What is an L1 Visa?

In 2019, the U.S. State Department issued over 8.5 million visas to nonimmigrants. Every year, foreign employees of international businesses come to the United States to do their work, and companies must have a way to get them over here. The government offers several types of work visas.

Employers can petition for temporary and permanent work visas. Some examples of temporary work visas are the H-2A non-agricultural visa and the P-1B that is for someone who is a member of an entertainment group. One of the most common of the temporary work visas is the L-visa.


A company can file a petition for an L1-visa for its employees to work and live in the United States. As part of its eligibility for L1 status, the company must have a working relationship with a foreign business besides being an employer in the United States. There are two types of L1 visas:

1. L1A Visa

This is the visa used for those who work as managers and executives. It is a nonimmigrant visa that enables the U.S. employer to transfer the people in those positions from one of its affiliated foreign offices to an office in the United States. To qualify for this visa, the employer must be a parent, branch or affiliate of a foreign company working abroad or do business as an employer in the U.S. and in at least one other country. For an employee to qualify for an L1A visa, he or she must:

  • Have one year of continuous employment within three years preceding application for admission with the same company
  • Be seeking to enter in an executive or managerial position

2. L1B Visa

The L1B visa is for an intracompany transferee with specialized knowledge. The same qualifications apply as with the L1A visa. However, the employee seeking entrance must have specialized working knowledge of the organization.

Specialized knowledge means the individual has dedicated experience with the business’s product, service, research or equipment. This person may also have specific knowledge or expertise in the company’s procedures.

The L1 Visa Application Process

The application process involves filing an application and petition. After approval, the applicant must go to his or her country’s consulate or embassy to finalize the visa. The processing time will depend on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ service center. For example, in Texas, the l1 visa Houston Tx processing time for the L1 visa may take from five weeks to three months. Consulate processing times vary but could take up to six months or longer.