What is a specialty occupation? Do I have to have a degree to qualify for an H-1B visa? Do I have to have a degree from a U.S. University to qualify for an H-1B visa?

By March 16, 2020December 2nd, 2020H-1B and E-3 Visa
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If your employer wants to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, the job position must be a specialty occupation, meaning, that it requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the U.S.

What is a specialty occupation?

Specialty occupation must meet one of the following 4 criteria. Please note that USCIS often issues Requests for Evidence (“RFE”) arguing that the H-1B position is not a specialty occupation and we provided some examples of documents you may submit to USCIS in case USCIS issues an RFE arguing that the position is not a specialty occupation.

  • A Bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for the position.

If you get an RFE, you may submit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook indicating that the position normally requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialty occupation.

  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the position is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree

If you get an RFE, you may submit job postings or advertisements showing that a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialty occupation is common in the industry among similar organizations.

To show that the position is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree, you can submit letters from industry-related professional associations indicating that the position is complex or unique or letters from firms or individuals in the industry attesting that the position is so complex or unique that

  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position

You may submit present or past job posting for the H-1B employee’s position showing that you required a minimum of Bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a Bachelor’s or higher degree.

You may submit an explanation of the specific job duties and an explanation of why the job duties are specialized and complex that they usually are associated with the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty.

Please note that you must only meet one of the 4 criteria, but if you got an RFE, it is a good practice to try to prove that the position meets as many criteria as possible.

What qualifications do I have to have as an employee? Do I have to have a degree from a U.S. University to qualify for an H-1B visa?

You must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. You have a Bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty from a U.S. accredited College or University;
  2. You have a foreign degree in the specialty determined to be equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s or higher degree. To prove that your foreign degree is equivalent to a U.S. degree, you can submit for example an evaluation by a reliable credit evaluation service that specializes in evaluating foreign degrees.
  3. You have an unrestricted State license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty;
  4. You have a specialized training or progressively responsible experience that is equivalent to completion of a U.S. Bachelor’s or higher degree and you have recognition in the specialty. Please note, that 3 years of specialized training or work experience equal to one year of college. If the petitioner is trying to prove the equivalence to a Master’s degree, that you must have a Bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of experience in the industry. In addition, you will also have to show that your training or work experience included the theoretical and practical knowledge required by the specialty occupation, your experience was gained while working with peers, supervisors, or subordinates who have a degree (or equivalent) in the specialty occupation, and you have recognition of expertise in the specialty.

Therefore, you do not have to have a degree from a U.S. College or University, but it is one way how you can meet the qualification requirement.

Please note that the government recently changed the H-1B registration process and you can read more about that when you click here.

Please see our blog post that discusses whether you can change employers on H-1B visa when you click here.

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