Are you a high-skilled worker exploring temporary work visa options to enter the United States? The L-1 or E-2 visa might be a good option for you! Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between each visa.

Overview of the L-1 Visa

An L-1 visa is a temporary work visa. It is specifically designed to transfer overseas employees to an U.S. branch of a company when the company needs a high-level employee to provide similar expertise in the U.S. to grow the company or establish a new U.S. office. There are two L-1 classifications:

  • L-1A, which is for executives or managers, and
  • L-1B, which is for employees with specialized knowledge.

L-1A visa holders must have the executive capacity, meaning that they can make a lot of important decisions for the company without a great amount of oversight, OR managerial capacity, meaning that they supervise other employees and manage a specific component of the company or all of it. L-1B visa holders must have a specialized set of knowledge that is vital to running the company, such as expertise in the product, service, organization, management, financial information, or other areas.

Overview of the E-2 Visa

An E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a temporary, non-immigrant employment visa designed for entrepreneurs from select countries hoping to expand their business footprint in the U.S. People coming from countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the United States can obtain an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa to conduct investment and trade in the United States. Because this visa is designed for entrepreneurs specifically, a large amount of the capital invested must be related to either buying or establishing a business for the visa.

You may also read: Basics of an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa


The primary similarity between each visa is that they are both non-immigrant, temporary work visas for people of a similar caliber of skill. Both visas only last for a fixed period and do not lead directly to a Green Card like the EB category.

Additionally, both visas share some benefits, such as authorizing the visa holder to work, allowing spouses of the visa holder to apply for work authorization, and allowing for visa holders to transfer to the EB category to eventually obtain a Green Card. 

Another benefit of both visas is that new and existing businesses can petition to bring workers over on either visa if all business requirements are met.


The primary difference between the L-1 and E-2 visa categories is that they have different focuses. The L-1 visa is focused on bringing people who work in managerial capacity, executive capacity, or have specialized knowledge from a foreign to a U.S. branch of the same company. Conversely, the E-2 visa is meant to attract people who want to make a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise or set up a U.S. enterprise.

Another key difference is that the E-2 visa has restrictions based on nationality. The E-2 visa is only available to people from countries that the U.S. has an E-2 treaty with. The L-1 visa does not have any nationality-based restrictions. 

The amount of time that each visa is valid for also differs. For L-1 visas, the initial stay is 1 year for a new office and 3 years for an existing office with options to extend for both. The E-2 visa has varying validity periods depending on the country that the visa holder comes from. Most E-2 visas have a 1–5 year validity period depending on the country and can be renewed an unlimited number of times.

Of course, this is a general overview of the two visas and there are several other requirements for both visas that must be satisfied. Sometimes people are eligible for both the L-1 and E-2 but depending on their circumstances and visa validity periods, one may be a better option over the other.

If you would like to learn more about L-1 and E-2 visas, contact us for an assessment. We are happy to help you obtain the visa that best suits your business and career goals.


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