L1 vs. H1B US Visa Comparison

Tuesday, March 5, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

It’s not uncommon for US companies to hire highly skilled temporary workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, around 1.42 million temporary foreign workers came to the US in 2013.

Although there have been changes in immigration policies, these work visa types are largely unaffected.

To hire a foreign worker, there are various visa types that can be applied for, depending on the intended use and the qualifications of the beneficiary.

The L1 and H1B visa types are popular work visa options for the majority of managers and professionals coming to work in the US.

The features and requirements of these visa categories vary greatly. L1 and H1B visa immigration attorneys warn that applying for the wrong visa category may cause visa application delays and denials. To increase the success rate of a visa application, the first step is to choose the right visa type.

Below let’s take a look at the key differences between these visa categories to help you determine which visa is most applicable in your case.

H1B & L1 Visa: Basics

  • H1B Visa

    This temporary work visa may be used by US employers seeking to employ a foreign professional in a position considered as “specialty occupation” with a period of no more than six years.

  • L1 Visa

    This visa category is divided into two sub-categories (L1A Visa and L1B Visa):

    • L1A Visa: This visa type may be used to transfer a foreign employee of a US-based company to work in their US-based operations in a managerial or executive position.

    • L1B Visa: This visa type may be used to transfer a foreign employee of a US-based company to work in their US-based operations requiring his or her “specialized knowledge”.

L1 vs. H1B: Key Differences

  • Educational Requirements

    H1B Visa: The beneficiary must have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher and a demonstrated specialized knowledge in the field they are being hired. In certain cases, the USCIS considered three years of progressive experience as a substitute for educational requirements.

    L1 Visa: There are no specific educational requirements. For the L1B Visa, the beneficiary must adequately demonstrate “specialized knowledge” and in some cases may require a certain degree.

  • Work Experience

    H1B Visa: There is no minimum work experience required from the beneficiary.

    L1 Visa: The beneficiary must have worked with the US employer in its operations abroad for at least one year in the three years prior to his/her petition.

  • Employer Eligibility

    H1B Visa: Any US-based company may use this visa to sponsor a foreign employee. The foreign worker shall work exclusively for the employer unless there is an approved H1B transfer application.

    L1 Visa: Only multi-national companies with operations both in the US and abroad may use this visa to transfer a foreign worker to their US branch or office.

  • Maximum Period of Stay

    H1B Visa: Total allowable period of stay is 6 years (3-year increments).

    L1 Visa: For the L1A Visa, the total allowable period of stay is 7 years (3 years initially, then 2-year increments). For the L1B Visa, the total allowable period of stay is 5 years (3 years initially, then 2-year increments).

  • Annual Visa Cap

    H1B Visa: An annual quota of 65,000 visas for regular processing and 20,000 reserved for those with Master’s degrees or higher. This number is frequently oversubscribed; hence, the USCIS conducts a lottery around April.

    L1 Visa: There is no cap or limit on the number of L1 visas given every year.

  • Labor Certification

    H1B Visa: The employer is required to provide an approved Labor Condition Application which proves that there are no qualified American workers to fill in the position.

    L1 Visa: The employer is not required to provide an approved Labor Condition Application.


Although the H1B and L1 Visas have differences, they also have similarities. For example, both visas offer a path to citizenship through an employment-based green card that may be sponsored by their employer.

For both visa types, the spouses and children may accompany the main beneficiary subject to certain conditions and limitations, such as researched by the law marketing specialists at Miromind.

Finally, while both of these work visa categories are suitable for most professionals, their requirements and features vary greatly.

A comprehensive evaluation of your unique circumstance is necessary to identify the most appropriate visa category to use with the highest success rate.

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