The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has more than a hundred visa options divided into two main categories – immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. The L-1A visa and the H-1B visa are nonimmigrant work visas.
Keep reading to identify whether an L-1A or an H-1B visa is the best visa option for your case.
Is L-1A or H-1B Better? – An In-Depth Review
L-1A Intracompany Transferee Visa
A subdivision of the L-1 visa category, the L-1A nonimmigrant classification has two distinct purposes:
- Allow eligible US employers to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated offices located abroad to one of its affiliated US offices
- Allow eligible foreign companies that do not year have an affiliated office in the United States to send an executive or manager to establish a new US-based office
In both cases, the employer must apply on the employee’s behalf by filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS and pay the required filing fee. To qualify for L-1 classification to transfer or send an intracompany transferee to the United States, the employer must:
- Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, and
- Be in the process (or will be) of doing business as a US employer and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization during the employee’s period of stay under L-1 status
Please note that there is no specific requirement that the company must be engaged in international trade. The term “foreign company” refers to a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, which are collectively referred to as qualifying organizations.
To qualify for L-1A status, the employee must:
- Have been working for a qualifying organization located outside the United States for one continuous year within the three years immediately before US admission, and
- Enter the United States to occupy an executive or managerial role and perform services for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations
H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant classification that permits eligible foreign nationals to enter the United States to perform services in a “specialty occupation.” As described by USCIS, this term refers to an occupation that requires:
- “Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and
- Attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States”
A job offer may only qualify for H-1B status if the position meets at least one of USCIS criteria for a specialty occupation. For example, if a bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the particular position, it may qualify for H-1B status.
To perform the services involved in a specialty occupation, prospective employees must meet one of the requirements established by USCIS, which are:
- Holding a US bachelor’s (or higher degree) required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
- Holding a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s (or higher degree) required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
- Holding an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification authorizing the applicant to practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment