Business owners and immigration Visas: What You Need to Know

It’s no secret businesses of all sizes are looking for talent abroad; and while there is a lot of demand on the business side, hiring foreign workers is rather burdensome, complicated and expensive. Here is a breakdown of the major employment visas:


  • The H-1b visa is of course the most popular. Congress has set a cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2016, a number that has not increased from the previous year. Most of these visas go to those with scientific or IT credentials, i.e. those with “specialized” knowledge. The H-1b goes fast, and in recent years the cap is reached on the first day of filing!
  • The L-1 is for employees of a company’s foreign office who are needed to work temporarily in the U.S., which we might think of as a transfer. There are two varieties of L-1 visas: the L-1A is for those with managerial skills while the L-1B is for those with some kind of specialized knowledge of the product or service, say someone in marketing or sales.
  • The E-1 and E-2 are for hiring executives from other countries, with companies that have the most trade with the United States favored in receiving the visa.


Many experts feel that the current work visa system is inadequate for the demands of the global economy in the sense that they are not built for retaining talent. This causes, as the argument goes, that talent to go to the highest bidder elsewhere.


Another problem arises from the fact that 99% of the work visa petitions, particularly the H-1b, are made by companies with fewer than 500 employees, and a surprisingly large number of companies (thousands) with fewer than 10 employees. One rule of thumb: the smaller the company the less likely your petition will be approved. In fact companies with over 500 employees rake in about 30% of the applications allowed.