Understanding the Key Differences Between L1A and L1B Visas

If you are an employee of a multinational company, you may have the opportunity to work in the United States on an L1 visa. There are two types of L1 visas: L1A and L1B. Both allow a foreign company to transfer an employee to their U.S. branch for a duration of time. However, L1A and L1B visas have several key differences. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about these two visa types, including their requirements, benefits, limitations, and application process.

Key Takeaways

  • L1A visas are for executives or managers, while L1B visas are for employees with specialized knowledge.
  • L1A visa holders can apply for a Green Card after one year of service with their U.S. employer, while L1B visa holders cannot.
  • Employees transferred on an L1 visa must have worked for the foreign company for at least one year prior to the transfer.
  • Both L1A and L1B visas are valid for a period of up to three years initially, with extensions available for a total of seven years for L1A holders and up to five years for L1B holders.
  • L1 visa holders can bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States on an L2 visa, which allows them to work while in the U.S.

L1A Visa

An L1A visa is reserved for executives and managers who have been employed with their multinational company for at least one continuous year out of the past three years before coming to the U.S. The employee must serve the U.S. branch in an executive or managerial capacity, overseeing the company’s operations or managing a department, among other tasks. To qualify for an L1A visa, they must meet several requirements, including:

  • Be employed by the same foreign employer for at least one continuous year within the last three years before coming to the United States.
  • Be coming to the United States to provide services in an executive or managerial capacity for a U.S. branch of the same employer.
  • Be supervising and managing a team of employees, managing an essential function, or managing a department, subdivision, or component of the company.
  • Have the authority to make decisions that are significant to the organization’s overall functions.
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L1A visa holders can apply for a Green Card (permanent residency) after one year of service with their U.S. employer, provided the employer has a permanent job opening for the employee, and the company meets certain requirements.

L1B Visa

An L1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge from its foreign office to its U.S. office. Specialized knowledge is defined as knowledge that the company holds, which is very specialized or advanced, and would be difficult to transfer to a U.S. employee. This can be in the form of scientific, technical, commercial, or other specialized knowledge. To qualify for an L1B visa, the employee must meet several requirements, including:

  • Be employed for at least one continuous year out of the prior three years by the same foreign company that is seeking to transfer him/her to the United States.
  • Be coming to the United States to provide services requiring specialized knowledge to a branch of the same employer.
  • Have advanced knowledge about the company’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests.
  • Be needed by the U.S. office for a particular project or function for a limited duration.

L1B visa holders are not eligible for a Green Card, but they can renew their L1B visa for a maximum of five years.

Application Process

To apply for an L1A or L1B visa, the U.S. employer must file a petition on behalf of the employee with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition should be filed at least six months before the employee’s needed start date. The petition must include several documents, such as:

  • A detailed job description of the position the employee will occupy in the United States.
  • Evidence that the employee has worked for the foreign company for at least one continuous year out of the past three years.
  • Proof that the employee will be employed in an executive or managerial capacity or has specialized knowledge.
  • Evidence that the U.S. and foreign companies have qualifying relationships and that the U.S. branch has the financial ability to pay the employee’s salary.
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Conclusion

In conclusion, L1A and L1B visas are essential for multinational companies with offices in the United States, providing an opportunity for foreign employees to work in the U.S. for a limited period. L1A visas are for executives and managers, while L1B visas are for employees with specialized knowledge. Although both L1A and L1B visas have several similarities, they differ in the eligibility criteria and benefits they provide. Understanding the differences between these two visa categories will help multinational companies make informed decisions about transferring their employees to the United States.

FAQ

Q: How long does an L1A visa last?A: L1A visas are valid for a period of up to three years initially and can be extended to a total of seven years.

Q: Can L1B visa holders apply for a Green Card?A: No, L1B visa holders are not eligible for a Green Card.

Q: Can L2 visa holders work in the United States?A: Yes, L2 visa holders can work in the United States by obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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