There are two primary types of L-1 visas: an L-1A visa and L-1B visa. An L-1A visa allows qualified employees working with an international company to be transferred to a related company within the United States in a managerial or executive capacity.
An L-1B visa allows employees of international companies to be transferred to a related company within the U.S. borders as a result of specialized knowledge. An H-1B visa, however, is different. This visa allows U.S. employers to employ foreign professionals to work in specialty occupations for a maximum of six years.
What You Need to Know About Foreign National Education Qualifications
For an H-1B visa, a foreign national must have a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent educational degree. For an L-1A or L-1B visa, however, there are no minimum educational requirements.
For an H-1B visa, USCIS will accept three years of qualifying and progressive work experience for each year of missing university education in order to determine whether the individual has the equivalent of a four-year Bachelor’s degree. On certain L-1B visas, however, USCIS may wonder whether a candidate truly has specialized knowledge if he or she does not have a particular degree.
Requirements for The Position in The United States
Under an H-1B visa, a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specific field is the minimum requirement for an individual to work in the position. On an L-1A visa, however, the position offered in the United States must be as an executive or a manager. For an L-1B visa, the position offered in the United States must require that a person with specialized knowledge handle it.
Prior Work Experience
For H-1B visas, there is no minimum work experience required. For an L-1A and an L-1B visa, however, the foreign national must have worked in a related company outside the United States for a minimum of one year in the three years prior to his or her entry into the United States. A qualifying relationship for L-1 visa purposes means that the U.S. company must be a branch, affiliate, subsidiary or parent company of the foreign company.
There are no numerical limits on the number of L-1A or L-1B visas issued each fiscal year. However, there is a strict H-1B visa cap in place of 65,000 in each fiscal year.
Foreign Company Requirements
A United States employer bringing in an H-1B visa employee is not required to be related to any company outside of the United States. This is not true of L-1A and L-1B visas, however. The related foreign company employing the foreign national outside of US borders, prior to his or her admission into United States must be active and doing business during the entire time that the foreign national is staying in the U.S. on L-1B or L-1A status.
Doing business means systematic, continuous and regular provision of services or goods by a qualifying organization. This does not include the mere presence of an office or an agent of the related company in the United States and abroad.
An H-1B employee has to be paid the greater of the actual wage paid to the others in the company with similar qualifications and experience. For an L-1A and L-1B visa, however, there are no prevailing wage requirements.
Labor Condition Application
H-1B visa employers must submit an LCA that has been certified by the Department of Labor in the United States in conjunction with their H-1B visa petition. However, for L-1A and L-1B visas, there is no LCA requirement.
Opening A New Office
A company in the United States may use the H-1B visa to hire an individual who will help to establish and begin the newly formed company. However, the company must be prepared to show that the requested individual has a specialty occupation job lined up and that the appropriate employer-employee relationship exists. L-1A visa and L-1B visas are treated somewhat differently.
For an L-1A visa, a foreign company that does not have an existing U.S. affiliate office, may use the L-1A to send only a manager or an executive to United States for the purpose of establishing a new office. For an L-1B visa, a foreign company that doesn’t have any existing U.S. affiliate office can use an L-1B employee with specialized knowledge to go to the United States to help establish a new one.
If an employer is seeking an L-1B visa to establish a new office, that employer must be able to show that he has secured appropriate physical premises to house the new office, however.
H-1B portability provisions allow for an individual with H-1B status to start working with a new H-1B employer as soon as that employer files an H-1B petition for him or her. This means that they do not have to wait for USCIS approval of the petition. L-1A and L-1B visas, however, only allow foreign nationals who qualify to work for qualifying members of a multinational group, such as a sister branch, affiliated company, parent or subsidiary that filed the original petition. This employee is not eligible to work on a new L-1 visa company that is not a qualifying member of the multinational group.
Green Card Eligibility
The majority of H-1B visa holders require that a labor certification is filed on their behalf through the Department of Labor in order to receive a green card. L-1A visa holders, however, may be eligible to apply for expedited green cards under the EB-1C category, thus waiving the labor certification process. Individuals who have an L-1B visa would have to have a labor certification filed on their behalf through the Department of Labor in order to receive a green card.
If the L-1B visa holder was in an executive or managerial role prior to coming to United States, he or she may be eligible for an expedited green card in the EB-1C category. If you have questions about this process, it’s important to speak with an experienced New Jersey immigration attorney about your concerns. L-1A and L-1B visas can be excellent alternatives to H-1B visas, but you must know how to obtain these and whether or not the individual qualifies for this visa prior to initiating the application.
According to New Jersey immigration attorney Vinay Malik, given that the H-1B cap season is over and many petitions were not selected, employers should always consider L visas and other alternatives like O visas if the eligibility requirements are met.