The L1 and H1B visas are both nonimmigrant work visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States for a certain period of time. Many L1 and H1B visa holders apply for permanent residency from their current visa status, since both L1 visa and H1B visa allow for dual intent, meaning that the applicant cannot be denied visa approval based on his or her intent to immigrate to the US.
Since these two visas share many similarities, this guide provides a breakdown of L1 vs. H1B visas and the differences between L1 visa and H1B visa.
L1 vs. H1B: Differences
L1 visa does not have education or degree requirements, and the applicant's specialized knowledge does not need to be in a specific field.
H1B applicants must have a bachelor's degree or higher and should possess specialized knowledge in their field. In certain cases, hands on experience may be substituted for educational requirements. Relevant degree and/or work experience is required to qualify for the H1B visa.
Only multinational companies may apply for L1 visa. International companies with offices both abroad and in the US may petition to transfer a foreign employee to their US office or branch.
US based companies may sponsor a foreign employees H1B visa. Once approved, H1B visa holders may work for that corporation or employer only, unless they apply for an H1B transfer.
Duration of Stay
The L1 visa includes L1A and L1B visa categories. L1A visa holders may stay in the US for a maximum of 7 years. L1B visa holders may stay for a maximum of 5 years.
H1B visa holders may stay in the US for up to 6 years and may file for a 3 year extension.
Annual Visa Cap
There is no limit or cap on the number of L1 visas granted to applicants each year.
The H1B visa cap is limited to 65,000 visas per year with an additional 20,000 H1B visas reserved for applicants with Master's degrees and higher.
Department of Labor Certification
L1 visa sponsoring companies are not required to submit a labor condition application with their petition, demonstrating an unavailability or lack of domestic workers to fulfill the position.
H1B sponsoring employers are required to submit a labor condition application, showing that there are no qualified workers in the US available to fill the position.
L1 employees may not transfer to another company while maintaining their L1 visa status. In order to transfer companies, the new employer must file a new L1 visa petition for the employee.
H1B employees may transfer to a different employer while maintaining H1B visa status. They are not required to obtain permission from their previous employer, but they must complete contractual agreements and follow non-compete laws. The H1B visa holder's new employer must submit an H1B Visa Transfer petition to USCIS.
L1 vs. H1B: Similarities
Spouses and children of L1 visa holders may accompany them to the US on an L2 visa. L2 visa holders may apply for an EAD and work in the US.
Spouses and children of H1B visa holders may join them in the US on an H4 visa. H4 visa holders are also now allowed to obtain an EAD and work in the US.
Green Card Eligibility
L1 and H1B visas are both dual intent visas, meaning that these visa holder do not have to demonstrate ties to their home country and may have the intent of coming to the US to apply for permanent residency later on. Current L1 and H1B visa holders applying for a green card must file Adjustment of Status to obtain change to permanent resident.
L1 visa holders can easily apply for employment-based green card for managers and executives (EB-1C). Most L1 visa holders already meet the eligibility requirements for the multinational manager or executive employment-based green card category.
H1B visa holders may be eligible to apply for employment-based green card categories EB1, EB2, or EB3. Green card categories EB2 and EB3 require PERM Labor Certification.
L1 vs. H1B: Which is Better for Me?
Both L1 and H1B visas come with certain advantages and disadvantages. While they are both dual intent, temporary work visas, you may only qualify for one over the other.