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U.S. Business Visa Programs for Foreign Executives

Donald Garner, Marcos Bravo
Updated 23.05.24 10 minutes read
Business PlansImmigrationIndustry InsightsPrevious Events

Business immigration programs in many countries offer special categories of visas for particular activities. Governments set up this focused support to promote, for example, growth in particular industries, like tech and startups, or general investment in the economy and job creation. 

Managing companies at the executive level is also an important skill and in today’s global economy it’s not unusual for top leaders to move from one country to another. The United States recognizes the need for international executive talent to be able to relocate in order to manage U.S.-based operations and there is a range of visa options specifically tailored to their needs. 

Two of those options, the L-1 and EB-1C visas, are especially relevant to any discussion of executive relocation to the United States because of the advantages they offer.  

Before we get into the details of these two visas, here’s a reminder of why executive-focused visas are a better option than other visa categories.

Advantages of L-1 and EB-1C visas for executives:

  • Both visas are tailored to meet the needs of high-level executives and managers, recognizing their contributions and roles within multinational companies.
  • These visas are employer-sponsored, ensuring that the executives have a job waiting for them in the U.S., which provides stability and assurance during the relocation process.
  • The processes for L-1 and EB-1C visas are relatively streamlined compared to other visa categories, particularly because of the waiver of the labor certification requirement for EB-1C.
  • These visas support the strategic business needs of multinational companies, allowing them to transfer key personnel seamlessly across borders to manage and expand U.S. operations.

Note that neither the L-1 nor the EB-1C visas are eligible for self-petition. That is, the employer, not the employee, must apply for the visa in the name of the executive and file the necessary documents. 

Now, let’s take a look at these two visa programs in detail to compare them and list what they offer for executives who want to bring their expertise to the USA. 

L-1 Visa — Intracompany Transferees

The L-1 visa category is designed for executives, managers, and employees with specialized knowledge who are being transferred from a foreign office to a U.S. office within the same company. This visa facilitates the temporary transfer of key personnel, helping multinational companies operate more efficiently.

There are two types of L-1 visas, the L-1A for executives and managers and the L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge. The second category typically covers workers with deep knowledge of the technical or operational aspects of a business that are needed for its normal functioning. 

Both types of L-1 visa are initially granted for up to three years, with extensions available in two-year increments. The only difference here is that the L-1A can be valid for up to seven years whereas the L-1B can only be used for five years. 

To be eligible for an L-1 visa, applicants must be employed:

  • By the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the three years prior to the application
  • In an executive or managerial capacity (for L-1B, this requirement is having specialist knowledge about the operations of the company)
  • By a company with a qualifying relationship with a U.S.-based parent, brand, affiliate, or subsidiary. 

Benefits for successful L-1 visa applicants:

  • There is no annual cap on the number of L-1 visas issued, making it more accessible than other visa types
  • L-1 visa holders can apply for permanent residency (Green Card) without jeopardizing their nonimmigrant status.
  • Spouses and children under 21 can accompany the L-1 visa holder under the L-2 visa. Spouses can apply for work authorization.

EB-1C Visa — Multinational Executives and Managers

The EB-1C visa is an employment-based immigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer high-level executives and managers to the United States permanently. It is part of the EB-1 category, which is reserved for individuals with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.

The bar for applicants is a little higher with the EB-1C than for the L-1 visa because of the extra advantages it offers. Whereas the L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for temporary transfers, the EB-1C visa is an immigrant visa, intended for permanent relocation. The L-1A visa is valid for up to seven years, but the EB-1C leads to a Green Card if the visa holder wants to pursue it.

The basic eligibility requirements for the EB-1C visa are the same as for the L-1. The applicant must be employed:

  • By the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the three years prior to the application
  • In an executive or managerial capacity (for L-1B, this requirement is having specialist knowledge about the operations of the company)
  • By a company with a qualifying relationship with a U.S.-based parent, brand, affiliate, or subsidiary. 

An additional requirement for the EB-1C is that the applicant must have a permanent job offer from the U.S. employer.

Benefits for successful EB-1C visa applicants:

  • The EB-1C visa leads directly to a Green Card, granting permanent residency in the United States.
  • Unlike many other employment-based Green Card categories, the EB-1C does not require a labor certification, streamlining the process.
  • Spouses and children under 21 can obtain permanent residency as dependents of the EB-1C visa holder.

Summary

Both the L-1 and EB-1C visas are useful tools that help multinational companies facilitate the process of bringing foreign executives and managers to the United States. These programs not only enhance the operational capabilities of multinational businesses but also contribute to the economic and cultural diversity of the United States.

The L-1 visa offers a flexible, nonimmigrant option for temporary transfers, while the EB-1C visa provides a pathway to permanent residency for top-level executives and managers. 

Understanding the requirements, benefits, and processes associated with these visas is essential for companies and individuals navigating the U.S. immigration landscape. Be sure to consult an immigration professional if either of these visas could be what you need to open up your professional future. 

Learn More In Our Webinar!

We’ve just covered the basics here when it comes to the L-1 and EB-1C visa programs. For more detailed information and a chance to hear straight from an expert on the subject, watch the full webinar on the topic of business immigration options for executives to the United States

Immigration attorney Donald Garner joined us for an in-depth discussion of visas for executives, and the conversation answered questions about lots of related topics, including:

  • The dedicated visa categories for executives and how they differ
  • The employer’s role in the visa process
  • The steps involved in getting an executive business visa, including timelines
  • Options for getting a Green Card

You can find our full library of our webinars on our YouTube channel.

Disclaimer: Joorney Business Plans is not a law firm nor an immigration consulting firm, and no information provided in this document should be considered as legal advice or recommendation regarding any immigration application program. All information provided in this document should be verified by a licensed or certified immigration professional before the reader can act on this information. As such, it is understood that Joorney Business Plans Inc. shall not be liable for any loss or damage of whatever nature (direct, indirect, consequential, or other), whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, which may arise as a result of your use of (or inability to use) this document, or from your use of (or failure to use) the information on this document.

Participants Biographies

Donald Garner
Donald GarnerU.S. Business Immigration Attorney, President of LL.M. Law Group

Donald Garner formed the LL.M. Law Group in January 2003. Don has devoted his career to helping clients come to the United States; he has focused his practice on employment-based immigration law and has represented companies and individuals from 90 different countries in all 50 states. Don was named a “top immigration lawyer” by the Chicago Sun-Times and is the Liaison and recommended immigration service provider for the Chicago Consular Corps. He served as President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association and as the youngest President of the Rotary Club of Chicago, the world’s first Rotary Club founded in 1905. During law school, Don served as Chief Justice of the Moot Court, Chair of the Diversity Committee and President of the LL.M. class. Don is a prolific speaker for immigration matters. He has appeared on local and international radio and television shows to discuss the impact of U.S. immigration developments under the last four presidential administrations.

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Marcos Bravo
Marcos Bravo

Marcos Bravo, Brand Ambassador at Joorney, is a Marketing, Brand, and Communications expert with over 20 years of experience in diverse industries. His proficiency spans Marketing Leadership, Brand Development, Content Strategy, and Video Production. Collaborating with industry titans like LiveChat, Piktochart, Techland, and more, Marcos has developed innovative communication initiatives that have attracted a diverse array of new customers. Heading the helm of The Waterlemon, his video content agency, Marcos also extends his expertise as a Marketing Mentor to numerous global companies. His passion is to get the best out of people and help them build a powerful brand through content.

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