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USA Work Visas: L-1 vs H-1B Visa
Are you looking to come to the US on a work visa and wondering what the best options is for you? I am a US citizen but my boyfriend is a citizen of the EU and the company where he works wants him to come to work to the US on a project so we also were wondering what the best option is since we quickly learned that there are a number of different US work visas.
In this article, I will walk you through the different types of work visas, the application process for each one, and compare and contrast the available work visas.
The L-1 Visa
To put it simply, an L-1 Visa, a.k.a. Intra-company Transfer allows a non-US citizen to come and work in the US with the company he/she works at overseas.
There are two types of L-1 visas:
- L-1A which is for people employed in managerial or executive positions; and
- L-1B which is for people who have specialized knowledge.
To qualify for the L-1 visa, you must have worked overseas for your company for at least one year in the past three years and with this intra-company transfer visa, you are expected to fill a similar role in the US.
Below are some useful facts about the L-1 visa:
it's quick to obtain (just one to two weeks!)
you can transfer to an H-1B via change in status if you want in the future
- it allows you to remain in the US for up to seven years
- the company where you'll be working needs to be a branch, subsidiary, affiliate or joint venture partner of the company
L-1 Visa Application Process
- Your employer needs to contact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to file a petition for you
- When the petition is approved, you'll get an i-797
- You'll need to fill out form DS-160 online
- Then, you'll need to schedule an appointment with the US embassy near where you live and pay the visa application fee
- You will need to bring the original i-797 with you to the appointment as well as the filled out DS-160 form
- Once you go to your interview, on average, your passport will be returned to you the day after the interview (roughly a 24-hour turnaround time) with an L-1 stamp
The H-1B Visa
The H-1B Visa, a.k.a. the Professional Person's Visa is the most common work visa, allowing foreign nationals to come and work in the U.S. This type of visa is for people who have a higher education such as an Undergraduate or Master's degrees, as well as models and people working on Government-to-Government research and development. To get an H-1B visa, you need to find a company willing to sponsor your visa to work in the U.S.
Below are some useful facts about the H-1B visa. It:
- takes anywhere between one to six months to obtain
- lasts for one to three years
- is renewable
- requires you to get a new sponsorship if you want to change employers
- can lead to getting permanent residency
Are you planning on coming to the US on a work visa?
H-1B Visa Application Process
- You must find an employer in the US who is willing to sponsor an H-1B visa for you
- The company which is sponsoring you needs to file a Labor Certification Application (LCA), which will be returned to the company once approved
- The H-1B petition, which includes forms, fees, proof of education and letter of employment among others will need to be sent to USCIS
- After a few month, the company that's petitioning you will receive a receipt from USCIS and you will receive an H1-B petition receipt as well which will provide the expected processing time to obtain approval of the H-1B petition
- The company that's sponsoring your visa will receive an approval notice, called Form I-797
- You must then go to a US Consulate for an appointment and after 2-3 days, you'll receive your passport with a working visa stamped in it
Differences Between H-1b and L-1 Visas
Can be transferred to another company without having to leave the country
Quick to obtain (under two weeks); Can be transferred to an H1B in October
There is an annual quota; H1B visa petitions are accepted from April 1st until the quota is filled; Can take up to six months to process
You cannot change companies