L1A vs L1B: Everything You Need to Know

L1A vs L1B_ Everything You Need to Know


The L1A and L1B visas are great options to work in the United States. In this guide, I will compare the L1A and the L1B. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.


The L1 visa category, created by Congress in 1970, is specifically intended for individuals customarily employed abroad by a company with a qualifying relationship to the U.S. company wishing to obtain the L1 visa for employees. The L1 visa is limited exclusively to employees of multinational companies, and may not be used unless the following conditions apply:


  1. The U.S. company wishing to acquire the L1 visa must have an affiliated relationship with the foreign company currently employing the candidate in question;
  2. The foreign company employing the candidate must be actively doing business, as evidenced by regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and services;
  3. The U.S. company wishing to employ the candidate must be actively doing business, as evidenced by regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and services;
  4. The candidate in question must have had one year of continuous employment with the foreign company in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity, and must be coming to the U.S. to perform in a similar role.


On this fourth point, we come to the two sub-types within the L1 family: L1A, intended for employees that will be employed in an executive or managerial capacity, and L1B, intended for specialized knowledge employees.  


The L1A visa, for executive or managerial level employees, has its advantages, provided of course that the foreign candidate in question meets the requirements. To qualify for an L1A visa or a grant of L1A status, as discussed, the foreign candidate must have been employed by an affiliated entity of the U.S. petitioning employer in an executive or managerial capacity.


The key to establishing that the position in question is MANAGERIAL lies in the word itself: MANAGEMENT. The foreign candidate must be able to show that he or she supervised employees at a high level, with wide discretion for decision-making, with only general supervision from higher ups in the company.


The USCIS has taken to challenging evidence of managerial level positions, and for this reason when submitting an L1A petition, employers must carefully document evidence of a managerial level position. Such evidence can include organizational charts, performance reviews, copies of emails showing the foreign candidate operating at the managerial level, and any other applicable evidence.


Another tremendously important facet of both the L1A and the L1B categories is the job description of the role, both for the intended role in the U.S. and the role of the candidate with the foreign affiliate employer. This job description becomes even more crucial for the L1B category, which is for specialized knowledge level employees.


Specialized knowledge, as defined by USCIS, 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. In plain English, then, specialized knowledge is an individual with a deeper understanding of the multinational company’s products, services, and methods of operation.


As USCIS has taken to challenging the L1A managerial position, so too have they challenged employer’s claims of the vitality of specialized knowledge employees, even though for many companies it is much more efficient to internally transfer higher level employees with deeper understandings of the company’s working than to train new employees.


Consequently, the need for a detailed job description, describing at length the level of the L1B candidate’s specialized knowledge, is crucial. Employers should carefully evaluate their potential L1B candidates to assess whether the level of specialized knowledge held by that employee is truly specialized in that it would be more efficient to transfer the employee than to hire a U.S. worker.


Other evidence can include a detailed resume for the candidate, showing their qualifying professional experience in the industry and with the company, and although not required, copies of the foreign candidate’s educational documentation, showing how he/she has applied skills from higher education to the practice of the job.


As discussed, USCIS has increased scrutiny of both L1A and L1B visas under the Trump administration. It is unclear how USCIS will process L-1s under the new administration. If considering the L1 for a prospective foreign candidate who meets the basic requirements for the L1 in terms of qualifying employment and corporate relationship, employers should consider the following pros and cons of the two subcategories:


L1A Advantages


Allows for seven years of immigration status, granted in increments of up to three years. A significant advantage of the L1A category is that it allows for easy transition to permanent residence sponsorship through the EB-1C category, allowing the employer to waive the typical labor certification process associated with employment based green cards. The EB-1C application relies upon the international managerial/executive status of the employee, and the application process closely resembles that of the L1A.


L1A Disadvantages


Heightened scrutiny of evidence by USCIS, temporary nature of the status.


L1B Advantages


The L1B is often used as a back-up plan for employers who are unable to secure H-1B visas for employees in the U.S. As long as the employer fits the multinational definition for L1 purposes, the employer may transfer an individual not selected for the H-1B lottery (subject to immigration policies of the foreign entity’s country of domicile) for the customary one year period, which then allows the employer to transfer the employee back in L1B status. As the definition of specialized knowledge may be applied broadly, any employee with sufficient experience at any given company may be argued to qualify for a grant of L1B status.


L1B Disadvantages


L1B disadvantages: Only allows FIVE years of immigration status, granted in one increment of three years and a second increment of two. Heavy scrutinization of the definition of specialized knowledge results in increased denial of L1B visa petitions. Finally, any employer who secures an L1B visa for an employee must consider traditional green card sponsorship for the employee, and must follow the standard process of testing the labor market to obtain a Labor Certification, prior to moving to the immigrant petition stage of the process.


Overall L1 Advantages


Lack of educational requirement as opposed to the H-1B program allows for increased applicability to qualified candidates. L1 status permits dependents of L1 visa holders (L2) to apply for work authorization, which upon receipt, permits spouses to work for any employer without restriction. For certain qualified employing entities, Blanket L status is available, allowing the employer to obtain recognition from the USCIS as a qualifying employer, thereby allowing the employer to transfer employees through consular application, bypassing the usual USCIS petition needed for regular L1 visa candidates.


Overall L1 Disadvantages


Temporary nature of the visa (maximum of seven years), and increased scrutinization have resulted in higher denial rates of L1 petitions.



If you have any questions about the L1 visa, or if you need help applying for an L1 visa, feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117. You may also request a fee consultation by clicking this link.

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Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

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