The L-1 Visa is for Executives or Managers (L-1A), or individuals with Specialized Knowledge (L-1B), who transfer to a US company from a related company overseas. L-1 candidates must establish one year or more of continuous full-time employment for a qualifying company outside of the US.
Basic L-1 visa requirements are as follows.
The L-1 Visa is valid for a maximum of 5 (L-1B) to 7 years (L-1A). If the L-1’s sponsoring US entity has been open for less than one year, L-1 status is valid for an initial period of one year so that USCIS can confirm the sponsoring entity’s viability. In addition, time spent in L-1 Visa status counts toward the H-1B Visa maximum, and vice versa.
L-1A Visa Executives/ Managers may later apply for lawful permanent resident status (Green Gard) through the EB-1 Multinational Executive or Manager immigrant visa category. L-1B Visa holders who wish to pursue permanent residence must in most cases apply through the much lengthier and more laborious PERM labor certification process.
One L-1 alternative is the E-2 Investor Visa or E-1 Trader Visa. However, the E visa requires a treaty between the US and the applicant’s country of nationality. In addition, E Visa processing can vary dramatically from consulate to consulate. But the E Visa may offer certain advantages over the L-1, such as processing directly through a US consulate, unlimited E Visa renewals, longer visa validity periods in many cases, and preservation of L-1 and H-1B time for future use.
A major drawback of the E Visa category is that E visas are unavailable to nationals of certain countries. For example, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have no appropriate treaties with the US enabling their nationals to apply for E visas.