First, you do not apply for your visa, your employer does! You must have worked for the company abroad for at least one continuous year (in the past three years). The employer abroad and the employer in the U.S. must have one of four types of relationships: parent and subsidiary, branch and headquarters, sister companies owned by a mutual parent, or “affiliates” owned by the same; or people, in approximately the same percentages.
There are two possible types of intracompany transferee visas under this category of L visa: L-1A and L-1B. L-1A is an executive or managerial type worker. Managerial means you are directing the organization itself (or a department, subdivision or the like), supervise other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, can hire and fire or make similar decisions, and can control daily activities. Basically, top of the food chain types. Executive means an employee who chiefly deals with the management of the organization and establishes organizational goals and policies. An executive has a lot of leeway in decision-making, and is what most people think of when they think of an executive.
An L-1A visa is valid for up to seven years and it can be used as a legal stepping stone to a green card because it allows dual intent.
If you are not an executive or manager, you can still apply for an L-1B visa if you have “specialized knowledge.” That means they have to have special information regarding the company product and its application internationally, or an advanced knowledge of processes and procedures of the company. However, USCIS has been tightening the interpretation of specialized knowledge, because it used to be a way to transfer technical personnel easily in order to avoid other visa quota issues. This is no longer the case. Now employers must submit a lot of paperwork which shows how the employee gained that knowledge, why the information is so closely held, proprietary or unavailable to U.S. workers, and how that knowledge will be applied.
All of these facts have to be proved with a trove of evidence. An L-1B visa is valid for five years, but if you are promoted (congratulations!), as long as it is more than six months before the expiration of your visa, your visa can be changed to an L-1A.
Employers can avoid handling this complicated procedure alone, by hiring an experienced immigration attorney. This will help to minimize issues with presenting the correct evidence to USCIS the first time, resulting in a more expedited and a more likely to be successful, application.