What Is the L-1 Visa?

What Is the L-1 Visa?

The L-1 visa is available for employers wishing to transfer employees from a foreign branch, subsidiary, affiliate, parent or related corporate entity to work at a related U.S. Entity.  

Another requirement is that the foreign national must have been employed with the organization outside of the U.S. for at least one continuous year in the preceding three years at a qualifying foreign entity. 

There are two categories under the L-1 visa:  

  • L-1A: Intracompany Transferee for Executives or Managers 
  • L-1B: Intracompany Transferee for Employees with Specialized Knowledge 

Both categories have their own eligibility requirements.

 

What Is the L-1A Visa?

The L-1A visa is for foreign nationals who have worked aboard at a foreign affiliate of the sponsoring U.S. entity in an executive or managerial capacity. 

Executive capacity refers to the employee’s ability to make major decisions without much oversight.  

Managerial capacity refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and direct the work of other employees and to manage the organization, or department, subdivision, function or other component of the organization. 

Additional requirements for the L-1A visa include the following: 

  • Candidates must have worked at a related entity abroad for at least 12 continuous months out of the last three years at the time of application
  • The work or service must be in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity for a parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate of the same employer
  • There must be a qualifying relationship with a foreign company such as a parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliate

Also, if the executive’s or manager’s reason for travel is to open a new office in the U.S., the following conditions must be met: 

  • The employer has secured the physical office location 
  • The individual must have executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity 
  • The executive or manager has been employed in that position for one continuous year in the three years preceding the filing of the petition 

The intended U.S. office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approved petition. 

What Is L Blanket Certification?

Some companies choose to establish an intracompany relationship in place of filing individual L-1 petitions. This means the employee can apply for the L visa directly at a U.S. Consulate and not in the U.S. 

To learn more about L Blanket certification, download our guide, Introduction to L Visas.

How Long Does the L-1A Visa Last?

The L-1A visa has an initial period of stay of three years. Individuals can apply for renewals and may receive two extensions granted in two-year increments. This means individuals on an L-1A visa can remain in the U.S. for a total of seven years.

It’s also important to note that an L-1A could have more than one, two or three extensions if the L-1A visa holder travels outside the U.S. They get to recapture that time, meaning someone could potentially stay in the U.S. for an even longer period of time. We recommend speaking to an attorney for more information.

If the temporary nature of the assignment changes, we recommend speaking to an attorney.

L-1A Visa Petition and Filing Fees

  • Petition filing fee: $960
  • Premium processing: Employers can pay the $2,500 premium processing fee when available. This means USCIS will adjudicate the L-1A petition within 15 calendar days. With premium processing, USCIS is required to approve, issue a request for evidence or deny the visa petition within those 15 calendar days.

Please note that the above fees specifically refer to applying with USCIS. 

What Is the L-1B Visa?

The L-1B visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization from one of its affiliated foreign offices to a U.S. parent company, subsidiary, affiliate or branch. 

An employee must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for the L-1B visa: 

  • Have worked in the qualifying organization for at least 12 continuous months within the last three years leading up to transfer in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity.
  • Have specialized knowledge based on employment with the foreign employer that will be used in the U.S.

What Is Specialized Knowledge?

Specialized knowledge means either special knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures (See 8 CFR 214.2(l)(1)(ii)(D)). 

If the employee’s reason for working in the U.S. is to open a new office, the following conditions must be met: 

  • The employer has secured a sufficient physical location to house the new office 
  • The employer has the financial ability to compensate the employee conducting business in the U.S.

How Long Does the L-1B Last?

The L-1B visa has an initial period of stay of three years. Individuals can apply for renewals and may receive one extension granted in a two-year increment. This means individuals on the L-1B visa could potentially stay in the U.S. for a total of five years. 

It’s also important to note that an L-1B could have more than one, two or three extensions if the L-1B visa holder travel outside the U.S. They get to recapture that time, meaning someone could potentially stay in the U.S. for an even longer period of time. We recommend speaking to an attorney for more information. 

If the temporary nature of the assignment changes, we recommend speaking to an attorney. 

L-1B Visa Petition and Filing Fees

  • Petition filing fee: $960
  • Premium processing: Employers can pay the $1,440 premium processing fee when available. This means USCIS will adjudicate the L-1B petition within 15 calendar days. With premium processing, USCIS is required to approve, issue a request for evidence or deny the visa petition within those 15 calendar days.

Please note that the above fees specifically refer to applying with USCIS. 


If the foreign national is outside the U.S., he/she likely will need to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. in the specific visa category prior to entering the U.S. in the specific status. 

To learn more about L visas, download our guide, Introduction to L Visas.


Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is the Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (www.giafirm.com), Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.

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