Both L1 and H-1B visas are used by employers to hire nonimmigrants for work in the United States. The L1 is available for work managerial or executive capacity whereas H-1B visas are typically used for specialized occupations.
Due to the overlaps between the two visas, it can clear doubt in the mind of visa holders about which visa to apply for. In this piece, we offer a complete guide on L 1 vs H1B, along with a list of similarities and differences between the two.
Overview of H-1B Visa
H-1B visa is one of the most common nonimmigrant visa categories for employing foreign workers. It is one of the sub-categories of H visas. It is used by companies to hire foreign workers with specialized knowledge.
Along with the H-1B visa holder, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also provides the dependent spouse an ability to work in the US by applying for H4 Employment Authorization Documents.
In order to be eligible for an H-1B visa, the applicant needs to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and deep or special knowledge in the field. Along with this, the employer is also required to demonstrate that the position could not be filled by domestic workers.
Overview of L1 Visa
The L1 visa is sometimes referred to as intra company transferee visa. It is given to foreign workers who have worked in a foreign branch of a US-based company or its subsidiary.
Along with this, the L1 visa can also be used by multinational companies opening a branch inside the US. Unlike H-1B, L1 is given to managerial, executive, or specialized occupations.
There are two types of L1 visas:
- L1A: This is used for managerial and executive professional
- L1B: This is used for specialized knowledge workers
- The requirements of L1A and L1B are very similar. However, each visa provides a different duration of stay and the subsequent process of applying for citizenship through a green card.
Just like the H-1B visa, dependents of L1 visas are offered additional privileges. A dependent spouse can seek employment authorization.
Differences Between L1 and H-1B
As mentioned, L1 and H-1B visas have many differences. Let’s take a look at these:
The objectives behind giving L1 and H-1B visas are different. The L1 is used by companies to transfer employees from a foreign branch to the US. Alternatively, a company opening a branch in the US can also make use of the L1 visa.
On the other hand, the H-1B visa is used by companies to hire foreign workers in specialized occupations. Further, the H-1B is also used by applicants who wish to pursue a graduate degree or higher in the US.
For example, let’s say Facebook wants to transfer employees from India to the US. In that case, an L1 visa is suitable. However, if Facebook wants to hire an employee working in India, an H-1B visa is more apt.
In the case of the L1 visa, the parent company, which might be located in a foreign country, needs to sponsor the visa of the applicant. Here, the sponsor will be a foreign company. Whereas in the case of an H-1B visa, the company located in the US needs to sponsor the applicant.
For example, let’s say Company A is a subsidiary of Company B, located in India. If an employee is transferring from Company A’s India branch to the US branch, Company B will be required to sponsor the applicant. However, in the case of an H-1B visa, only the US branch of the company will have to sponsor the visa.
For an L1 visa, the employer is required to meet various conditions. The employer needs to be a multinational company with a branch located in the US or should be opening a new branch in the US. Further, the employee should be working with the employer for at least a continuous year within three years immediately before entering the US.
On the other hand, for an H-1B visa, the employer can run a small organization or company that is purely based in the US. There is no requirement of prior work with the employee. If a company is only operational in the US, it cannot hire employees using an L1 visa.
There are no educational requirements for the L1 visa. For both L1A and L1B visas, the employee is expected to have been working at a foreign branch for at least one continuous year This should be within the three years immediately before admission to the US. Such an employee could have any level of educational qualification.
H-1B visa holders need to meet strict educational requirements. The applicant should hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (or the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree).
For example, if Facebook wants to employ foreign workers from India using an H-1B visa, it can only hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
On the other hand, in case of a transfer, such educational qualification will be irrelevant and the focus will be on the duration of work with Facebook or its subsidiaries.
#Duration of Stay
The duration of stay is different for the L1A and L1B subcategories. For L1A, the visa holders can stay in the US for up to 7 years.
Whereas for L1B, the visa holders can stay in the US for up to 5 years. For both visas, the visa holders can apply for a 2-year extension.
In the case of an H-1B visa, the visa holder can stay in the US for up to 6 years. Upon expiry, the visa holder can file for a 3-year extension.
#Annual Visa Cap
The visa cap refers to the number of visas granted issued by USCIS in a fiscal year. There is no cap on the total number of L1 visas that the USCIS will issue.
This means that any number of applicants can apply for and successfully receive the L1 visa.
However, in the case of an H-1B visa, the USCIS prescribes a different cap each year. For FY 2022-23, there is a cap of 65,000 visas for employees and a 20,000 cap for students who wish to pursue a graduate degree.
If the number of applicants is more than the cap, the USCIS conducts a draw of lots to invite visa petitions.
Employers sponsoring an H-1B visa are required to pay the prevailing wage paid to the employees working in that area.
This ensures that the actual wage paid to the foreign workers matches the market conditions and that the employee is not being brought to the US at a lower wage than what other employees in the same position are earning.
There is no such requirement for paying the prevailing wage for the L1 visa. The employer is free to set the wage for the employee.
#Department of Labor Certification
Companies that sponsor L1 visas are not obliged to include a labor condition application with their petition, proving a dearth of local employees to fill the post.
Employers who sponsor H1B employees must submit a labor condition application demonstrating that there are no eligible workers available in the United States to fill the post.
Employees on L1 visas are not permitted to transfer to another firm while still on the L1 visa. The new employer must file a fresh L1 visa petition for the employee in order to move firms.
Employees with H1B visas can change employers while keeping their H-1B visa status. They are not needed to seek authorization from their prior job, but they must fulfill contractual obligations and adhere to non-compete agreements. The new employer of an H1B visa holder must file an H1B Visa Transfer petition with USCIS.
#Approval from the Department of Labor
An H1B visa requires permission from the US Department of Labor, which verifies that there are no eligible employees available for the position in the US.
Employers must submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) online using the iCERT Portal System to gain approval from the US Department of Labor. The LCA provides employment-related information such as the job description, location, and compensation.
There is no need for permission from the Department of Labor to submit an L1 visa because it does not need to fulfill that criterion.
A blanket petition speeds up visa processing by removing the necessity for the business to show eligibility each time they want to sponsor a worker.
Blanket applications for H1B visas are not accessible, although they are for L1 visas. If the L1 visa employer’s blanket petition is accepted, there is no need for individual cases to be processed at the USCIS, making the visa procedure easier for an overseas company.
L1 vs. H1B: Which is Better?
L1 and H-1B visas are two of the most common visas used by foreign workers to enter and work in the United States. They are both types of nonimmigrant visas. These are provided to foreign employees as temporary work visas.
While both L1 and H-1B are dual intent visas that provide nonimmigrants to temporarily work in the US, due to the differences in the objective and requirements for receiving the visa, an applicant might only qualify for one.
How Can Herman Legal Group Help You?
Due to the complex application procedures, you should hire an immigration attorney to consult while filing. This will help in determining which visa is more suitable for you along with understanding the L1 and H1B applicant and employment eligibility for both.
At Herman Legal Group, we regularly help foreign employees to submit successful applications for L1 and H-1B visas.
We have a team of experienced attorneys who can help you navigate through the difficult process and ensure that your application is filed correctly. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you.