How to Upgrade a L1B Visa to a L1A

Businesswoman arrives in the US on work visa
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L1-class visas are for international intracompany transferees. To apply for a change of status from L1B to L1A, your employer must petition your case to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your initial L1B visa expires. L1 visas are divided into two categories: L1A for manager and executive transferees and L1B for specialized knowledge workers. The advantage of L1A over L1B is the duration of the visa; the first has a possible duration of seven years, while the latter lasts only five years.

Qualify for Change of Status

In order to qualify as an L1A visa holder, you must be able to prove that you have upgraded to a managerial or executive role in your company. The exact qualifications for this are somewhat arbitrary as the term “manager” or “executive” does not necessarily in and of itself qualify you for an L1A. Each case is looked at individually by a USCIS officer to determine eligibility based on facts concerning the new position submitted by your employer.

Ask Employer for Sponsorship

You cannot change your nonimmigrant worker status on your own; it must be done by your employer. If your company or employer believes that your new position qualifies you for a change of status to L1A, they must file a new Form I-129 Petition for Immigrant Worker with the USCIS. Unlike the initial L-nonimmigrant petition that requires the filing of I-129S Blanket L Petition, only I-129 need be filed. Your employer must complete the form with all information and evidence pertaining to your new petition and it must be submitted to the USCIS at least 60 days prior to the expiration of your current I-94.

Approval Wait Time

The national average wait time for I-129 petitions is about one month. If the USCIS takes longer to approve your petition and your I-94 expires in the meantime, you do not fall out of status as long as the petition was filed before expiration of the I-94. If your petition is denied and your initial I-94 has also expired, you must leave the U.S. immediately.

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