The United States of America is among countries where almost everyone wants to work. It is unsurprising because of the diverse career options and promising economy of the country. However, if you are planning to work in the US, you must understand its visa regulations. The visas required to work in the US are L1 and H-1B. Hence, it is necessary to learn the difference between L1 and H1B visas.
L-1 is a non-immigrant visa with a short validity period. For Indians, the validity period is five years based on the reciprocity schedule. It is ideal for employees of multinational companies that have offices in the US. The visa enables foreign workers to relocate to the US office of their corporation.
The spouses of the L-1 visa holders can work in the US without any restriction by using the L-2 visa and the employment authorization document (EAD). The L-1 visa can be legally used under the doctrine of dual intent to obtain a green card in the future.
There are two types of L-1 visas – L-1A and L-1B. L-1A is for managers and executives and comes with a maximum validity period of 7 years. L-1B is for workers with specialized knowledge and comes with a validity period of up to 5 years. On visa expiry, foreign nationals can re-qualify for L-1 status after working outside the US for 1 year for an affiliate, subsidiary, or branch office of the US-based company.
The L-1 visa comes with two types of procedures, a regular L-1 visa, and a blanket L-1 visa. The regular L-1 visa has to be applied for as well as approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The blanket L-1 visa is offered by employers after meeting some specific criteria. To get regular L-1 visas, a company has to file petitions with the USCIS and each of them is assessed individually. For a blanket L-1 visa petition, the company has to qualify for the issuance of an Intra-company Transferee visa. Therefore, the individual visa applicant only has to file a copy of the blanket petition that has already been approved by the USCIS. The applicants also have to submit documents supporting their qualifications.
The H-1B visa enables American employers to hire foreign workers in specialized occupations for a temporary period. A specialty occupation needs the application of specialized knowledge as well as a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience. One can stay in the US for three years with the H-1B Visa, and the validity can be extended up to six years. The visa holder has to reapply if he/she wishes to stay beyond six years. There are a limited number of H-1B visas that can be issued each year. Employers withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from the wages of H-1B visa holders.
Employers have to apply for the H-1B visa through the Labor Condition Applications (LCA). An LCA for the employee is filed in the United States Department of Labor by the employer including the relevant attestations. This also includes attestations on wages and working conditions demonstrating that the wage paid to the employee is equal to wages paid to others in similar positions or prevailing wages. Once the labor condition application has been approved the next step for the employer is to file a petition for a non-immigrant worker through Form I-129, which requests to classify the worker in H-1B. All the supporting documents and attestations as well as the fees must accompany the form.
The worker is authorized to work with the H-1B classification post the approval of the I-129. The approval must happen on or after the job start date mentioned in the form if the employee is already in the US. If the employee is not in the US, they can apply for the H-1B visa with Form I-129 and supporting documents. Once the H-1B visa has been issued, the worker can request entry to the US to join work.
Since we have understood the difference between H1B and L1 visas, let us now move to the comparison of the two.
What is the difference between H1B and L1 visas?
Many people get confused with the H-1B and L1 visa types. So, let us discuss some of the differences.
H-1B visas are for professionals working with a US-based company, but L-1 visas are for people who work for a company that is based out of some other country but has operations in the US.
A US-based company has to sponsor applicants for an H-1B visa but the L-1 visa is sponsored by a non-American parent company. Since all employers don’t have branches in the US, it limits the ability to sponsor the L-1 visa for employees.
A US-based company can hire workers from other countries with an H-1B visa. However, in the case of the L-1 visa, the employer has to have operations in the US and can hire from within the parent or subsidiary company in some other country. A foreign company can do so if it’s about to commence operations in the US. Also, the applicant for an L-1 visa has to work for an employer for a minimum of 1 year as an executive, manager, or in a job that requires special skills.
For an H-1B visa, the candidates have to be paid the usual wage in the area that they are going to work. However, this is not the same for the L-1 visa. A candidate with an L-1 visa can be paid less than the usual wage.
The spouse of an H-1B visa holder can accompany but cannot work in the US. However, the spouse of someone with an L-1 visa can submit an employment authorization document and find work in the US.
Approval from the Department of Labor:
H-1B visas have to be approved by the US Department of Labor to ensure that qualified American workers aren’t available for the job. There is no need for approvals for an L-1 visa.
An L1 blanket petition reduces the time needed to process visas as it lets employers transfer multiple employees at the same time without individual verification. There is no blanket petition for H-1B visas.
Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and special skills to apply for the H-1B visa. There is no such requirement for an L-1 visa.
The maximum visa duration depends on the type of visa. An H-1B visa holder can stay in the US for 6 years. But the L-1A visa holder can stay for 7 years and the L-1B visa holders can stay for 5 years. However, the H-1B visas can be extended beyond the 6 year limit in certain cases. The L-1 visas cannot be extended.
Candidates can apply for permanent residency in the US with the help of a green card with both H-1B and L-1 visas. However, the application processes for both these types of visas are different. An H-1B visa holder needs a permanent labor certification from the US Department of Labor to get a green card. It is the same for an L-1B visa holder.
But L-1A visa holders do not need the labor certification. They can file for a green card in the EB1C visa category. This further reduces the time needed for processing to receive a green card. Most of the applicants with the L-1A visa types receive their green card within a year from filing.
Based on this information, you can easily choose the kind of visa that you need.