For multinational employers who are looking to transfer their high-ranking employees to branches and offices to the U.S., there simply is no better visa class than the L1 visa. However, many companies of that caliber run along well-defined lines. The sporadic and flexible methods of immigration law may not fit well into those lines. If you are wondering what you can account for when it comes to the L1 processing time, then you’ve come to the right place.
What is the L1 Visa Processing Time?
Before we can know what the overall processing time is, we must first break down what each step of the L1 visa process entails. Fortunately, the L1 process is relatively simple compared to some of the other visa classes. Here are the steps:
- Firstly, if you are a foreign professional working for a multinational company, you need to have been working at that company as either an executive, manager, or employee with specialized knowledge for at least one year in the three years leading up to your L1 visa petition. Your employer will be responsible for the fees that go along with your petition.
- If you fulfill the above requirement, then your employer can file an I-129 petition on your behalf with the USCIS. Each service center has a varying workload that will have an impact on the L1 processing time of your petition. On the whole, the average processing time is around six months.
- Once your petition is approved, you will need to go through consular processing if you are currently outside of the U.S. This involves going to a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country to go through an interview with a consular officer and apply for your visa. Visit the consular website for more information about your specific consulate L1 visa processing time.
It is important to note that the L-1A visa for executives and managers and the L-1B visa for employees with specialized knowledge both require the I-129 petition. Therefore there will be no difference between the L1 visa processing time for each subcategory.
All in all, the entire L1 process can take between six months to one year depending on the consulate or embassy that you visit for your interview and application.
Can Premium Processing Help?
Fortunately, the USCIS provides a special service called premium processing that reduces the usual six-month processing time for I-129 petitions to a mere 15 calendar days for an additional fee of $1,225. If the USCIS fails to process your petition in that time, then your employer will be refunded the premium processing fee.
The USCIS recently announced that it would be suspending premium processing for all H1B visas for up to six months. However, this does not apply to L1 visa petitions. As of this post, premium processing will continue to be available for all I-129 forms filed for L1 visas.
USCIS Request for Evidence
If the USCIS finds a discrepancy or an inconsistency in your information, then they may send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) rather than an outright denial. While receiving an RFE means that your L1 processing time will be delayed, it can be viewed as an opportunity to clarify your case with the USCIS.
The first step is to consult with your immigration attorney. If you have been going it alone thus far, then you will need an expert’s help now more than ever. Work with your attorney to analyze the USCIS’s RFE and determine what the best strategy would be to address each issue brought up.
Here are some common reasons for why the USCIS might issue you, the employer, an RFE:
- You did not submit an L1 business plan to the USCIS with your petition detailing the structure of your company and your growth projections for the future.
- The managerial or executive position that you described does not match the normal duties typical to those positions in your industry.
- The L-1B employee does not seem to possess enough specialized knowledge of the company’s operations to warrant a visa.
- Your company seems unable to financially support a new office or you seem otherwise unable to properly compensate the L1 employee.
L1 Extension Processing Time
An L1 visa is initially valid for a period of 3 years. After that, an L-1A visa holder is eligible for an extension for a total of 7 years while an L-1B visa holder can be extended to a maximum of 5 years.
To get this extension, you essentially need to re-petition for an L1 visa. This means that you will need to wait through the normal L1 visa processing time if you does not opt for premium processing.
If you have elected to spend some time overseas during your L1 visa validation period, you may be able to recapture that time and use it to extend your L1 visa further than the maximum. All you would need to do this is official proof that you left the country such as boarding passes or plane tickets.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?
Fortunately, the L1 visa is a “dual intent” visa, meaning that holders are permitted to seek permanent resident status as a nonimmigrant. To do this, your employer must file an I-140 petition with the USCIS. Once that is done, you will need to wait until your priority date (the date that the USCIS received your petition) is current with the final action dates posted by the Department of State in their monthly visa bulletin.
Here is where having an L-1A visa provides a significant advantage. Because the L-1A is for managers and executives, it readily translates to the qualifications necessary for an EB-1C green card. Where other green card preference categories can sometimes have a processing time of several years, the EB-1C falls under the first preference, which has current priority dates across the board.
If you are an L-1B holder, you may fall into the second or third preference levels, which could have significantly longer wait times.
Take a look at this graph from our April 2017 visa bulletin post.
Once your I-140 petition is approved, your priority date will be current and you will be able to submit an I-485 form to have your status adjusted from nonimmigrant L1 status to your new lawful permanent residency under a green card.
It is important to note that you can use the premium processing service for all I-140 petitions as well, shortening the usual six-month L1 to green card processing time to 15 calendar days. However, the I-485 processing time is generally between six to eight months and this form cannot be expedited by premium processing.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
With a process as complex as filing for an L1 visa, there is always the possibility that mistakes could cause unnecessary delays and complications in your L1 visa processing time. To avoid these delays, it is always best to retain the services of a qualified immigration attorney before starting your L1 visa journey.
Our experienced attorneys have a long track record of helping employers and individuals alike obtain nonimmigrant work visas, specifically L1 and H1B visas. If you would like to get in touch with our office about your L1 visa processing time, just fill out this simple contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers.