H1B visas allow citizens of foreign countries to temporarily work in certain occupations. U.S. law grants a maximum of 65,000 H1B visas during the fiscal year (October 1-September 30) and an additional 20,000 H1B visas for Master Degree holders from American universities. Citizens of Chile and Singapore may also apply for an H1B1 type of visa, which is not counted in the annual limit.
Conditions for obtaining H1B visas
H1B applicants must have an offer of temporary work in a specialty occupation from a U.S. employer. Special permission requires theoretical and practical application of knowledge usually acquired after finishing a bachelor’s degree in the US. Typical occupations that fall in this category are architects, engineers, mathematicians, scientists, medical doctors, healthcare providers, teachers, accountants, lawyers, models, etc.
Rules for H1B visas
H1B visas give the holder the right to live and work temporarily in the United States. H1B visas are usually granted for three years and then can be extended. Spouse and unmarried children up to age 21 can apply for a derivative visa (type H4) in order to join their spouse/parent in the USA. These dependents are allowed to study in the United States, but they are not allowed to be employed without a proper work visa. The H1B visa has been the best option so far for people with specialty occupation applying to work for a limited period of time in the US. However, the H1B visa is not actually the option available in this particular situation. L1 visa is equally smart option for large companies from abroad that are sending people to work in their US branches or subsidiary. Although the H1B and the L1 visas are both great options, of course, they still do have differences which should be taken into account.
A Brief Description of L1 Visa
Before comparing the H1B and the L1 visas, let’s first have an overview of what L1 visa is. This type of visa was created by Congress in 1970. The purpose of this was to allow multinational companies or organizations that operate internationally to send its employees or staff to the US to work for a short stint. L1 is divided into 2 categories, which are L1A and L1B. In L1A section, this is where managers and executives belong, while in L1B would refer to employees with significant knowledge of the company’s operation.
Similarities of H1B and L1
- The H1B and the L1 are both granted to individuals who are employed to a non-immigrant business.
- They also belong to the dual-intent category wherein individuals from other countries can either enter the US as a non-immigrant or a permanent resident.
- Petitions for both visas can, likewise, be filed through premium processing. This ensures a quick review of the petitions, usually 15 days upon filing. This is beneficial for companies who urgently need the services of their employees.
Differences of H1B and L1
- The L1 visa is available only granted to multinational companies. This visa is useful to companies based in the US who are planning to expand business in other countries. On the other hand, this also benefits foreign multinational companies who wish to have an expansion in the US.
- The H1B applicants must belong to a specialty occupation, which means that they must be have a bachelor’s degree or has a specialized knowledge on a specific field, which is often termed as an expert. An expert may not hold a bachelor’s degree, but must be a key employee or has to have an in depth knowledge of the operation of the company.
- Unlike the H1B, there is no limit when it comes to the number of L1 visas that may be approved annually, which makes it a better option in this case. In H1B, many applications are turned down, especially for first-time applicants. There are also some cases when the petitions for H1B may be filed, but will only be processed from October 1. Obviously, the L1 visa is much easier to obtain than the H1B visa.
- The H1B and L1 visa also differ in timeframes. In H1B, the visa holder can stay in the US for a maximum of 6 years. For L1A visa holders, they can stay for as long as 7 years, and for L1B visa holders, they are allowed to stay in the US for 5 years.
Read more about L1 visa here.
The Process of obtaining H1B Visa
- The employer or company must first obtain an LCA – Labor Condition Application approval from the US Department of Labor. Along with the LCA approval, the Form ETA-9035 or the Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker must, likewise, be approved. The LCA is usually filed electronically through the US DOL’s iCERT Portal System.
- After the DOL’s approval, the employer must file an H1B petition using Form I-129 with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. The employer also has to pay a specific amount for the filing fee and submit the needed requirements, which includes the LCA approval. The petition must be approved before proceeding to the next step.
- Once the petition has been approved by the USCIS, an H1B visa applicant must fill-up an application at the US Embassy or Consulate located in his or her country.
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