The L1 Visa vs. Other Work Visas: A Comparison

L1 visa vs Other work visas

 

The United States offers several types of work visas for foreign workers, each with its own specific requirements and benefits. One such visa is the L1 visa, which is designed for employees of multinational companies who want to transfer to a U.S.-based branch of the company. In this blog post, we’ll compare the L1 visa to other common work visas to help you determine which visa is right for you.


L1 Visa


The L1 visa allows multinational companies to transfer employees from their foreign offices to their U.S.-based offices. The employee must have worked abroad for the company for at least one year within the past three years (known as the one-year within three-year requirement) and must be transferring to a U.S.-based office in a managerial or executive position, or in a position that requires specialized knowledge. The L1 visa is initially granted for up to three years and can be extended for up to a maximum duration of seven years for managers and executives, or five years for specialized knowledge employees.  Any period of time spent outside the U.S. while on valid L1 status can also be recaptured back to add a bit more L visa time to a foreign worker’s duration of stay in the U.S.


H1B Visa


The H1B visa is designed for foreign workers who have a job offer from a U.S.-based employer. The job must require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the worker must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience in a related field. The H1B visa is initially granted for up to three years and can be extended for up to six years.  However, once an applicant is far enough along in the green card process, H1B status can be extended in one-to three-year increments past the traditional six-year limit due to a provision known as the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21).


TN Visa


The TN, or Trade NAFTA, visa is available to citizens of Canada and Mexico who work in certain professional occupations and is administered under the auspices of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). The worker must have a job offer from a U.S.-based employer in a qualifying profession, such as accountant, engineer, scientist, or another role found on Appendix 1603.D.1. to Annex 1603 of NAFTA. Unlike the H1B visa, the TN category encompasses jobs that do not typically require the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, such as that of a registered nurse.  The TN visa is initially granted for up to three years and can be extended within the U.S. indefinitely in three-year increments or re-applied for at certain ports of entry in many circumstances.


E3 Visa


The E3 visa is available to citizens of Australia who have a job offer from a U.S.-based employer. Much like the H1B visa, the job must require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the worker must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience in a related field. The E3 visa is initially granted for up to two years and can be extended indefinitely in two-year increments depending on the specific circumstances and requirements of the applicant’s job.


Comparison

 

The L1 visa is unique in that it is specifically designed for multinational companies to transfer employees to their U.S.-based offices with no yearly cap or visa quotas. The H1B, TN, and E3 visas are more general work visas that are available to workers in a variety of industries without having a connection to a home company abroad. However, the H1B visa is more restrictive in terms of job requirements, as it requires a bachelor’s degree or higher and is only available to workers in certain specialty occupations.  The H1B is often subject to a numerical cap, thereby adding an element of uncertainty and randomness in adjudication to even the most qualified application. The TN and E3 visas are more limited in terms of eligibility, as they are only available to citizens of Canada and Mexico (TN) or Australia (E3).

In terms of duration, the L1 visa is the most flexible, as it can be extended for up to seven years for managers and executives or five years for specialized knowledge employees. The H1B visa can be extended for up to a traditional six-year limit minus exceptions for those far enough along in the green card process, while the TN and E3 visas can be extended indefinitely in three- and two-year increments, respectively.

In conclusion, the L1 visa is a unique option for multinational companies to transfer employees to their U.S.-based offices, while the H1B, TN, and E3 visas are more general work visas that are available to workers in a variety of industries without regard to having a business connection in the home country. The right visa for you will depend on your specific situation and job requirements. It is important to work with an experienced immigration attorney to determine which visa is best for you and guide you through the application process.

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