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Change of Status from L-1A to Green Card

US Immigration Question:I have been working on an L-1A visa for the past 5 years and am considering applying for a green card. Can you please discuss the process.

STEP 1: The immigrant petition

The first step, which is currently taking about 10 months for INS processing, is substantially similar to applying for an L-1A visa or visa extension. If you qualified for an L-1A as a manager or executive, absent gross error on the original L-1A visa, your petition should be approved. During this process you must maintain valid nonimmigrant status.

STEP 2: Applying for the green card for yourself, your spouse, and children under 21 years old. Since you are already in the United States, you and your family members could apply for your green cards here. Most applicants under this category will no longer be required to attend a green card interview if the case is processed in the United States. The average processing time is taking up to 2 years. During this time you are able to apply for an international travel document and work card for you and your family members.

Given the fact that the processing time in the United States takes a long time, many people will decide to have their green card interview at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. This process takes about 4 months to set up after STEP 1 is approved by the INS. It is important to maintain your nonimmigrant worker status (L-1A) until you have your green card interview in Tokyo.

You and your family members will receive an interview date notice from the Embassy. A few days before that date you should return to Japan and obtain the required medical interview from a special list of doctors certified by the US Embassy. Usually, on the day of the interview you will receive a green card visa which permits you to enter the US as a legal permanent resident.

When you return to the US the INS will process you for green cards at the airport and send you a plastic green card in the mail within a few months. The INS will stamp a temporary 1 year green card into your passport when you
enter the US.

Two other reasons to consider having your green card interview in Tokyo are as follows:

  1. you have children who are about to turn 21 years old, and
  2. the possibility of mergers and acquisitions involving the US corporation sponsoring you for your green card.

It is important to discuss this issues with your attorney so that proper planning can be done.