L1 and H1-B visas are employment-based visas that allow foreign nationals to work in the United States. They also are the most common work-related visas. However, these visas have different purposes. The L1 visa allows executive or managerial employees who work for a company to transfer from one position to another within the same company to a U.S. workplace. On the other hand, the H1-B visa allows U.S.-based companies to hire foreign nationals to work for them in the U.S.
L1 and H1-B visas also have some similarities. For example, both visa programs allow visa holders to apply for permanent resident status or a green card, although the process differs depending on the type of visa involved. Likewise, spouses of H1-B visa holders on H-4 visas and spouses of L1 visa holders who are present in the U.S. on L2 visas can both apply for employment authorization documents (EADs) to allow them to work while living in the U.S.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that U.S.-based employers can use to bring qualified foreign workers to the U.S. temporarily.. Generally, the workers must hold a bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent) or a higher degree and have substantial knowledge in their area of expertise. The employer also must demonstrate a lack of qualified U.S. applicants to fill the position that the H-1B visa holder will fill and pay the individual the prevailing wage for the area where they work.
The U.S. employer sponsors the H-1B visa holder, who can work in the U.S. for six years under this visa. An H-1B visa holder also may be able to extend the visa in one or three-year increments in some limited circumstances. Congress has limited H-1B visas to 65,000 per year, plus an additional 20,000 visas for individuals who hold master’s degrees and higher. From time to time, additional H-1B visas have become available in past fiscal years.
The L-1 visa is reserved for certain company employees to transfer to a U.S. location of the same company or a subsidiary of that company. For example, a company could use the L-1 visa for an executive or manager of a foreign company to establish a new office location in the U.S. All L-1 visa holders must have been an employee of the company or its subsidiary for at least one of the last three years.
Employees must be executive or managerial to qualify for an L1A visa or have specialized knowledge in a particular field to qualify for an L1B visa. However, the L-1 visa does not require that the visa holder have any degree. In addition, federal immigration law places no cap on the number of individuals who may be granted L-1 visas to work in the U.S.
The foreign company is the sponsor of the L-1 visa holder. Therefore, companies that do not have branches in foreign companies would not qualify to sponsor L-1 visa holders. However, unlike with H-1B visas, the sponsoring company does not need to prove that there is a lack of qualified U.S. applicants to fill the position. Foreign companies also can apply for L-1 visas using blanket petitions, which is much less time-consuming than filing individual petitions, such as H-1B visas require.
L1A visa holders can work in the U.S. for seven years, and L1B visa holders can work in the U.S. for five years. However, no extensions of L1 visas are available.
The immigration attorneys and staff of Bashyam Global focus on providing legal assistance to individuals and businesses with immigration matters. As immigration law’s landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with regulation and policy changes as they occur. Together, we can work toward getting the legal relief that you are seeking. Contact our offices today at (919) 833-0840 and schedule an appointment to discuss your case.