H1b vs L1 visa comparison

Both H1b visa and L1 visa programs are to bring certain skilled temporary workers to the US, though H1b is arguably the popular one in the media. L1 visa may be less popular in the media, but it is definitely popular with the employers. Consider the fact that dependents of a L1 visa can also work from day one. If you make a reasonable assumtion that 1 in 4 L1 dependents (L2 visas) enter work force, I would argue that every year, L1 visa program enables more immigrants to work in the US than the H1b visa. Here is the plot of L1 vs H1b over the years,

L1 vs H1b

The graph is plotted using publicly released USCIS data. Note that, it assumes 1 in 4 dependents work. Combined that with the L1 primary visa holder it outnumbers even the H1b program in 5 out of the last 7 years (except 2009 and 2012). The red straight line is the number of H1b visas issues each year, which is regulated by 85,000 annual cap. Since, each year the cap is reached, it’s a straight line.

Anyways, moving on to the actual differences between the two programs,

Attribute H1b L1
Yearly Cap 85000 No cap
Duration 6 years 5-7 Years
Minimum wage Must pay at least the minimum prevailing wage in the market No minimum
Education US bachelors or equivalent matching the area of work No minimum education required, as long as the worker has certain special skills
Dependents work permit Not allowed Spouses are allowed to work from day one
Blanket petition Not allowed. Each worker’s petition must be individually approved Companies can get certain number of petitions approved as a blanket and flexible to bring any temporary worker as needed using the blanket category. No need to apply to USCIS for each individual case, saving processing times
Permanent residency Employers must conduct a labor market test to hire a US citizen and upon passing the worker then has to wait his/her turn in the queue according to his/her country of birth L1A workers can apply in Eb1C category, which requires no US labor market test. Usually can get green card under a year. L1B visa holder process is similiar to H1b

It looks to me in every category above, L1 is more flexible than the H1b visa.

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