The Pros and Cons of L Visas vs. E Visas to the United States
Both L and E visas are temporary work visas to the United States. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. This article explains them.
The L Visa
The L visa is known as an intracompany employee transfer visa. It permits a foreign company, like an Israeli company, to transfer an employee from Israel to the US, to a US company that is connected to the foreign one, such as a US subsidiary or division.
Under this category, there are two types of L visas:
1) L-1A, for executives/managers.
2) L-1B, for workers with specialized knowledge.
All L visas are processed in the US at one of the major regional centers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If an employer wants a quick resolution to the case, the employer can take advantage of the premium processing service, which requires the USCIS to process the case in fifteen days. The cost of this service is expensive, $325 for the petition and another $1,225 for the expedited service. The L visas are considered dual intent visas, meaning that if the employee and/or employer want to later convert the L visa into a permanent green card, it is readily doable.
However, there are important restrictions on L visas:
1) The transferring employee must have worked at the foreign (Israeli) company for one year out of the past three years in order to qualify for an L visa.
2) There must be a legal connection between the Israeli company and the US company, e.g., one being a subsidiary of the other.
3) While, theoretically, the L visa can benefit small business owners by transferring an employee to a new office in the US, the reality is that the USCIS inspects L visa petitions closely, and typically, the USCIS is unfriendly toward small businesses.
4) If the Israeli company is opening a new office in the US, the transferring employee is often limited to a one year renewable visa. After the year, the US company must show growth in both revenue and US employment or else the extension of the L visa beyond the one year will be denied.
The E Visa
E visas are completely different from L visas in that they are the product of treaties (international agreements) between the US and specific countries. Also, E visas are typically granted for five years, although limited to two years when entering the US. The two years can normally be extended by traveling outside of the US or by application within the US. Unlike the L visa, E visas are not considered dual intent, meaning that the conversion of an E visa to a green card, while not impossible, is more challenging.
There are three types of E visas:
The E-1 Visa: The E-1 visa is known as the treaty trader visa. These are available to those who do most of their trade between the US and the treaty country, e.g., Israel. To qualify for the visa, the trade must already exist between the two countries. Therefore, unlike the L visa which provides for a one year visa when opening a new office in the US, the E-1 visa is usually only granted when business and trade exist between the countries.
The E-2 Visa: The E-2 visa is known as the treaty investor visa. These are available to those who invest substantial sums in either opening a new business in the US or purchasing at least 50% of an existing business. Normal investments are approximately $100,000, but approvals for less are common. The biggest restriction to E-2 visas is that they are currently unavailable to Israelis. However, Israelis that have other nationalities in countries that have E-2 eligibility, can apply and qualify for an E-2 visa at the embassy in Israel. The E-2 visas are available to nationals of most European countries.
The E-3 Visa: The E-3 visa is limited to Australian nationals only. However, an Israeli who also has Australian citizenship is potentially eligible for an E-3 visa. The E-3 visa is similar to the more well-known H-1B visa, mostly available to those who have a bachelor’s degree. The benefit of the E-3 is that, unlike the H-1B, the numerical limits on E-3 visas are never reached.
Unlike L visas, E visas are processed directly through the US Embassy. This fact creates significant advantages. One, it allows for direct contact between the interviewing consular officer and the applicant. Personal contact between the USCIS officer handling an L visa and the petitioner never happens. Two, an attorney may accompany an E visa applicant to the interview, at least in Israel. While the interviews can be pretty extensive, having an attorney present can calm the applicant, and, if technical questions arise, the attorney is present to respond. Three, Israeli consular officers tend to be far more responsive and conciliatory to Israeli E visa applicants than the USCIS is to L petitioners.
Spouses of L Visa and E Visa Holders
For both L and E visas, spouses of the visa holder are permitted to work in the US. All that is required is for the spouse to file for work authorization with the USCIS upon entering the United States.
If you have any questions regarding E or L visas, or any other type of visa to Israel, please contact us.