Types of L1 Visas in the USA

In this post, I briefly discuss the different types of L1 Visas. 

The L1 Visa is a useful but highly scrutinized employment based visa. It allows employers to transfer highly valued employees from a position abroad to a position in the United States. 

The L1 Visa comes with some fairly complex requirements. There are some requirements that relate to the employer and others that relate to the employee. I am not going to cover all of the requirements in this post. Instead I am going to provide a brief overview of the different types of L1 visas, so you can start to consider if an L1 Visa may be useful for you.

The Executive or Manager(L1A)

Arguably, the most common use of the L1 Visa is to transfer executives and managers so that companies can establish or expand their presence in the US. For example, a foreign based manufacturing company may want to transfer a manager to the US to help establish and grow a new plant. The type of L1 Visa that would be utilized for this type of transfer is referred to as the L1A Visa

One great aspect of the L1A Visa is that the standard under the law is fairly clear and objective. We can look at the duties that make someone a manager or executive. Then we can determine if the criteria matches the work that the employee performs..

Another advantage of the L1A Visa is that it oftentimes provides a smooth path to a green card. Once the foreign national executive or manager arrives in the US, their company can oftentimes file for a green card for them under the Eb1c category. This green card category allows the sponsoring employer to avoid the dreaded government-mandated recruitment and labor certification process that employers usually have to go through before sponsoring an employee.

Specialized Knowledge(The L1B Visa)

The second type of L1 Visa is intended for employees with specialized knowledge. This visa, referred to as the L1B is much more challenging to obtain than the L1A Visa

The problem with the L1B category is that “specialized knowledge” is a fairly subjective term. What one adjudicator will accept as specialized knowledge, another will reject. This makes it difficult to predict the likelihood of a successful process.

However, despite the challenges for L1B specialized knowledge petitions, some cases are a good fit for the visa. One of the best uses of the L1B Visa is to transfer employees who have developed proprietary technology for the company. If an employee developed such technology that is the basis for a company’s competitive edge, then an L1B petition would be worth a shot.

The New Office L1A Visa

Another type of L1 Visa is the “new office” L1 Visa. You would apply for a “new office” L1 Visa if the transferring employee intends to work for an entity that has been open for less than one year in the US. 

With new office L1 Visas, you can expect increased scrutiny. The reason for the intense scrutiny stems from the fact that the US government is skeptical that new offices need an onsite manager or executive. In addition to the increased scrutiny, special rules apply that make new office L1 Visas riskier than the typical L1A Visa. 

For example, new office L1A Visas are valid for an initial period of just one year. This is problematic because when you apply for an extension, the government will expect you to clearly demonstrate that the business needs a manager. And, as anyone who has started a business can attest, it oftentimes takes longer than a year to get to this point. 


There are several types of L1 Visas that can be utilized to transfer employees from abroad to the United States. The different types of L1 Visas have distinct requirements, benefits and drawbacks that you should consider before starting the application process. This is best accomplished by working with a knowledgable business immigration lawyer.

Scroll to Top