The Difference between the L-1 Visa and the E-1/E-2 Visa

Because of similarities between the L-1 visa and the E1/E-2 visa it is easy to get them confused. We are often asked about the pros and cons of both L and E visas. In an attempt to clarify, here are some hallmarks of each:

L-1L-1A and L-1B Qualifications

L-1 visas are used by all manner of businesses – small, medium and large. The L1 visa is used to transfer executives and managers from foreign businesses to the U.S. for up to seven years.

The U.S. based employer must petition on behalf of the alien in the L-1 visa process. The L-1 visa has two key factors: the employee must work in the role of executive, manager, supervisor, or in a role which requires specialize knowledge; and the employee must have worked in an overseas parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate of the petitioning U.S. company for at least one of the past three years.

L-1A Time of Stay

L-1A – For executives and management personnel. Applicants from U.S. companies which have been in existence for less than one year receive a visa with an initial duration of one year. For companies in existence for over one year the visa has an initial duration of three years. This visa can be extended in 2 year increments for up to 7 years.

L-1B Time of Stay

L-1B – For employees with specialized knowledge. This visa has a three year duration and can be extended one time for an additional two years – making the total possible stay 5 years.

L1-A and L-1B Path to Residency

This visa is a dual intent visa and has a straightforward path to residency. The applicant may apply for residency while staying in the U.S. under the visa.

If the visa holder does not secure residency, and exhausts their visa extension opportunities, in both cases visa holders must leave the U.S. at the end of their visa’s validation period. They must remain out of the U.S. working for the foreign operation. They may then apply for another L visa.


E visas are generally used by small businesses.


These visas too are used for aliens who are applying to come to the United States in a role of executive, manager, supervisor, or specialize knowledge. With the E visa programs the business in question must trade directly with the United States, or have substantial investments in the U.S.

Time of Stay and Path to Residency

Those with an E visa will be granted an initial stay of up to 2 years. The visa can be extended by periods of up to 2 years at a time, indefinitely. The visa holder does not have to return to their home country so long as their visa extensions continue to be approved.

E1/E2 Path to Residency

E visas are not dual intent. The USCIS officer who reviews the initial application and any requests for extension will want proof that the applicant does not plan to permanently reside in the United States. If the recipient of an E visa were to apply for residency too soon after arrival, this would be looked upon negatively and could hurt their chances for approval. It could also hurt the applicant’s current E visa status.

Application Process

The application process for both visas is similar. The applicant with the USCIS, or at a U.S. consulate overseas. The one major difference is that with L visa application the applicant’s employer must send a petition to the USCIS.

If you are a U.S. employer sponsoring a foreign professional, or you are wanting to apply in the E visa category, the Lyttle Law Firm can help. Our firm has successfully handled all types of cases requiring employment-based visas, helping multinational employers and foreign workers from all over the world. At Lyttle Law Firm, we use our experience to strategize the best solution to your immigration concern to provide you with all your legal options. For a confidential consultation in-person or over the phone, call (512) 215-5225 or contact us online.