Nonimmigrant Petitions: How to Get an H-1B Visa in a Specialty Occupation

Employers in the United States are required to hire from within the country when they have positions to fill. Occasionally, those roles are specialty occupations with qualifications that no one in the U.S. meets or those who do aren’t interested in taking the job.

If the position qualifies as a specialty occupation under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification, the employer can sponsor a foreign national to work in the U.S. This article will explain how an employer can prove that the job is a specialty occupation and how an applicant can qualify for the role.

Proving Degree Requirements: The Employer

To show a job qualifies as a specialty occupation, employers may demonstrate that the position requires highly specialized knowledge. When the theoretical and practical application of this rare information is necessary, a person with those qualifications may not be in the U.S. 

Instead, an employer can request to hire a foreign worker with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty or an equivalent subject. This is the minimum requirement for entry into the U.S.

However, specialized knowledge isn’t the only necessary aspect of attaining this label. The employer must also show that the position meets at least one of these factors to qualify as a specialty occupation:

●      A bachelor’s degree or higher, or an equivalent degree, is the minimum entry for the position in the average role

●      The industry, in general, requires this degree amongst similar positions, or the job is complex, and only someone with a specialized education obtained through a degree path can do the work

●      The position is one that should typically require a degree or equivalent knowledge of evidence

●      The duties are too complex and unique for someone with general knowledge to complete the work

Within the application for a specialty occupation approval, the employer must demonstrate how the theoretical and practical knowledge would apply to the position. This would be a real-life example of an employee drawing on their background and education to perform a function of the job.

They must also prove that a bachelor’s degree is an essential part of the job, not a preference on the employer’s part. This can be an obstacle because the degree isn’t always a specific aspect of the position across the industry board. The USCIS provides regulations to clarify this requirement and help the employer establish this criterion.

Proving Knowledge Requirements: The Employee

Once the employer receives the approval to hire a foreign worker for a position, it’s the applicant’s responsibility to show they meet the specialty occupation qualifications.

The potential employee can do this in one or more of these ways: 

●      Prove ownership of the required specialty occupation bachelor’s degree or higher from a United States accredited college or university

●      Prove ownership of a foreign degree that would be comparable to the bachelor's or higher version of a U.S. specialty program

●      Have an unrestricted license, registration, or certification from the state giving permission to practice the specialty occupation

●      Hold education, specialized training, and experience that would meet the requirements to complete a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty occupation

The H1-B Visa Specialty Occupation Petitioner Requirements

While the path to proving a specialty occupation is complex, it’s not impossible. In fact, this is one of the most popular types of visas used by United States employers to hire foreign workers.

To sponsor a potential employee and petition for the H-1B classification, a petitioner and worker must meet all of these requirements:

●      The petitioner is an employer in a legal business operating in the U.S.

●      The position must be one that can only be completed by meeting specialty occupation factors.

●      The worker must meet the minimum requirements or beyond for the specialty occupation.

●      There must be open H-1B visas still available (the cap isn’t met yet).

●      The petitioner must have a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA).

●      The USCIS must have approved the H-1B petition.

Common Specialty Job Fields

Theoretical and practical application of information is essential to the job in a specialty occuptaiton. The definition is more common in some fields than others, such as:

●      Architecture

●      Mathematics

●      Medicine

●      Physical Science

●      Engineering

●      Social Science

●      Education

●      Law

●      Accounting

●      Business Specialties

●      Theology

●      Arts

When a foreign worker meets or exceeds the minimum education requirement in a field related to the specialty occupation, they may qualify for the job. However, a degree in an unrelated field of study or a general degree is not sufficient.

What’s Next?

Attempting to establish specialty application grounds as an employer or potential employee can be less than black or white. As you’re charting these muddy waters, you’ll need to know how to read and work with the USCIS to verify you’re providing the correct evidence.

Unless your background is in visa law, you’ll likely be doing a lot of back-and-forth communication as your petitions are rejected as incomplete or insufficient. Instead of wasting your time and money, check out Visa2US to see how they can help you meet one of the four specialty occupation requirements or alternatives.

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.