Green Card Application for
Q. I am a manager of a Japanese company in LA with an L-1A visa. How long does it take to get a green card these days, and when can my wife and children start working in the US? Also, our oldest son is about to turn 21. What will happen with his application?
A. After the US employer/company has been doing business in the US for at least one year, the company is able to sponsor L-1A employees for green cards.
STEP 1: THE INS GREEN CARD PETITION
The first step is substantially similar to applying for an L-1A visa. If you qualified for an L-1A visa as a manager or executive, absent gross error on the original L-1A visa, your petition should be approved. Your employer in the US needs to file an immigrant visa petition with the INS. As of early October 1999 the California Service Center was currently processing such applications it received in late October 1998. The INS headquarters in Washington D.C. is concerned with the delays in processing this type of case, and on March 18, 1999 ordered the California Service Center to try to get the processing time down to 60 days, but that still has not happened.
STEP 2: OBTAINING THE GREEN CARD
OPTION 1: ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES
Once step 1 is approved, an L-1A manager and his/her family members
(spouse and unmarried children under 21) can usually apply for green
cards in the US
During this step your family members are able to apply for temporary working cards. The working card is processed by mail, thus requiring no interview. The average processing time in California is 2 to 3 months.
During the time your adjustment of status application is pending you and your family are also able to travel internationally for any reason. You need to request an "advance parole" document before you travel. This too is processed by mail. The average processing time in California is 45 days.
OPTION 2: GREEN CARD INTERVIEW IN JAPAN
Your question mentions that you have a son who is about to turn 21 years old. It is important for your son to receive his green card before he turns 21, otherwise he will lose the right to get his green card. Unfortunately the INS will not "expedite" the green card petition (step 1). It does have an expedite procedure for "adjustment of status" (step 2), but I prefer to send my clients back to Japan for a green card interview whenever there is a potential "age out" situation (child turning 21 years old). The US Embassy in Tokyo is much more organized and helpful in such situations. If you think that you might want to expedite the case it is important to do some planning, and put the Embassy on notice of your situation.