Complete Guide to the L1A Visa

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The L1A Visa is a temporary residence permit issued by the USCIS, allowing employees of a company outside the U.S. to work for the same company in the U.S.
  • It is for executives or managers who hold leadership roles in the company.
  • Requirements include eligibility for both the employee and the company, having a qualifying organization in the U.S., or establishing a new office.
  • The visa is initially valid for one year or three years, with the possibility of extensions up to a maximum of seven years, and the cost is $460 for filing the required I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

Traveling to the United States can be a confusing and stressful process. There are important documents you have to understand. One of these is the L1A Visa, especially if you are traveling for business. The name does not give much information, so read on to learn more about the L1A Visa.

What is an L1A Visa?

The L1A Visa is one of a category of temporary residence permits called L Visas. L Visas are issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

There are two types of L visas: L1A and L1B. Both kinds allow employees of a company outside the U.S. to work for the same company in the U.S.

The list below summarizes the purposes of each type of L visa:

  • L1A Visa: for employees who work in managerial or executive positions.
  • L1B Visa: for employees who work in positions requiring specialized knowledge.

Who is Eligible for an L1A Visa?

The L1A visa is for executives or managers of the company. You must have some kind of leadership role in the company to qualify for an L1A visa. The sections below explain in more detail what working in an executive or managerial capacity means for your L1A Visa application.

Executive Capacity

Executive capacity means that as an employee of the company, you make wide-ranging decisions for the company without much oversight.

Generally, executives are in charge of one or more major functions of a company. A major function could be manufacturing, finance, or compliance, for example.

In many organizations, executives report directly to the chief executive officer (CEO), the board chairperson, or an equivalent officer.

Managerial Capacity

Managerial capacity means that as an employee of the company, you supervise a process, sub-function, or some other important aspect of the business.

Generally, the nature of this supervision means that you are in charge of a group of other employees of the company who do the day-to-day work. However, this does not have to be the case.

For an L1A Visa application, managerial capacity could also refer to your ability to manage an essential function of the company without being directly supervised or monitored by someone else, even if you are not in charge of a team.

L1A Eligibility Requirements

L visas are strictly for transfers within the same company to work in the U.S. That means you have to be working for a company that either has an office in the U.S. or is sending you to open its first office in the U.S.

The L1A Visa has eligibility requirements for you as the applicant and for the company which is sending you to the U.S. The requirements for each are outlined in the list below.

L1A Company Eligibility

To qualify for an L1A visa, your employer must:

  • Have a subsidiary, office, or affiliate in the U.S. In terms of the application, this is called a qualifying organization.
  • Be doing, or soon to be doing business in the U.S. and at least one other country. The company must then continue doing business for as long as you will be in the U.S. on an L1A visa. This business can be done directly or through a qualifying organization.

For the L1A Visa, ‘doing business’ means regularly providing goods and/or services to customers. Just having an office with a person present is not enough if there is no trading happening continuously.

However, please note that there is no requirement that the trade itself be international. There just has to be trading happening.

If the company does not have a qualifying organization or office in the U.S. but wants to send you to open one, the eligibility requirements are different.

The company must:

  • Show that it has secured a suitable physical space to establish the new U.S. office.
  • Show that you have been an executive or manager for at least one full year in the three years before filing the application.
  • Show that the new office will need an executive or manager within one year of the issue date of the visa.

There is no requirement that the company is doing business in the U.S. in this case since the goal is to establish an office.

L1A Employee Eligibility

To qualify as an employee, you must:

  • Have worked for the company directly (or for a qualifying organization) outside the U.S. for at least one year non-stop in the three years before you apply.
  • Be applying to enter the U.S. as an employee of the same company (or a qualifying organization) to work in a managerial or executive capacity.

How to Apply for an L1A Visa

The L1A Visa involves you and your employer.

Follow the instructions listed below, which will explain how to apply for an L1A Visa, step by step:

  1. Provide your employer with any information required to fill in a Form I-129 petition.
  2. Your employer will then submit the form (including an outline of what you will be doing) along with the application fees.
  3. Your employer should give you a Form I-129 receipt number.
  4. Use this receipt number to fill in a Form DS-160 on the USCIS website.
  5. Set a date for your L1A visa interview.
  6. Make sure to bring and submit all your required L1A visa supporting documents (and passport) when you go to the interview.

How Long is an L1A Visa Valid?

The L1A visa is temporary unless you change from an L1A visa to a green card. That means you will be allowed to live in the U.S. and work for your company, but only for a limited period. The exact time that your L1A visa will be valid depends mainly on whether you are establishing a new office or doing some other work.

If you are being sent to establish a new office in the U.S., then your L1A Visa will initially be granted for a maximum of one year. For all other purposes, you will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years.

For both kinds of applications, you can apply for extensions of up to two years at a time. In total, your visa can remain valid for up to seven years, including the initial stay and all extensions.

L1A Visa Cost

The cost of an L1A Visa is similar to many other non-immigrant visas. Filing the required I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker costs $460.

The application is filed by your employer on your behalf so the company will likely pay all the associated fees.

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Final Thoughts

The L1A visa is designed for executives or managers to temporarily transfer from a foreign country to the U.S. to help the company they work for. If you are moving to the U.S. you can consider mortgages for L1A visa holders. The L1A visa can remain valid for a maximum of up to seven years but must be renewed every two years after the initial period.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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