L-1A/B Visas - Ray Law International
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L-1A/B Visas

What is an L-1A/B Visa?

(1) L1 visas were created to allow large, international companies to transfer employees to the United States. Interestingly, they are also being used to allow small or start-up businesses to expand their operations into the US. It’s understood that any employees granted an L-1A or L-1B visa are tasked with opening a new area of operations within the US, be it a branch, subsidiary or affiliate, so it is a temporary work permit. Fortunately, family members (spouses and children under the age of 21) may come with them using an L2 dependent visa.


(2) Businesses in any country can be eligible for an L1 visa, not just those with qualifying signed treaties (compare this to E1/2 visas that are restricted to particular countries).


(3) The two L1 visas to consider, depending upon the type of role your employee performs, are:

    a.  L-1A visa: managers and executives

    b.  L-1B visa: professionals with specialized knowledge

L-1A Manager and Executive Job Responsibilities

As you decide which of your employees may be candidates for your expansion plans in the US, bear in mind that for an L-1A visa, your employee must perform the following types of job responsibilities in order to qualify:

  1. Managerial roles:

    1. Manage professional or leadership personnel who report to them.

    2. Have the authority to hire and fire, evaluate performance and promote.

  2. Executive roles (that may overlap with managerial roles):

    1. Control core functions within the company.

    2. Exercise discretion over daily operations and establish policies and goals.

    3. Note: if no employee supervision is required, then they must function at a senior level within the company.

L-1B Qualifications for Professionals with Specialized Knowledge

  1. Most often, a company will prefer to bring known and trusted employees from the parent organization. The types of knowledge needed to expand business can be quite diverse, so consider the following types of skills for an L-1B visa:

    1. Has attained specialized knowledge of the parent company’s products or services, research, equipment or interests.

    2. Is uniquely competent to apply the company’s capabilities in the Unites States.

    3. Or they may have exceptional understanding about the company’s policies and procedures that need to be instated in the United States.


  1. L-1A and L-1B visas are initially granted for 3 years for large, established companies and a reduced 1 year for new start-up companies. They can both potentially be granted extensions in 2-year increments. However, the maximum duration varies: L-1A visas are granted for up to 7 years, while L-1B visas are only up to 5 years.

  2. If the employee needs to stay longer to maintain or grow the new area of business, there are options to pursue permanent residence while holding an L-1A or L-1B visa. It is simpler and generally only takes about a year for L-1A managers and executives because they do not need to apply for permanent labor certification. This additional process, required for L-1B visa holders, can take a couple of additional years to complete, as it proves that there are no existing workers in the US who are qualified to take over this position.

Next Steps

As you develop ideas for how to proceed with bringing your employee to the US, be sure to seek out expert assistance from an attorney who can guide you through the complex details of Visa applications. Let us know how we can help you.

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