to get your immigrant visa (for travel to live permanently in the U.S.). This simply means you apply via the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

Processing time

So, how long does this entire journey take?

For L-1A visa holders, processing time and issuance of the EB-1 permanent residence card can take anywhere from 7-12 months if you are not born in India or China. If you are born in India or China, the overall process is much longer. There is a 7% cap on the number of green cards that can be issued to any one country every year and this creates a backlog for countries like India. For those born in India, you’re looking at roughly 6 years (which is still far better than the timeline that H1B visa holders face in the EB2 or EB3 categories).

L-1B visa holders, on the other hand, can expect the entire process to span a minimum of one year and eight months, primarily due to the additional requirement of the PERM Labor Certification. However, premium processing can expedite the timeline significantly, reducing processing times to 15-45 calendar days where applicable, and can scale down certain green card processing times from 6 months to just 15 days. This timeline is only applicable to those with a current priority date (countries with no backlog). Please note timelines shift constantly and an immigration lawyer can provide more recent estimates based on their recent approvals.

As the green card process for L1B visa holders falls under the EB2 or EB3 employment categories, the backlogs for professionals born in India is much longer. The entire process can take decades. At the time this article was written, applications with priority dates from 2012 were being processed (the backlog does not clear in a linear fashion).

Legal Assistance Throughout Your Transition

While this guide provides a comprehensive overview of the transition from an L1 visa to a green card, the complexity of the process makes the services of immigration lawyers necessary. Firms that sponsor L1 visas typically hire immigration attorneys to take care of the permanent residence process.

Not only do legal experts ensure all necessary USCIS procedures are correctly followed, but they also keep you updated on your application status and any changes in immigration law. The cost of the attorney (and application fees) is usually footed by the multinational company. Professional immigration services significantly streamline the process and improve the likelihood of a successful outcome.


Navigating the transition from an L1 visa to a green card can be a daunting process, filled with complex procedures and legal intricacies. However, with the right knowledge, meticulous planning, and professional guidance, this journey can be successfully navigated. Remember, every successful journey begins with a single step, and with this guide, you’ve already taken the first step towards your green card.

*The content and materials available via Path to Canada are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an L1 visa?

An L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for foreign company employees transferring to a related U.S. company, typically for managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge roles.

What is the difference between an L-1A and L-1B visa?

The L-1A visa is for managers or executives, while the L-1B visa is for specialized knowledge workers. This means the L-1A visa is for those in management roles, while the L-1B visa is for individuals with specialized knowledge.

What is the dual intent nature of the L1 visa?

The L1 visa has a dual intent nature, which means holders can legally intend to immigrate to the United States while in temporary worker status, allowing them to apply for a green card without jeopardizing their visa status.

What is the role of employer sponsorship in the green card application process?

Employer sponsorship is crucial for the green card application process, as your U.S. employer must be willing to sponsor your application and demonstrate a qualifying relationship with a foreign company. This is essential for obtaining a green card.

How long does it take to transition from an L1 visa to a green card?

It can take 7-12 months on average to transition from an L1 visa to a green card, but there can be variations based on your country of birth. The process and timelines also vary for L-1A and L-1B visa holders. *The content and materials available via Path to Canada are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice

*The content and materials available via Path to Canada are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice

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