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Can I qualify for an H-1B without a degree?

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The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits a company to hire workers in specialty occupations. A common question is whether an applicant can still qualify for an H-1B visa if they do not have a U.S. Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. As described below, it may still be possible to qualify even without a degree.

The most common scenario for an H-1B applicant is a situation where the applicant has obtained a Bachelor’s degree in the U.S. or an equivalent degree abroad and is coming to work in a job that requires that degree. However, if you do not have a degree, it may still be possible to qualify for an H-1B visa if you have education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience and recognition of expertise in the specialty occupation.

What evidence is needed if I do not have a Bachelor’s degree?

The regulations provide several options for proving you have the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree:

  • Obtain an evaluation from an official who has authority to grant college credit in your area of specialty at an accredited college or university that has a program for granting credit based on work experience.
  • Obtain an evaluation from a reliable credentials evaluation service which specializes in evaluating foreign educational credentials.
  • Show the results of a college level equivalency exam, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), or Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction (PONSI).
  • Show certification or registration from a nationally-recognized professional association or society for the specialty. The association would need to have rigorous standards in order to grant certification or registration.
  • A determination by USCIS that your education, specialized training, and/or work experience is equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree and that you have achieved recognition of expertise in the specialty occupation as a result of such training and experience. USCIS will consider three years of work experience or training in the specialty to equal one year of a bachelor’s degree and requires that you show recognition of expertise in your specialty by showing one of the following:
  • Recognition of expertise in the specialty occupation by two or more recognized authorities in the same specialty occupation;
  • Membership in a recognized foreign or United States association or society in the specialty occupation;
  • Published material by or about you in professional publications, trade journals, books, or major newspapers;
  • Licensure or registration to practice the specialty occupation in a foreign country; or
  • Achievements which a recognized authority has determined to be significant contributions to the field of the specialty occupation.

A few possible scenarios are outlined below.

What if I have a 2 year diploma in a relevant field and four years of work experience?

If your 2 years of education are found to be equivalent to 2 years of college level work by a reliable credentials evaluation service, you would still need 6 years of experience working in the specialty to have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree.

What if I do not have any formal education in the specialty occupation?

Three years of specialized experience will generally equal one year of a Bachelor’s degree, so you need to demonstrate at least 12 years of experience in the specialty to have the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree.

What if I have a three year degree?

Three year degrees will usually not be considered equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree. To qualify for the H1B you would need to have a three year degree and 3 years of experience in the specialty. There may be some exceptions, such as for 3 year degrees from the UK and this should be discussed with your attorney and the credentials evaluator.

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