L-1 Visa: As an Alternative to the H-1B, Similarities and Differences Explained

Similarities between L-1 and H-1B

The L-1 and the H-1B visas are both nonimmigrant work visas, which means they are employment-based visas granted for a limited amount of time, and they do not, by themselves, grant green card eligibility to the visa holder. If you have questions about the L or H visa, contact The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates for a consultation with our attorneys. We have more than 50 years of combined legal experience in a wide variety of complex and immigration law matters.

Both visas may be filed with the premium processing program, if accompanied by a fee. Premium processing greatly speeds up processing of the case and guarantees a 15-day adjudication from the USCIS. If the case is not processed in 15 days, the fee is refunded and the case continues to receive expedited processing.

Both visas allow for dual intent. Generally, nonimmigrant visas require the person to have the intention to return to his or her home country, and the person may be required to provide evidence of ties to the home country. Nonimmigrant visas generally may cause problems for those who seek to switch to an immigrant (green card) visa category. None of this applies to the L-1 and H-1B visas because they allow for both nonimmigrant and immigrant intent.

Differences between L-1 and H-1B

Labor condition application

The H-1B requires an approved labor condition application (LCA) from the US Department of Labor with an attestation from the employer that qualified US workers are available. The L-1 does not require an LCA.

Prevailing wage requirement

The H-1B requires the employer to pay at least the prevailing wage for the occupation according to its geographic location or the actual wage the employer pays similar employees, whichever is higher. This is not required of the L-1 employer since it is considered to be a foreign entity.

Annual visa cap

H-1B visas have an annual limit (or cap) to the number of visas that may be granted each year. This limit is 65,000 per year, plus 20,000 additional visas for workers with a master degree from the US. The L-1 has no such numerical limit.

Requirements for Employers

The L-1 employer must be a US parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign company, in which the L-1 worker must have been employed for at least one continuous year by the foreign employer as a manager, executive, or one with special knowledge. The H-1B does not have these requirements, and any US employer may hire the worker. The H-1B worker must be on the US company’s payroll. The L-1 worker can be on either the US company’s or the foreign company’s payroll. L-1 may file a single blanket petition that covers several L-1 workers. Blanket visa positions are not available for the H-1B.

Requirements for workers

The maximum period of stay is generally 7 years for the L-1A, 5 years for the L-1B, and 6 years for the H-1B. H-1B workers are required to have at least a US bachelor degree or equivalent and must work in a specialty occupation. L-1 workers have no degree requirements. Spouses of L-1 workers may get EAD work authorization, and spouses of H-1B workers may not.

Green card eligibility

L-1A workers can file an employment-based EB1C green card application without needing an approved PERM labor certification. Most L-1B and H-1B workers must first obtain an approved PERM application before becoming eligible for a green card. If you would like further information about L-1 and H-1B work visas or any other immigration matter, please contact our immigration attorneys at The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA to schedule a consultation with an attorney at an office near you.

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