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Aug 9, 2022

Can an L-1 Visa Holder Apply for an H-1?

Working in the United States is a dream come true for many professionals in many.

Can an L-1 Visa Holder Apply for an H-1?

Working in the United States is a dream come true for many professionals in many countries.  Perhaps you spent a few weeks in the U.S. on a business trip or did a year of study abroad and wished to come back for a longer time, hoping to build your career. Of course, the U.S. has a way of becoming home, as you probably heard from many naturalized U.S. citizens that you met while you were here. Applying for a visa that will enable you to hold paid employment in the United States is a long process full of uncertainty, and moving your family to a new country is a huge adjustment for all family members involved. 

The years that you spend working in the United States with a nonimmigrant work visa go by quickly, and when it is about to expire, you face more uncertainty. In the best-case scenario, it will only take a year or so to adjust your status to an immigrant visa or permanent residency, but in the worst-case scenario, not only will you have to leave the U.S., but you will face an uphill battle in getting another visa so that you can return. The stakes are so high that it only makes sense to hire an Arizona immigration lawyer.

All Good Things Must Come to an End, Even L-1 Visas

L-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas for employees of foreign companies whose employers assign them to their companies’ branches in the United States. Toyota, Lindt, and Nando’s sell numerous vehicles, chocolate candies, and grilled chicken pieces in the United States each year; this would not be possible without managers from Japan, Switzerland, and South Africa, respectively, working in the United States with L-1 visas. The United States issues L-1 visas to employees of foreign companies who hold managerial positions or roles that require highly technical skills; although the employee pays U.S. income taxes, the parent company in the foreign country issues the worker’s paychecks. The spouses of L-1 visa holders are also eligible for work permits that enable them to work in the U.S.

When you have an L-1 visa, you will lose your immigration status if you quit your job. The maximum length of time managers can extend their L-1 visa status is seven years; for highly skilled, non-managerial L-1 visa holders, the maximum length of time is five years.

Is an H-1 Visa Better Than an L-1 Visa?

When you have used up all your chances to extend your L-1 visa, you can ask your employer to sponsor you for an H-1 visa, and while this sponsorship process is pending, you can apply for an adjustment of status. When you have an H-1B visa, your immigration status is still tied to your employer, and your spouse and minor children still get a nonimmigrant visa status connected to yours, but a U.S. employer, even if it is a subsidiary of a foreign employer, is the one issuing your paychecks. Another key difference is that once your H-1 visa status is about to expire at the end of six years, your employer can sponsor you for a green card.

The trouble with H-1 visas is that they are difficult to get. When sponsoring you, your employer must convincingly argue to the Department of Labor that the employer must hire you because it has been unable to find U.S. citizens who are qualified for the job. Even worse, the Department of Labor only allows USCIS to issue 85,000 H-1 visas per year. Of these, 20,000 are reserved for international students who are entering the workforce after graduating from a U.S. university, leaving only 65,000 available visas to highly specialized workers who have not recently earned a degree from a U.S. institution. Every year, the number of H-1 visa applicants greatly exceeds the number of visas available.

Paths to U.S. Residency for Foreign-Born Professionals

There are several ways to go from an L-1 visa to a green card, but most of them require your employer or a new employer to take the initiative to sponsor you. Therefore, you are always vulnerable to losing your immigration status if your employer terminates your position or ceases operations. It is best to be in contact with an immigration lawyer once you are in the United States with an L-1 or H-1 visa, so you can avoid problems before they start. If you enter the U.S. as an unmarried L-1 visa holder, it is also possible to adjust your status to permanent residency if you marry a U.S. citizen; your employer has nothing to do with this adjustment of status.

Contact Singular Law Group About Nonimmigrant Work Visas

An immigration lawyer can help you prevent and resolve problems with your L-1 visa. Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.

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