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What Is An H-1B And What Are “Specialty” Occupations


An H-1B nonimmigrant visa / status may be granted to a foreign national who will perform services in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum requirement for entry into the occupation in the United States. Representative examples of specialty occupations include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.

In order to determine whether a particular position would be considered a specialty occupation, the regulations require that the position must meet one of the following four (4) criteria:

  1. A bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for entry into the particular position;
  2. The degree requirement is common in the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations or, alternatively, that the particular position is so complex or unique that a degree is required;
  3. The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent; or
  4. 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 degree.

The foreign national must be qualified to perform services in the specialty occupation as a result of his having attained a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, in the specialty occupation. In the event that the foreign national does not have a bachelor’s degree, twelve (12) or more years of education and/or experience may be considered the equivalent to four (4) years of college or a bachelor’s degree; that is, every three (3) years of progressive professional experience can equal one (1) year of formal university education. Also, if state licensure is required to practice in the occupation, then the foreign national must have the full state licensure to practice in the occupation. That said, if state or local authorities require proof of lawful employment before granting the license and the license is required to practice the profession, USCIS will grant a one (1) year H-1B approval to allow the beneficiary to obtain the license.