Introduction The importance of immune tumor microenvironment in the prognosis of patients with head and neck squamous carcinomas (HNSCC) is increasingly recognized. We analyzed the prognostic relevance of PD-L1 and PD-1 expressions in relation to the infiltration by CD8(+) and FOXP3(+) tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Methods Samples from 372 surgically treated HPV-negative HNSCC patients were evaluated by immunohistochemistry for PD-L1 expression [both tumor proportion score (TPS) and combined proportion score (CPS)], PD-1 expression in immune cells, and density of infiltrating CD8(+) and FOXP3(+) TILs. PD-L1 expression and CD8(+) TIL density were combined to establish the type of tumor microenvironment. Results 29.5% cases exhibited PD-L1 TPS positivity (>= 1%), whereas PD-L1 CPS positivity (>= 1%) was observed in 40% cases. 47.5% cases showed positive PD-1 expression (>= 1%). PD-L1 and PD-1 positivity correlated with a high density of both CD8(+) and FOXP3(+) TILs. In univariate analysis, PD-L1 TPS positivity (P = 0.026), PD-L1 CPS positivity (P = 0.004), high density of CD8(+) TIL (P = 0.001), and high density of FOXP3(+) TIL (P = 0.004) were associated with a better disease-specific survival (DSS). However, in multivariate analysis, only high density of CD8(+) TIL was associated with a better DSS (P = 0.002). The type of tumor microenvironment correlated with DSS (P = .008), with the better DSS observed in cases with type I (PD-L1 CPS positivity and high density of CD8(+) TIL). Conclusions High infiltration by CD8(+) TIL is associated with better survival outcomes. Positive PD-L1 expression correlates with a high infiltration by TILs, explaining its association with better prognosis.