Changing the status from L-1A to permanent resident status
US Immigration Question:
My husband is a manager with a Japanese company located in Los Angeles in L-1A status. The company agreed to sponsor for our green cards 2 months ago, and they filed the petition. How long does it take before I can work legally in the US? Tell me about the green card and work card processes.
STEP 1: THE INS GREEN CARD PETITION
The first step, which usually takes about 2 months for INS processing, 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 question indicates that you are waiting for your "labor certificate." Please note that labor certification is NOT required for L-1A managers. Labor certification is the lengthy process most workers (for example, sushi chefs) need to go through prior to submitting an INS green card petition.
STEP 2: 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 apply for your green cards in the US through a process called "adjustment of status." Most applicants under this category will no longer be required to attend a green card interview. The average processing time is 5 to 7 months.
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 6 weeks. Once you receive the card you can start to work. During the time your adjustment of status application is pending you and your family are also able to travel internationally for any reason if you request an "advance parole" document from the INS. This too is processed by mail. The average processing time in California is 2 to 4 weeks.
STEP 3: OBTAINING THE GREEN CARD
Once the INS approves the green card adjustment of status application (Step 2) each applicant will be required to go down to the downtown INS building at 300 North Los Angeles Street to sign the green card and get fingerprinted in front of an INS officer. No interview is conducted since your application has already been approved. There is a special attorney window that allows applicants represented by attorneys to get processed within about 1 hour. This window is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to about 10 a.m.