If you plan 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 that you can have the perfect real scenario example.
I am an immigrant who used to live and work in Brazil, and now I'm pretty lucky to legally live in the USA with family, which was possible through the L1A and L2 Visa.
However, 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. However, 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, you can probably 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 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 a 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 company branch in the United States.
The expiration time of this type of visa varies and can reach a maximum of 7 years. Still, it's usually necessary to renew it after 3 years (that is the case for Brazilian citizens).
You should keep in mind 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 living in the country (USA) with an authorization to work for up 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 that are working for a multinational company and want to be transferred to the United States.
I was already working 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 in 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.
Everything started with this form, 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 begin the process, and I heard people with other 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 people, it can be different, but that was a better option for me.
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 the best procedure, which 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.
I received an email with a document that contained several questions that I should answer before the scheduled date so that the lawyer could prepare himself for the meeting.
On the day of the interview, I connected via Skype with audio and video.
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 on the beaches of Miami.
Obviously, I was happy with the statement but wanted to be careful not to make hasty decisions before opening my wallet.
Something that got my attention during the conversation was the layer's orientation about the L1 Visa. According to him, that was the best way to get the green card later. So naturally, I got excited about such a possibility.
The meeting lasted about 40 minutes, and I was very comfortable with the guidelines, procedures, and fees. So 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 huge, and people on Samsung were not comfortable with that.
The HR director decided that it would be more interesting to move the case with its 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. I talked again to the lawyer team to cancel the contract.
They immediately reimbursed me two days later, deducting only the hours corresponding to their already done services.
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. 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 the fees because they would come out of my pocket. The contract with the company in Chicago was very interesting because it 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 Chicago's company, and government fees would 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, which I have already mentioned previously; the immigration lawyer fills out this document to begin 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 American consulate interview and send him the personal information and documents he requested for the trial.
That was my expression when I saw so many documents 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). However, 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. First, 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. So even though I had the original on a real paper, he needed to receive 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 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, about three months later received my visa in mail mailbox.
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 I could get my L1-A Visa in only three months and 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.