For the majority of professionals and managers coming to work in the United States, both the H1B and L1 visa categories are popular work visa options.
The requirements and features of the H1B visa and L1 vary greatly and a clear understanding of these differences will help determine which visa is most suitable for your situation.
Allows U.S. employers to employ a foreign professional to work in a “specialty occupation” for a period of up to six years.managerial capacity.
Allows qualified employees of an international company to be transferred to a related company in the U.S. in an executive or managerial capacity.
Allows employees of an international company to be transferred to a related company in the U.S. because he or she has “Specialized Knowledge”.
Martin is an HR manager at a multinational company in the U.S. His company recently identified a Business Analyst who they want to employ. The candidate is from South Korea and is in the U.S. on H1B status. Martin is asked to check for and fulfill any visa formalities. The foreign national had worked with one of the company’s affiliates in Hong Kong for about 18 months before moving to U.S. on an H1B for a different company. He is now looking for a change and Martin’s company is eager to bring him back.
When Martin made inquiries with his peers to identify a suitable visa category in this situation, he came across the H1B and L-1 visa categories. While most suggested an H1B transfer for a quicker process, a few suggested the L-1 to avoid prevailing wage requirements, leaving Martin thoroughly confused.
H1B Visa: A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specific field must be the minimum requirement for entry into the position.
L1A Visa: The position offered in the U.S. must be as a manager or executive.
L1B Visa: The position offered in the U.S. must require a person with specialized knowledge.
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H1B Visa: Total maximum period of stay is 6 years which can be granted in no more than 3-year increments. L-1 time will count against total allowable H1B time.
L1A Visa: Total maximum period of stay is 7 years which is generally granted for up to 3 years initially and extensions granted in 2-year increments. Individuals coming to a New Office are only granted 1 year initially. H1B and L1B time will count against total allowable L1A time.
L1B Visa: Total maximum period of stays if 5 years which is generally granted for up to 3 years initially and extensions granted in 2-year increments. Individuals coming to a New Office are only granted 1 year initially. H1B and L1A time will count against total allowable L1B time.
A foreign national who has previously held H1B or L-1 status can get a new 6 years of H1B by going through the H1B Cap again or be eligible for 7 or 5 years in L1A or L1B time respectively, if he or she remains outside the U.S. for one continuous year.
H1B visa holders may be eligible for extensions beyond the 6-year maximum if an employment-based permanent residence application is pending or has been approved on their behalf.
For the L-1 visa, a new I-129 petition must be filed if the petitioning entity changes.
A new I-129 petition does not have to be filed if the employee entered on a Blanket L-1 and the move is to another entity listed on the Blanket L.
H1B Visa: H1B portability provisions allow a foreign national in H1B status to begin working for a new H1B employer as soon as the new employer files an H1B petition for him or her without having to wait for USCIS approval of the petition.
L1A Visa and L1B Visa: A foreign national in L1A or L1B status can work only for a qualifying member of the multinational group (parent, subsidiary, sister, branch, or affiliated company) that filed the petition. He or she will not be able to work on a new L-1 for a company that is not a qualifying member of the multinational group.
H1B to Green Card: Most H1B visa holders would require a labor certification filed on their behalf through the Department of Labor to be eligible for the Green Card.
L1A to Green Card: L1A visa holders may be able to apply for an expedited Green Card in the EB-1C category and waive the labor certification process.
L1B to Green Card: Most L1B visa holders would require a labor certification filed on their behalf through the Department of Labor to be eligible for the Green Card.
An L1B visa holder may be eligible for an expedited green card in the EB-1C category if he or she was in a managerial or executive role before coming to the U.S. and is being sponsored for an executive or managerial position.
Once the Green Card process is initiated, an H1B visa holder may be able to extend their stay in the U.S. beyond the sixth year if the labor certification or I-140 has been pending for at least 365 days or an approved I-140 is retrogressed.
Employers who have L1B visa holders who need to remain beyond the 5th year will need to consider changing their status to L1A or H1B.
After careful consideration and detailed discussions with immigration attorney, Martin decided that the company should bring the foreign national back into the company through the H1B transfer process. Since the candidate was already in H1B status and could benefit from portability and his offered salary was well above the prevailing wage, the H1B process would most likely be the faster and more straightforward of the two visa options.