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L Visa Overview

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Introduction

An alien may be admitted to the United States in L1 (Intra-Company Transferee) status for the period of time required by the employer, up to a maximum initial period of stay of three years. The total period of stay may reach seven years for L1A managers and executives, and five years for L1B specialized knowledge personnel.  A special one year initial period of stay applies when the alien is coming to the United States to open a new office. In this case an extension must be filed in one year, and in the extension, the company must establish that it has been doing business both in the U.S. and abroad during the year, before additional periods of stay can be approved. At present, there is no annual cap on L-1 visas.  Spouses and unmarried dependent children (under the age of 21) of the L-1 holder may apply for L-2 status.

The following basic conditions must exist for the employee (alien) to obtain L-1 classification:

1)    The Employee Must Have Worked Abroad for the Overseas Company for a Continuous Period of One Year in the Preceding Three Years
The employee must have completed one continuous year of employment outside of the United States with the overseas company within the preceding three years, before he or she can be transferred to the related U.S. company. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look at the three years preceding the date of the petition to see whether the alien has spent the requisite continuous period of one year of employment abroad. Any time spent in the United States during that year does not bar the employee from being transferred, but that time cannot be counted toward fulfilling the one year abroad requirement. Thus, an alien who spent two months in the United States during the preceding year must have worked for the overseas company for at least fourteen months, at least twelve of which were outside of the United States. Each day in the United States during the preceding year adds one day to the total time that the alien must have been employed by the overseas company.

Part-time employment abroad:
  A year or more of part-time employment cannot be added up to meet the one year abroad requirement, unless the employee has worked part-time for each of several foreign affiliates of the U.S. company, and the total employment time equals full-time hours.

Intervening employment with unrelated foreign employer:
The regulations do not require that the alien's current foreign employer and the petitioner must be related entities, but rather that the alien must have worked for a qualifying related organization for one continuous year within three years preceding the application for admission to the United States.

Aggregation of employment abroad during the three year period:  After passage of the 1990 Act, the USCIS had originally indicated that it would permit L1 aliens to aggregate their time abroad during the preceding three year period to reach the one year requirement. The USCIS final rules, however, require that the one year period be continuous, indicating that the agency will not permit aggregation.

Alien in the United States in H1B status at time of filing the L1 petition: When an alien is already in the United States in H1B status for the same employer that is filing the L1 petition, the USCIS will look at the three year period before the alien's admission to the United States to determine L1 eligibility, even when the alien has been present in H1B status for three years or more.  However, the USCIS will only follow this procedure, if the H1B employer is related in a qualifying manner for L1 purposes to the foreign employer with which the alien was employed abroad.

2)    The Company for Which the Employee Has Worked for a Year Abroad Must Be Related to the U.S. Company in a Specific Manner.
The law states that the company abroad must be "the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate" of the U.S. company.  We will provide more details on the options, as we get further along in the process.

3)    The Sponsoring Company Must Be a Qualifying Organization-One That Is Doing Business in the United States and One Other Country During the Whole Period of the Transfer.
The "qualifying organization" concept arises from the USCIS concern that the L1 category will be used by owners of small businesses abroad who "transfer" themselves to the United States, in the process shutting down the foreign operation which can no longer function without their physical presence abroad. Under USCIS rules, the transferring company must continue to do business abroad during the entire period of the alien's stay in the United States as an L1 transferee. The overseas operation can be carried out in any of the acceptable corporate forms - parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office.

Definition of "doing business." "Doing business" means "the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services." It does not include the mere presence of an agent or office abroad, if no actual business is being conducted. USCIS policy requires that the organization must have employees and be providing goods or services on a regular basis.

Business form of the U.S. employer. In the past the USCIS has required in particular cases that the company in the U.S. and abroad be incorporated entities in order for them to be eligible for a transfer. Although no explicit new rule has been issued in this regard, the USCIS now holds as a matter of policy that any legal entity, including a proprietorship or a partnership, can be the employer involved in the transfer as long as the foreign and U.S. employers are related in the prescribed manner.  USCIS policy confirms that small organizations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships can be qualifying organizations.

4)    The Employee to Be Transferred Must Have Been Employed Abroad in an "Executive" or "Managerial" Position or a Position Involving "Specialized Knowledge".
The meaning of the terms "executive," "managerial," and "specialized knowledge" can also be quite complex.  The following discussion summarizes the law.

Specialized knowledge. The question of who qualifies as an employee with "specialized knowledge" has been a complex one for the USCIS to answer. After a number of changes in its view of specialized knowledge, the USCIS issued a new policy in October 1988, which substantially liberalized the concept. The practical impact has been that many more employees of large corporations have received approval of L1 petitions based on specialized knowledge.

The 1990 Act served as an endorsement of the October 1988 policy put into place by the USCIS. By putting the policy into the statute, the 1990 Act should eliminate the policy swings of the past, when liberal definitions of specialized knowledge were suddenly supplanted by narrow interpretations of that term. The new law should also eliminate any reference to the "proprietary nature" of the knowledge as a requirement for L1 classification.

The 1990 Act states that an alien is considered to be serving in a capacity involving specialized knowledge with respect to a company if the alien has:
i)    a special knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets, or
ii)    an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company.

Like the October 1988 policy, this definition should permit admission of specialized knowledge personnel who are specialists in the demands of overseas markets.  Since the definition also covers people who do not just have knowledge of the company’s product but have knowledge of processes and procedures of the company, the definition should cover most of the foreign specialists that the company needs to transfer to the United States. As with the USCIS policy, the new law's requirement that the employee have an "advanced level of knowledge" of company processes or procedures probably forecloses transfers involving aliens with a bare oneyear minimum prior experience with the employer.
The changes in the 1990 law should assure that the recent history of reasonable interpretations by the USCIS of "specialized knowledge" should continue, making the L1 category as useful as possible for international employers. The USCIS final regulations implementing the statutory definition does nothing more than repeat that definition; further elaboration on the definition apparently will be made by the USCIS on a case-by-case basis.

The Service policy on specialized knowledge is particularly useful for executives or managers coming to the United States to run a new U.S. office of a foreign employer. Although the transferee might not qualify as a manager or executive because the office is so small that there are no other employees or the transferee must perform the duties required to produce the company product or service, his or her placement in the new office is clearly based on the transferee's knowledge of the employer's product, procedures, and business operations. Therefore, the transferee meets the Service guidelines for specialized knowledge and can receive L1 classification. A number of cases of this type have been approved by the USCIS.
Restrictions on “outsourcing” of specialized knowledge employees:

The L-1B transferee may not be placed at a worksite other than the petitioner’s location if 1) the work being performed is being controlled and supervised by an employer other than the petitioner or 2) the work being performed is not related to specialized knowledge pertaining to the petitioning employer.

Executive

Employees in an "executive" capacity are those whose primary duties are to 1) direct the management of an organization or a major component of an organization or a function in the organization, 2) establish organizational goals and policies, exercise a wide latitude of discretionary decisionmaking, and 3) receive only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or shareholders of the company. An employee with a clearly executive title, such as "vice president," "controller," or the like, should generally not have a problem qualifying for this category, unless the size of the company is such that it is unlikely that the person would realistically be fulfilling executive functions. One indication of the latter situation is when the company's U.S. office is made up predominantly of persons with executive titles, and in fact the alien has only several persons below him or her on the company's personnel chart.

The USCIS will carefully scrutinize whether a transferee is an executive. Keep in mind two important criteria:

i)    The executive generally must supervise the work of other persons or a function. The addition of supervision of a function in the company as a basis for executive L1 status was made by the 1990 Act; previously it was difficult for executives who manage functions and have little subordinate staff to obtain L1 status. Note also that the new law bars decisions on executive capacity to be made exclusively on the basis of the number of employees supervised; If staffing levels are considered in making a determination, they must be considered in relation to the reasonable needs of the business and its stage of development. This latter directive should aid transfers for small and startup businesses. In one case, for example, the small number of subordinates did not bar L1 classification when the alien was clearly the top manager for the U.S. Company, with a high level of discretion and a salary commensurate with an executive's position.

ii)    The executive category does not include persons who are "primarily" performing the tasks necessary to produce the product or provide the service of the organization. Thus, in a service firm, a professional who performs the firm's work in addition to holding executive duties might not be classified as an executive.

Note that the definition included in the 1990 Act does not make reference to the prior regulations= requirement that the executive not be an employee who primarily performs the tasks necessary to produce the product or provide the services of the organization. This rule, requiring that executives spend a majority of their time in "executive" duties, had been a difficult rule to apply, because management studies show that most executives and managers continue to engage in the substantive work of their organizations and spend less than 50% of their time on narrowly defined management duties. The absence of this requirement in the new law's definition might have some bearing on the USCIS interpretation of executive capacity. In its final regulations implementing the definition, the USCIS merely followed the exact language included in the new law; it will apparently make determinations on this issue on a case-by-case basis.

Manager

A person filling a "managerial" position is one whose primary duties are to 1) direct the organization, a customarily recognized department, subdivision of the organization, or a function, 2) controls the work of other professional, supervisory, or managerial employees (unless he or she manages a function), 3) has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those actions as well as other personnel actions (unless he or she manages a function), and 4) exercise discretionary authority over daytoday operations.

The big change to this definition made by the 1990 Act is the addition of management of a function, without personnel responsibilities, as a basis for being classified as an L1 manager. The new law specifically bars the number of persons supervised as the sole basis for denying managerial status to an employee; if staffing levels are taken into account, they must be considered in relation to the reasonable needs of the business and its stage of development.

Specifically excluded from this category are first-line supervisors, unless the persons being supervised are themselves managerial or professional employees (e.g., typing pool manager or mechanic foreman unlikely to qualify). Also excluded, as described above for executives as well, are persons whose primary duties are to perform the tasks necessary to produce the product or provide the service of the organization. As noted above for executives, it is unclear whether the 1990 Act's definition will change the USCIS interpretation regarding a manager's "primary duties"; the USCIS will apparently make this determination on a case-by- case basis because the final rules merely restate the statutory definition.

NOTE:
A special definition of manager and executive applies when the transferee is coming to set up a new U.S. office, since it is clear that the company may have difficulty in establishing that the manager or executive is already supervising the work of others or is primarily engaged in managerial or executive duties.

5)     The Employee Must Be Coming to the U.S. Company to Fill One of These Capacities (Executive, Managerial, or Specialized Knowledge)
The employee does not have to fill the same capacity in the United States that he or she filled abroad. For example, a "specialized knowledge" employee abroad may be coming to the United States to fill a managerial position.

While L-1 transferees normally come to the United States on a full-time basis, it is permissible for them to come to the United States part-time, e.g., to oversee a U.S. affiliate while continuing to oversee a foreign-based affiliate. The State Department has advised consular officers that an   L-1 visa may be given when the alien will make brief and infrequent trips to the United States to oversee a U.S. operation. The L visa applicant must be employed by the company on a full-time basis but the alien does not have to be engaged on a full-time basis in the United States and may divide work between the United States and another country. As a result, an alien who is principally employed out of the United States and resides out of the United States may receive an L visa for the purpose of coming to work on a short-term basis.

6)    The Employee Must Be Qualified for the Position by Virtue of His or Her Prior Education and Experience

The USCIS requires that proof of the alien's qualification for the job be submitted with the L1 petition.

7)     The L1 Alien Must Intend to Depart the United States upon Completion of His or Her Authorized Stay (Including Extensions), but May Also Pursue Permanent Residence at the Same Time

For most companies, a simple affirmation that the transferee temporarily will depart the United States upon completion of his or her authorized stay is sufficient. However, when the transferee is also an owner/operator of the company, the papers must be accompanied by evidence that the employee will not remain indefinitely or permanently in this country.

Based on changes made by the 1990 Act, the filing of permanent residence papers by the L1 alien is no longer considered in determining whether an L1 petition will be approved, whether an L1 visa will be issued, or whether an L1 extension will be granted. This change is particularly beneficial with regard to issuance of L1 visas, because many consulates in the past scrutinized closely the nonimmigrant intent of the L1 alien, and issuance of an L1 visa after the filing of permanent residence papers was almost impossible at those consulates.

Rajiv S. Khanna says:
Date Posted : 12-03-2013

L1B to H1B to L1B

I have L1B petition/visa with Employer-A valid until Oct, 2015. This year Employer-B has filed H1B COS petition for me in 2013 quota (I paid $3,500 for H1B processing fee thru check), which was approved in Jun, 2013 and effective from 1st October, 2013.
I was not aware of change of status until 2nd October, my employer asked me to find job, which took me almost until 15th November. For this time period, my H1B employer has not paid me any salary and I was working with my L1B employer.

Though, I got one offer thru H1B employer, I wanted to continue working with L1B employers as he has offere

L1B to H1B to L1B

I am not sure what you are asking me. Why dont you cann in to he free community conference call next week http://www.immigration.com/community-calls<

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L-1 and starting a H-1B petition

Hi

Presently i am working on L1(1-nov-2012 to 31-mar-2015).

I had H1B petition validity 10/1/2008 to 09/28/2011.

I haven't visited US consulate due to my family&personal problems (i.e. i had not utilised the visa)..

1) Shall my h1b can be extended through same employer or Shall I open the h1b petition from other employer also.

2).What is the procedure need to follow.

L-1 and starting a H-1B petition

Pasha, you will be exempt from the H-1 quota and should be able to apply through any employer. Your lawyers can work out the logistics.

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L-1A Validity after leaving company

Hi Rajiv,
I have been with a manager in a US Multinational for over 10 years, half in US on H1b and other half in Qatar but now they have made my job redundant and I can't reapply in the company for 6 months. If I find a job in the US after that as a manager, can they apply for an L-1A for me or will it be H1-b?

L-1A Validity after leaving company

This can get a little complicated, Norman. They can certainly apply for L-1A, as long as you have one year of managerial experience OUTSIDE the USA within the last three years with a related company.

Note: Not intended to create attorney-client relationship.  Answers could be incomplete, incorrect or outdated.  Use caution.

Applying for L1A or B?

Hi Rajiv,
I have been employed by a major US IT company, with their HQ in, California. I originally joined them on an H1-b in 2000 which expired after 6 years so I transferred internally to their office in Dubai in 2006, where I grew up (Pakistani by birth only). I got married and now have a 2 year old. Recently, the company offered me a job to move back to San Jose as an engineer after 7 years working as a manager in Dubai. I wish to pursue a Green card ASAP. Since there is a CAP on H1B now, I have a few questions:

1. Do I comply for the L1 visa?
2. Can I apply for L1A visa or L1B?

Thanks!

Applying for L1A or B?

L-1A is only for executive or managerial employees. That is the best visa for you, if such a job can be made available.

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L-1A

Thanks. If I join another company (US IT multinational) here in Dubai, can they apply for an L-1A should there be a manager role in the US available now?

L-1A

Ali, I do not understand your question. You have to work for the new employer outside the USA for at least one year.

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L1A Individual Petition

Hi Rajiv,

I was employed with Company X in India from Jan 2010 to Dec 13, 2011. I left this job and joined Company Y, India from December 19, 2011. I now have a job offer with the US Firm of Co. X and they did a Blanket L-1 for me based on 1 year of 3 years rule. Unfortunately, the Visa officer refused the Visa and issued 221(g). Now, Company X wishes to file L-1 Individual with USCIS(Prem Proc), but my qualifying period ends on Dec 13, 2013 (3 years). Qn is-Should the petition be approved before this date for sure or is there some grace period? Even if approved, can the VO object this?

L1A Individual Petition

I will have to look at the regs for the exact language on when the 3-year trigger gets pulled. As I recall the regs talk about the "time of application for admission." That could go either way. This will have to be researched.

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Possible firing while on L1B

Hi Rajiv,

I just started work 2 months ago on an L1B visa. My spouse is on an L2 visa, has her EAD, and is about to commence employment with another company. Our company is now undergoing severe downsizing, and I've been told I may be 'let go' - within 4-5 months.

1) Can my wife keep her job by switching to an H1B?
2) If yes, does she have to go through the H1B application & lottery process?
3) For me, if I get fired in May next year, will that more-or-less rule out getting an H1B for 2014?

Thanks a lot for your help, as always.

Possible firing while on L1B

1. Theoretically, yes.
2. Yes.
3. Usually, the quota is over within the first month of April.

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Question related to L1-B Visa

Hi Rajiv,

I am working in USA on a L-1B Visa. I plan to resign from my company in the near future. Do I get any time (say 5-10 days) to leave USA after being relieved from my company or Do I have to leave before being relieved from the company?

Thank You,
Parth

Question related to L1-B Visa

Parth, there is no grace period, but you can apply for B status. I have a bunch of blog entries that will help you understand.

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L Visa

Hi Rajiv...I have a job offer from my current employer, involving a move from the UK to the US. I have been with the company 9 months and am in a holding pattern until the full year is completed.

I am a project manager running multiple consecutive large projects (each greater than $1m US). I have a global team of resources who report to me and who's work I direct for the completion of the projects. I do not manage them on a day to day basis.

The field is also reasonably specialised. I would welcome advice on whether the application should be for an L1 or L2 visa?

Many thanks...David

L Visa

Shoot for L-1A (if you lawyers feel that is the way to go), David. Two major advantages of L-1A over L-1B are: faster and easier green card and longer term.

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Resigning under an L1 visa

Hi

I have a couple of questions which I think I know the answers to but would like to confirm:

1. I am currently on an L-1 visa but am thinking of resigning my job. I have an Australian passport, so if I was to do so could I just change my status to the Visa Waiver Program or would I need to physically exit and re-enter the country?

2. If I subsequently wish to stay longer than 90 days under the visa waiver program, am I able to simply exit and re-enter the country to restart the 90 day period?

Thank you

Resigning under an L1 visa

1. You will have to exit and reenter OR apply for a change of status to USCIS.
2. This is not guaranteed to work. CBP can decline second entry if they wish.

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L1 Application /Change of Status ( L2 to L1)

In continuation:. What is the best option for me to continue to stay and work in US (beyond Feb-14 or Jun-14). I assume it is L1 given H1 cap is exhausted?
3. If L1 is the way to go: should I go for an L1A or L1B? I am in the middle management of a huge conglomerate and don’t report directly to the board or management committee?
4. How can I determine if my company is eligible to file a blanket petition? Is there a list of pre-approved companies available?
5. If I request for a change of status from L2 to L1 in May 2014 and I go out of status after filing but before approval,can I still stay?

L1 Application /Change of Status ( L2 to L1)

Join the next free community conference call.

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L1 visa application / Change of status - L2 to L1

Hi Rajiv, Currently, my husband is on an L1 visa. His visa and I-94 are valid till 1-Jun -2014, but he will likely return to India in Feb 2014. I am on an L2 visa with EAD . My L2 visa, I-94 and EAD are valid till 1-Jun 2014. I have been working for the same employer from June 2010- Dec 2012 in India and from April 2013 onwards in US
My queries:
1. Once my husband leaves US in Feb 2014,
(a) Is my EAD still valid? Can I continue to work legally in US?
(b) If my EAD is not valid, can I continue to stay in US legally (and not work)?

L1 visa application / Change of status - L2 to L1

Meera, if the L-1 holder leaves, L-2 can neither work nor stay in the USA.

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Question on renewal of L-1A visa

Hi Rajiv,
Please review the following scenario and provide advise?
My L-1A visa expired 10/4/2013. L-1A Visa renewal (premium processing) (form I-129) was initially filed by my employer on 09/25/2013. Legal team did not sent it to the correct service center and the application was returned on 10/8/2013 . Resubmitted the application on 10/8/2013. EReceipt from USCIS had received date mentioned as 10/08/2013 .
I94 was also 10/4/2013 . I-129 was initially submitted on 09/25. Am I in danger of being considered out of status between 10/4 & 10/8 .What are my chances of renewal under this scenario

Question on renewal of L-1A visa

You are out of status, unlawfully present and not authorized to work if your extension filing was received by USCIS after the expiration of current status. Unless USCIS "forgives" the gap, you could have a serious problem after 180 days of I-94 expiration. You need to discuss the details with your lawyers, Kishore ji. They can suggest good solutions usually. In the worst case scenario, you will have to step outside the USA for a new visa stamping.

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L1 visa initial for IT biz co-owner

Hello Rajiv,

I'm co-owner(50%) of IT business in Eastern Europe. We employ about 15 ppl and would like to open US office and operations. I'm going to open US company and office and file for L1A. My question is: as a major stockholder what are my chances to get extension in the case of initial approval? My final goal is to get a greencard. Do you have any stats as of chances for owners to get extension?

L1 visa initial for IT biz co-owner

Hi Eugene. Chances of extension would depend upon the stability/size of the US operation and other factors. For green card, the US company must have been operational for at least one year.

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L-1 Visa

Hi Mr. Rajiv Khanna

We have foreign company and I worked for that company for 1 year. Now, company wants to open a new branch and going to lease office in US. But, the business will be different then original business. And company is ready to send me there for executive position. Is this possible or viable to get L1?

Looking forward to your reply.

L-1 Visa

L-1 does NOT require that the two businesses should be the same or even similar.

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Revival of L1 belonging to previous Company

I work for company A and am currently in USA on L1A. I also have L1 stamped for company B which was given to me 10 years back and was given for 1 year (2003-2004). Will it be possible for me to switch my job to Company B and get the old L1 extended?

Revival of L1 belonging to previous Company

I doubt that very much. Unless the two companies are related, there is no way you can go past the last three years.

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L1A for small Indian business

I have a small business in India with about 10 employees. I want to start an American branch. I'm currently on L2, what are my chances of geting an L1A?

L1A for small Indian business

Slim, but not impossible.

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L1A for small Indian business

Will that be a COS? If so, normally how long does it take to get approval for COS.

L1A for small Indian business

You can go for COS. Go premium processing.

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My company filed L1B to L1A

My company filed L1B to L1A conversion on June 19th, It is still in "Initial Review", When can i expect the decision? What is the percentage of possibility of getting approved?

Thaks

My company filed L1B to L1A

Ram, general times are listed on USCIS web site. I do not know the case, so there is no way for me to predict the chances of success. By the way, if you are anxious for an earlier decision, you can have the company "premium" the pending case.

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L2 EAD to H1/Green Card

Hello Rajiv - Nice to come across such a forum that answers common questions from common people! So here is my question: Requesting your help.
I work for an Indian IT Major and might travel on L1 to the US. My husband will accompany me on L2 and can work there after getting an EAD. Is this assumption right? Will there be any challeges in getting an EAD for a person who has accompanied his wife and was working back in India but quit?
The second part of my question is, Can L2 EAD be at some point converted to H1 or green Card? If so what are the possibilities, guidelines etc.
Appreciate U r help

L2 EAD to H1/Green Card

Aparna ji, he CAN work on EAD (pretty easy) and he CAN convert to H-1/green card.

Note: Not intended to create attorney-client relationship.  Answers could be incomplete, incorrect or outdated.  Use caution.

Applying for L2 visa

Hi Rajiv Sir,

My H1B visa has been filed and my name was there in Lottery so hopefully my visa stamping will be done in October or November. I got married last month and my husband in US on L1 visa. I want to apply for L2 visa and join him . Now my questions is that if i go for L2 visa, would there be any impact on my H1B application?
I want to travel on L2 visa now and after 6 months i will come back from US for H1B stamping and would travel back to US on H1B visa. Is it possible or advisable? Please help.

Applying for L2 visa

Please call me Rajiv. We can drop the "sir." I think you need some guidance. Join me in our next free community conference call. I will explain. In a nutshell, you will NOT lose your place in the H-1 lottery if you come on L-2, but you will have to go for H-1 visa stamping or COS.

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Applying for L2 visa

Hey Rajiv, I have joined call at 12:30PM EST but noone was there in that call. Can you please let me know the schedule of next meeting.

Applying for L2 visa

Next call is July 18: http://www.immigration.com/community-conference-calls-procedure<

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B1 into L1 into Greencard

Hi,
Your page is really informative.
I travel a lot to USA on B1/B2 as visiting my US based customers. My company currently makes and exports Textile goods to USA.
I wish to set up a office in USA as well, and wish to import my own goods into USA and sell them as well.
Would this qualify me into a L1 category which will eventually convert into Green Card as well?
My Pakistan based company can come into small/medium size.
What are my chances of success in terms of getting L1 and eventually greencard/permanent residency.
Much obliged if you can get back to me at your earliest. Thanks in advance.

B1 into L1 into Greencard

I recommend almost never to convert from B to any other visa. Log in to our next free community conference. I will explain the rest.

Note: Not intended to create attorney-client relationship.  Answers could be incomplete, incorrect or outdated.  Use caution.

Nonimmigrant Visas
Green Cards
Common Topics
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