If you are planning to move to the USA and want to learn how to get an L1A Visa, this blog post is exactly what you are looking for. I will show my step-by-step process on how I got my Visa, so you can have the perfect real scenario example.
I am an immigrant that used to live and work in Brazil and now I'm pretty lucky to legally live in the USA with family and that was possible through the L1A and L2 Visa. The process to get this VISA is similar to most countries.
I'm not an immigration lawyer and this blog post just tells the history of how I got my L-1A Visa. You can read this history to have an idea of how the process works. I strongly recommend hiring an immigration lawyer to get your visa.
As I got the L-1A visa for myself and got the L2 Visa for my wife and daughter, probably you can do the same for yourself and your family, just keep reading through this article to find out how was the entire process.
Note: As I write this article (Aug/ 2018) we already have our green cards and we are just missing the last step that is to obtain American citizenship.
What is the L1 Visa
The L1 allows a U.S. employer to transfer employees such as executives or managers from one branch in the foreign country to an office in the US.
This Visa also allows a company to send an employee (executive or manager) to the US to establish a branch office.
With an L-1A visa, the professional is considered a non-immigrant who will work for a branch of the company in the United States, the expiration time of this type of visa varies and can reach a maximum of 7 years, but usually is necessary to renew it after 3 years (that is the case for Brazilian citizens).
One thing you should keep in mind is that the visa does not allow you to stay in the United States for an undetermined period of time, it is a document used to enter the country and remain legally as a temporary worker.
Don't get confused with your immigration status
You are considered an alien who lives in another country (in my case, Brazil) and only came to work for the authorized time of up to 3 years.
That sounds strange but it's true. I remember when I had to pass through the airport immigration and the agent asked me if I live in the USA.
Due to the fact that I was in the United States with my family for more than 2 years, I answered yes to the question (that was a huge mistake).
The immigration agent got pretty mad and schooled me about my immigration status. According to him, I was living in Brazil and just temporarily working in the USA (lesson learned).
The L1A work visa ties the professional to the company he is working for
The L1A visa is for professionals who already work in a company and want to be transferred to the United States. I already worked for 4 years for a multinational company and fulfilled the requirements to apply for the visa.
The work visa contains the name of the company you work for and the carrier will be "bound" to the company, which means that if you leave the company or get fired, the visa will no longer be valid. (Yeah... that is scary).
Requirements to get the L1A visa
- Be working for the company for a minimum of 3 years.
- Have a managerial or executive position for at least 6 months.
- The company must have a US branch office for at least one year.
What is the first step getting the L-1A Visa?
The employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the employee. After that my friend, you will get pretty excited 🙂
It was with this form that everything started, but unfortunately, it is not simply a paper that must be filled and sent, you need the support of a good immigration lawyer to start the process.
In my case, I started to call different immigration lawyers in Brazil to find out how to start the process and I heard people with different versions of how I should proceed (that was a nightmare).
Lawyer costs, fees, and documents varied so much that I was completely lost on how to proceed and which immigration lawyer I should use.
Hiring immigration lawyers to get the L-1A Visa
I finally decided to consult with US lawyers and I confess that I felt more comfortable with the information I obtained and the costs for the process.
The fees and orientation from the American lawyers made more sense to me, so I started working with them.
Perhaps in your country can be different, but for me, that was a better option.
Everything started with the first interview ....
Searching the Internet, I found a company in Chicago (I prefer not to reveal the name here in this post). Coincidentally, there was a Brazilian working there as a lawyer and we ended up speaking in Portuguese.
In an initial conversation, she explained what was the best procedure, which in this case would be to schedule an interview via SKYPE, in which she would bring a specialist lawyer to discuss my options to get my work visa.
After the first step of scheduling this interview, I paid the $ 100 fee and received an email with a document that contained several questions that I should answer before the scheduled date, so the lawyer could be prepared for the meeting.
On the day of the interview I connected via Skype with audio and video and we started the conversation, the lawyer introduced me to the specialist who was an American who spoke at most a few sentences in Portuguese related to the carnival and soccer :).
At the beginning of the interview, I noticed that the lawyer was well-prepared and had read the document I sent with the requested information.
My first impression about the American lawyer
At first I thought that the H1 visa would be my best option, since I had already researched the Internet and read about it, so I commented on the case he immediately told me that this visa was not the most indicated and that I should proceed with the L1 because the process would be much simpler and faster.
He told me that after starting the process in 3 months I would be swimming in the beaches of Miami, obviously, I was happy for the statement but wanted to be careful not to make hasty decisions before opening my wallet.
An affirmation of the lawyer who got my attention was that the L1 was the best way to later get the green card. I got excited about such a possibility.
The meeting lasted about 40 minutes and I was very comfortable with the guidelines, procedures, and fees. I decided to go ahead and work with them.
I made the payment and started the process of my L-1A visa, which would also guarantee the L2 visa for my wife and daughter.
And the process with the company did not progress until the end...
I had no problem with the services of the company, they did everything correctly and contacted Samsung's human resources director of the branch located in the United States to obtain the necessary documentation for the process.
However, the volume of information and documents requested by the lawyers was very large and people on Samsung were not comfortable with that.
The HR director decided that it would be more interesting to move the case with the company's own lawyers, who already had all the company's documents.
Changing the process to the new lawyers
I agreed with the director and we changed the process to the other lawyers and I talked again to the lawyer team to cancel the contract and they immediately reimbursed me two days later, deducting only the hours corresponding to the services they had already done.
I received a very detailed worksheet with the services, fees, and amounts they were reimbursing.
My concern about the new lawyer costs
Following the lawsuit with the company's lawyers, virtually nothing has changed, despite my concern about costs, because in my agreement with the company (Samsung) to move to the United States I suppose to pay myself for the visa, moving costs and housing rents.
I talked to the new lawyer about what would be the fees because they would come out of my own pocket and the contract with the company in Chicago was very interesting because it is was a non-profit organization.
The new lawyer calmed me down by saying that the process would not go any further than it had agreed with the Chicago's company, and government fees would obviously be the same.
The petition for non-immigrant workers ...
OK, let's go back to the step by step process ....
Everything starts with a form called I-129 to which I have already mentioned previously, the immigration lawyer fills out this document to start the process of petitioning the non-immigrant worker permit.
This document is the basis to start everything, basically, it contains the approval of the US immigration department to initiate the work visa process and should be presented at the American consulate (in my case in Brazil) along with other documents at the time of the interview.
To get this document faster I have paid a fee to expedite the process to 15 days, if you don't pay the fee, you will have to wait about 45 days.
When I received an email from the HR director stating that the petition had been approved I was radiant, it was the first step towards a new life in a new country, but there was still a long way to go, at least three months according to the lawyer's prediction of immigration.
After the petition .... a lot of documentation !!!
The lawyer advised me that the next step would be to prepare all the documents for the interview at the American consulate, to send him the personal information and documents he requested for the trial.
That was my expression when I saw so much document arrive in the mail.
Obviously, the picture is illustrative, but it really was a lot of paperwork prepared by the US lawyers. It was about 100 pages that contained the company balance sheet, business details, contracts, photos, job charts, etc.
I was frightened by the volume of information in that process, but on the other hand, I was confident that it contained so much detail that certainly nothing was missing for the day of the interview.
The interview in the consulate
I was concerned with dates because the interview had been scheduled at the American consulate of São Paulo by the lawyers themselves (I was impressed with such competence), but the documents were still on the way from the United States to Brazil.
I was anxious to see the documents arrive before the scheduled date, but in the end, everything worked as expected and I received the paperwork by mail before the D-day. (wow, what a relief) !
On the day of the interview, I was anxious but everything was very fast, the immigration agent requested the documents and spoke to me only in English for about 15 minutes.
The only problem was that the petition was not available in his system, even though I had the original on a real paper, it was necessary that he had received an electronic copy directly from the United States via the system.
The agent informed me that this sometimes happens and that I should only pay the fees for the visa and wait a few days for the petition to appear on his system, he assured me that this would only delay the visa in a few days, but that it was already approved.
And finally, I received my visa, which contains the name of the company with which the visa is linked.
Finally, I got my visa (happy dance)
And finally, I about three months later received my visa, which contains the name of the company with which the visa is linked.
And for those who are curious about costs with lawyers, this varies according to the case and there are also the government fees to be paid.
I spent about 2.000 USD, which I think was pretty good, considering that in only three months I could get my L1-A Visa and also get my family Visa.
If you are going to start a visa process there are several lawyers in the market, choose with caution. Working right from the start makes all the difference so that everything goes as planned.