Comparison Between L1 Visa and H1B Visa

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The H-1B Visa is for foreign professionals hired by US companies, requiring a bachelor’s degree and demonstrating the lack of qualified US applicants.
  • The L1 Visa is for managers/executives transferring within the same company or opening US operations, with requirements such as employment history and specialized knowledge.
  • The L1 Visa has two types: L1A for managers/executives and L1B for specialized knowledge.
  • H-1B requires US-based employer sponsorship, while L1 requires sponsorship from a parent company or foreign entity.

Getting a Visa is arguably the most important step when considering traveling to the US. This isn’t just the case when traveling for leisure, but for work as well.

The two most common work Visas in the United States are the L1 Visa and the H-1B Visa.

Are you currently on one of these visas, or curious about obtaining either one? Read on to learn what makes each one unique.

What is an H-1B Visa?

The H-1B Visa is a non-immigrant visa needed when a US-based company hires a foreign professional to work in the United States. Before applying for this Visa, the candidate needs to fulfill certain requirements:

  • Applicant should hold a bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent
  • Employer must demonstrate the lack of qualified US applicants for the position
  • Applicant must possess deep knowledge in the required field

What is an L1 Visa?

The L1 Visa is reserved for managerial or executive professionals transferring to the US from within the same company, or a subsidiary of it. The L1 Visa can also be used for a foreign company opening up US operations. The length of time the L1 Visa is valid is dependent on your current citizenship and ranges from 3 months to five years. Some of the requirements for obtaining an L1 Visa are:

  • Applicant has been an employee of the parent company or subsidiary for at least one of the last three years
  • Applicant falls in the managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge category

Two Types of L1 Visas: L1A and L1B

Within the L1 Visa, there are two subsidiary types of visas.

  1. L1A visa for managers and executives.
  2. L1B visa for those with specialized knowledge.

Most requirements and processes within the L1 visa are the same for both subsidiary types. However, there are a few key differences between the L1A and L1B visas. These differences are in regard to the length of stay allowed for the visa and the process to later apply for a green card.

Comparison between H1B Visa and L1 Visa

Depending upon various factors, H1B Visas and L1 Visas are compared on the following basis:

1. Objective

H1B Visas are for those candidates who are planning to work as a professional for a US-based company or organization, whereas L1 Visas are for candidates who already work for a foreign branch of a US-based company, or are planning to open operations in the US of a foreign-based company.

2. Key Requirement

For the HB1 visa, the US-based company must be willing to sponsor the applicant whereas, in the case of L1 visas, the parent company in a foreign country must be willing to sponsor the client. Not all employers have branches in foreign countries, limiting their ability to sponsor an L1 visa for the worker.

3. Employer

In the case of the H1B visa category, any US-based company can hire a worker from another country. For an L1 visa, the employer must either be US based and hiring from within a parent or subsidiary company in a foreign country, or must be foreign-based and open up US operations.

Also, the L1 visa applicant must have been working for the employer for at least 1 year as a manager, executive, or doing some type of special knowledge work.

4. Prevailing Wages

In H1B Visas, the candidate must be paid at least the prevailing wage in the area they plan to work. This is not necessary under L1 Visas since the candidate is working on behalf of a foreign entity.

Although paying the candidate less than the prevailing wage in the area they work is allowed under an L1 visa, doing so may lead to problems in the future.

5. Spouse

While this was different in past years, currently spouses of candidates with H1B visas can submit an employment authorization document (EAD). An EAD allows non-US citizens to work temporarily. In the case of L1 visas, spouses can accompany the L1 visa holder and can submit an EAD if the spouse is an L2 visa holder.

6. Approval from the Department of Labor

For an H1B visa, US Department of Labor approval is required to verify that there are no qualified workers available for the job within the US. Since an L1 visa doesn’t need to meet that requirement, there is no need for approval from the Department of Labor to submit an L1 visa.

To receive approval from the US Department of Labor, the employer must submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) electronically using the iCERT Portal System. The LCA contains information about the job such as the work description, location, and salary.

7. Blanket Petition

A blanket petition reduces the processing time for visas, as it allows the employer not to need to prove eligibility every time they wish to sponsor a worker.

Blanket petitions are not available for H1B Visas, but they are for L1 Visas. If the L1 visa employer has a blanket petition approved, then there is no processing required at the USCIS for individual cases, making the visa process much easier.

8. Minimum Education Requirement

Although no degree is required for an L1 visa applicant, for an HB1 visa applicant, the education requirement is much higher. It requires the candidate to have a bachelor’s degree (or foreign equivalent), and the work must be a specialty occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree.

9. Maximum Visa Duration

The maximum allotted time given to visa holders differs based on the type of visa they have. On an H1B visa, the holder can stay for six years whereas an L1A visa holder is given 7 years and an L1B visa holder is given 5 years.

There is an opportunity for an extension of stay on an H1B visa granting the holder an additional six years; however, there is no such extension for any L1 visa holder.

10. Green Card

For both the L1 and H1B visas, candidates can apply for permanent resident status in the US through a green card. If the visa holder would like to apply for a green card, the process varies depending on the visa type.

An HB1 visa candidate would need PERM Labor Certification approval to receive a green card. This same process would apply to an L1B visa holder as well.

An L1A visa holder does not need to file the labor certification and can instead file for a green card in the EB1C visa category. This greatly reduces the processing time for a green card. In fact, many applicants under an L1A visa receive their green card within a year of filing.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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