L-1 Visa versus H-1B Visa
The United States offers many different types of temporary worker visas in order to assist employers in acquiring personnel. Some of the visas that fall within this category include L-1A, L-1B, TN, O-1, and OPT. Two of the most requested visas are the L-1 and H-1B.
The L-1 visa is used for Intra-company Transferees. An Intra-company Transferee is a foreign national who has been working for a non-U.S. company and is applying to be transferred to a U.S. company. This U.S. company is a branch, subsidiary, or joint venture partner of the non-U.S. company.
The H-1B visa is used for Temporary Workers in Specialty Occupations. This type of applicant must meet the educational and experience requirements of one of the specialty occupations listed on Form M-746 (Dictionary of Occupational Titles). U.S. employers can hire foreign workers that meet these specifications.
The L-1 and H-1B share some similarities, so it is easy to get confused about which one to pursue.
The major similarities between the L-1 and H-1B visa are:
- They are both temporary work visas.
- Both of them qualify for Premium Processing.
- U.S. businesses can expedite the processing of certain types of non-immigrant visas by paying a fee of $1,225 to the USCIS. This guarantees a 15 calendar day processing time for visa petitions and applications. The other advantage of premium processing is that companies who participate in it get dedicated phone and email access to inquire about their applications and check on their status.
- Dual intent is possible.
- Dual intent is an immigration term which describes an applicant who has filed for both temporary and permanent visa status simultaneously. Due to this contradiction, applicants for L-1 and H-1B visas are not required to prove strong ties to their home country. It is largely because of this allowance of dual intent that the L-1 and H-1B visa categories are so popular, as it allows applicants to work temporarily in the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their permanent residence application (Green Card).
Beyond these similarities, the L-1 and H-1B visas have quite a few differences. A potential applicant should assess these differences carefully and choose the visa that best applies to his or her situation.
Differences Between L-1 and H-1B Visas
The U.S. company filing the petition for foreign workers must be multinational or have a relationship with a foreign company. The U.S. company applying could be the parent or subsidiary of a foreign company, or possibly an affiliate or branch. The applicant for an L-1 visa must have a minimum of 1 year work experience in a preceding 3 year period as a manager, executive, or have specialized knowledge.
Any U.S. employer can file a petition for a foreign worker. They must show that they are hiring a worker in one of the listed Specialty Occupations for an H-1B visa. Foreign workers must meet certain educational and experiential requirements in order to qualify under one of the chosen occupations.
There are no wage requirements specified for the L-1 visa. The lack of restrictions is due to the fact that the applicant is being transferred from a foreign company. Despite this, drastically lower wages can still be an issue. Therefore, wages are still expected to be reasonable.
Wage requirements are carefully regulated for the H-1B visa. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a prevailing wage database for each of the listed Specialty Occupations. If the U.S. employer cannot offer the minimum prevailing wage, the H-1B visa petition will be rejected.
Currently, the L-1 Visa has no application caps in place.
There is annual application cap enforced on H-1B visas. The fiscal year begins on April 1 and the cap is set at 65,000. In recent years, this application cap has been met very quickly. For example, in the fiscal year for 2015, over 172,500 applications were received.
Exemptions to the cap are given to H-1B applicants employed by:
- A non-profit research organization
- A government research organization
- An institution of higher education
Due to the nature of the L-1 Visa, the payroll requirements are flexible. It is possible for an Intra-company Transferee to still be on a foreign payroll and only receive an allowance from the U.S. company.
In general, foreign workers on an H-1B visa are working directly for their U.S. employer. Therefore, the employer must have the H-1B visa holders on a payroll.
An L-1A visa has a maximum validity of up to 7 years, while an L-1B visa has a maximum validity of up to 5 years. It should also be noted that L-1 visa applicants who are transferring from an H visa must include that time. This means that if you were on an H-1B visa for 2 years and transferred over to an L-1A visa, you would only have 5 years left until the new L-1A visa expired.
The maximum duration of an H-1B visa is 6 years. If you transfer from an L visa to an H-1B visa, that previous time counts towards the maximum duration.
It is also possible to apply for an extension of an H-1B visa in some cases. This extension could grant the visa holder another 3 years, but must be applied for at least a year before the current H-1B visa expires.
Minimum Education Requirements
A degree is not a requirement for this type of visa. Naturally, many Intra-company Transferees do have degrees, but they do not have to be related to any predetermined specialized field.
There are strict minimum education requirements dictated by foreign workers under an H-1B visa. The occupation that the foreign worker will be performing must require at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. Furthermore, the job on offer must meet an industry standard for degree requirements, meaning that to do the duties of the job, the foreign worker must have specialized training or knowledge.
U.S. companies can file for a blanket petition which means that multiple non-immigrant workers can be hired under one petition. In order to be eligible to file a blanket petition, the U.S. company should meet one of the following conditions:
- Employer must have received a minimum of 10 L-1 visa approvals during the previous year
- Employer has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with a combined revenue of $25 million or more
- Company has a minimum of 1,000 employees in the U.S.
Currently, the H-1B visa does not allow the filing of blanket petitions. Only individual petitions are possible.
Family Members of Applicant Seeking Employment
One of the key advantages of the L-1 visa is that immediate family members of an L-1 visa holder may seek employment in the U.S. Immediate family would be defined as a spouse or unmarried minors dependent on the L-1 visa holder. These family members can receive an L2 visa which allows them to work legally in the U.S.
While immediate family members of an H-1B visa holder are allowed to live in the U.S. for the duration of the visa, they are not allowed to be paid employees. If they wish to work, they must apply for and obtain their own separate work visa.
Contact Akrami and Associates
As you can see, the L-1 visa and H-1B visa have quite a few differences. What visa is right for you largely depends on your background. You might want to consider these questions when considering a temporary worker application for U.S. non-immigrant status:
- Does my education background meet the requirements of a Specialty Occupation?
- Do I have the necessary work experience?
- Will my immediate family accompany me to the U.S.?
- Will my accompanying immediate family need to work?
- How long do I want to stay in the U.S.?
- Does my U.S. employer meet the qualifications for the type of visa I wish to apply for?
If you have more questions or are unsure how to proceed with your U.S. temporary work visa, our firm is here to help. Our team of U.S. immigration lawyers and consultants has the knowledge and skills necessary to set you on the right path. Let us help to assess which non-immigrant visa works best for you and to put together the most professional application possible.