A specialty occupation visa or a H-1B Visa is a temporary visa for professional workers in specialty occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent as a minimum requirement. This visa is valid for three years and it can be renewed for an additional three years.

What are the Features of a Specialty Occupation?

In order for a job to qualify as a specialty occupation under USCIS regulations, it is necessary for one or more of the following elements to be met:

A bachelor’s or higher degree (or any of its equivalents) is typically the minimum entry requirement for the position and the degree is related to the position to be filled.

  • The degree requirement is common to the industry or the position can only be performed by an individual with a degree.
  • The employer normally requires a degree for the position.
  • The specific duties associated with a position are so specialized and complex that usually only someone with a bachelor’s or higher degree would have the knowledge required to perform the duties.

If the applicant does not have a bachelor’s or higher degree, they can still qualify for a H-1 B visa based on experience that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. The applicant has to show recognition of their expertise which was gained through advancing in positions related to the specialty. Documentation of recognition can include:

  • Letters from previous employers.
  • Letters from peers.
  • Special honors recognition.
  • Authorship of textbooks.

There is also the “three-for-one” rule where three years of specialized training and/or work experience can substitute for each year of college-level education which the beneficiary lacks.

What are Some Examples of Jobs That Have Been Approved for these Visas?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes statistics on the employers that file H-1B visa petitions and the occupations that USCIS has approved for H-1B visas. Some of the occupations that have been approved for these visas include:

  • Accountants and Auditors;
  • Architects;
  • Biologists;
  • Civil Engineers;
  • Software Engineers;
  • Industrial Engineers;
  • Electrical Engineers;
  • Mechanical Engineers;
  • Physicians and Surgeons;
  • College and University Educators;
  • Database Administrators;
  • Economists;
  • Sales and distribution managers;
  • Data Communication and Network Administrators;
  • Primary and Secondary School Teachers

What does an Employer Have to Do?

The employer must take certain basic steps before hiring a H-1B worker. They have to:

  • Prepare a detailed job description which includes the minimum education and experience requirements.
  • Look at the prospective worker’s qualifications to make sure that they have a relevant bachelor’s or higher degree or something equivalent which combines education and experience.
  • Determine the prevailing wage. The employer is required to pay the higher of the “actual wage” or the “prevailing wage”. “Actual wage” refers to the wage paid to other workers in the same job and the “prevailing wage” refers to the statistical average wage paid to workers in the same region
  • File a “Labor Condition Application” (“LCA”) with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”). This verifies that the proposed employment of the H-1B worker meets certain wage and working condition requirements. When you file the LCA using the online portal, the DOL usually sends the certified LCA by e-mail within one week.
  • Submit a visa petition on Form 1-129 along with the supporting documents and filing fees to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

What about Students who are Interested in H-1B Status?

A student at a college or university may want to apply for a H-1B visa and position themselves so that they can qualify for this visa in the future. They can look at a list of occupations which have been approved for this visa so that they have an idea of what fields of study can qualify them for this visa.

If you plan on working as an accountant, you will need to major in accounting or finance so that you can get a H-1B visa to work as an accountant. It is important to focus on a major as well as coursework which are relevant to the job that you are seeking.

You can take a close look at a job posting and see how the courses that you completed are relevant to performing that job. If you find a close connection, then there is a good chance you can qualify for a H-1B visa for that particular occupation.

Should I Consult a Lawyer?

It is important to understand all of the requirements to qualify for a H-1B visa. If you are an employer or an employee and you have specific questions regarding the H-1B visa, it would beneficial to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.