Comparing the H-1B to the L-1
The H-1B visa is normally preferred by those with specialty occupations who wish to be employed in the U.S.A. to work for a short period, but the L-1 visa option can also be appropriate, especially if the applicant is employed by a multinational company.
The L-1, intra-company, category was introduced in 1970 as a way of enabling large companies with international operations to move vital staff to the U.S. temporarily, even if the positions they fill are not really temporary in character.
Similarities between the L-1 visa and the H-1B visa
Both the L-1 and H-1B are non-immigrant visas for individuals who have skills and talents that are better than the pool of available U.S. workers. The two visa categories do provide for dual intent, which means that visa holders can file for permanent residency, even if they are holders of visas in either the L-1 or H-1B categories. Their intention to do this will not compromise their status as L-1 or H-1B visa holders.
Additionally, both the H-1B and L-1 visa status petitions can be filed using premium processing, which means that the USCIS must consider the application within 15 days of the application being filed. This is of particular use for employers who are in urgent need of an employee.
Differences between the L-1 and H-1B visas
The L-1 is only available for use by multinational companies and more specifically for the transfer of an employee who has been employed by the particular company overseas for 12 months continuously in the past 3 years. A few established U.S. companies which intend to open branches overseas could benefit from using the L-1 visa avenue when their overseas branch has been operating for a while. There is also the possibility of employing someone on an L-1A to set up a new office in the U.S.
Educational requirements for an H-1B visa and an L-1 visa compared
A person who qualifies for an H-1B visa has to be qualified in a specialty occupation up to the BA level. The L-1 does not contain a compulsory degree requirement. Typically, the majority of L-1 applicants will be educated, but the degree does not need to be in any specific, specialized field. For example, the person who has studied liberal arts, but was able to obtain a managerial or executive position, could qualify as an L-1.
An individual with any type of degree, or someone who does not hold a qualification equivalent to a degree, may still be eligible for an L-1A visa if they possess specialized knowledge without the equivalent of a bachelor's degree, may have reached a level of specific company expertise to qualify for an L-1 visa under the specialized knowledge provisions. This may be of help to individuals with education which is not equivalent to a four year U.S. based degree. These applicants could instead of a particular qualification have superior knowledge of their company’s product. Most offices have important personnel who often do not possess degrees but who do have in-depth knowledge of company products and practices.
Visa Cap differences between the H-1B and L1 visa categories
H-1B visas have an annual limit in numbers, but the L-1 categories do not, so there is no annual restriction on L-1 applications that can fulfill the requirements for approval. By contrast, each year those who are applying for an H-1B visa for the first time are limited by a set cap, which is often filled up well in advance.