Difference Between L-1 and H-1B Visas

U.S. employers wish to utilize the talents of foreign-born, highly-skilled workers will need to secure an appropriate worker visa for their new hire. The processes for worker visas usually requires participation/action on the part of the employee.

A common example is that the potential new employee will be expected to provide the necessary documentation in order to complete the application process. Two more common types of visas for employer and employee to pursue are L-1 and H-1B visas. Each type are used for different circumstances and can have varying levels of permits.

Understanding the L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa or Intra-Company Transferee Visa, is designed for multinational companies who wish to utilize the talents of their employees from different countries. The L-1 visa has two categories, the L-1A Visa and the L-1B visa. L-1 visas are also seen as an option for applicants who fail to meet the requirements of the H-1B visa.

The L-1 visa can be awarded to applicants who have demonstrated accomplishments in managerial and executive roles and/or have been specially trained or gained knowledge of procedures which are needed of the U.S. enterprise they are applying for. For more useful information on L-1A and L-1B visas, please review our informational pages:

Difference in Requirements

The requirements for an H-1B visa is more stringent in requirements than the L-1 visa. The minimum requirements to obtain the H-1B includes a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent or higher. In some circumstances, it is acceptable to substitute eligible work experience in lieu of the minimum bachelor’s degree. In whatever case, the applicant must have a required number of years’ experience working in the relevant industry in which they are applying for. For example, the applicant cannot apply for a work visa in the medical field when the majority of their relevant work experience is in engineering. The L-1 visa however, does not have educational requirements.

The applicant must still have a set number years’ of working experience, but does not have to be in the industry for which they apply for. This makes the L-1 visa more obtainable for the employer and employee. Multinational companies use this option to transfer their employees from one country to the U.S. for specific purposes.

Employer Visa Eligibility

The application, or petition, process varies depending on the type of visa needed. Only multinational companies and employees qualify for the L-1 visa. It can only be used for employees who have previous work experience with the company petitioning for the visa. One year of employment is required within the previous three years. An H-1B visa, on the other hand, can be petitioned by any United States based company, assuming the other requirements are met.

The H-1B visa may be petitioned by any U.S. based company in consideration that the other stringent educational and work experience requirements are met within the visa guidelines. In short, multinational companies have the L-1 visa to easily transfer valuable employees to needed regions. H-1B applicants may use this option if they are a studying a certain field or gaining experience within a specific company.

Expiration Dates

Each type of visa, including their varying levels, all have expiration dates. When applying for any work visa, it is important to keep their maximum duration stays in mind. Some jobs may require longer periods of work, or the need to return to the U.S. in future expenditures may be required. Below is listed a small list of maximum years allotted to a visa.

  • L-1A Visa: Seven years.
  • L-1B Visa: Five years.
  • H-1B Visa: Six years with potential to file for extension.

An employee who has spent any amount of time on any work visa type, including H visas or L visas, it is applied to the maximum duration level of the new visa applied for. The H-1B visa carries the option to extend the allotted time beyond the set time frame. Any immigration attorney can help in the petition process.

Annual Visa Limitations

H-1B visas carry an annual cap. Only a set amount of H-1B visas can be issued within any given year (H-1B visas carry a cap of 65,000 per year. There are an additional 20,000 reserved for Master’s Exemptions.). For those who cannot afford to miss the visa opportunity, and for those who qualify, the L-1 visa may be the better option since they do not carry an annual cap. This means that an L-1 visa application won’t be denied solely based on the number of petitions received. When compared to the H-1B visa, it is easier to apply for, and gain the L-1 visa in a timely manner.

Benefits of the L-1 Visa over the H-1B Visa

The L-1 visa carries certain benefits over the H-1B visa. Depending on the context of the employee transfer, these benefits should be considered before starting the application process. Some of the benefits of the L-1 visa include the option for family members to seek employment, no requirement for a labor certification and may not have any educational requirements.

Approved applicant’s family can seek employment: Immediate family members of a L-1 visa holder (spouse or unmarried minors) may seek employment in the U.S. by obtaining an L2 visa. This allows for legal work of family members through their Employment Authorization Documents or EAD, during the time the L-1 holder is working in the U.S. Wage is determined by the L2’s employer instead of prevailing wage that is set by the State Employment Security Agency.

No certification required from Department of Labor:No labor condition application is required. The labor condition application seeks to demonstrate the lack or unavailability of domestic workers to fulfill the position from the employer, and determines specific need of a foreign worker.
While there are clear benefits to the L-1 visa, there are also limitations to its use. For example, there is no option for extending the visa for more time than what was originally awarded. Important facts about the L-1 visa to be aware of are:

  • No annual cap on L-1 visas
  • Does not require any specific educational degree
  • Employers do not need to submit a labor condition application
  • Longer length of stay for L-1-A manager and executive professionals; seven years as opposed to six.
  • However, there is no possibility to file for a three year extension.

Corporations and Blanket Petitions

Several large companies that regular transfer employees between the US and foreign offices can take advantage of the blanket L visa petition option, which makes the entire process much easier. Some of the requirements for using the blanket petition option include: the employer must have obtained at least 10 L-1 approvals during the previous 1 year or has U.S. subsidiaries/affiliates with a combined $25 million in revenue or has at least 1000 employees in the U.S. By contrast, H-1B does not have any option for filing blanket petitions.

Advantages of the H-1B Visa Over the L-1 Visa

The H-1B visa also carries unique benefits and disadvantages that employers and employees should be aware of. Some of the benefits of an H-1B visa include the option to file for extensions and that there is no requirement for multinational companies.

Opportunity to file for extension: The applicant can opt to apply for a three year extension to their visa for a total of up to 9 years. The extension must be filed a full year before the expiration of the H-1B visa.

Not limited to only multinational companies: Any U.S. company may apply for the H-1B visa including multinational companies. This holds the advantage for any company seeking to bring other talent into their employee pool.

Choosing The Right Visa

Before any application is started, it is highly important to explore all rules and regulations of each visa in comparison to the employer and employee needs. In either case, both are temporary work visas and maintain dual intent. They also both carry the option for the holder to apply for a green card without affecting their visa status.

Always Work with a Legal Professional

Due to the complexity of these visas and the possibility for error, it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel before moving forward with an application. A qualified legal professional should be able to provide insight on the requirements of both the employee and employer, the essential criteria for the visa and the steps in the application process. Pride Immigration Law Firm has extensive experience with managing H-1B visa cases and L visa applications for employers and employees alike. To learn how our services can benefit you, call our office or, send us a message online with a description of your case.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.

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