H-1B Visas for Specialty Occupations
An H-1B visa allows an individual to come to the United States to be employed in a “specialty occupation.”
An H-1B petition is filed by an employer on behalf of an employee. The threshold requirements for an H-1B petition are as follows:
- In order to be granted an H-1B visa, the individual must be employed in a “specialty occupation.” A position will be deemed a “specialty occupation” if at least one of the following criteria are satisfied:
- Entry into the position normally requires “a baccalaureate or higher degree or its equivalent” in a specific specialty;
- The required degree, in a specific specialty, “is common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations”;
- The “particular position is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree” in a specific specialty;
- The employer “normally requires” a degree (or its equivalent) in a specific specialty for the position; or
- The duties of the position are “so specialized and complex” that only a degree in a specific specialty could provide the necessary knowledge.
- Generally, the H-1B employee is required to have a U.S. bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent, or a higher degree) in the specific specialty required for the position. Alternatively, the employee may have a specific license that qualifies him or her to perform the position, or a combination of education/training/experience (subject to the “three-for-one rule”).
H-1B visas are subject to a numerical limit (known as the “cap”) of 65,000 visas per year. Some master’s degree employees are cap-exempt.
Initial H-1B visa holders are admitted for up to three years. They are then permitted to seek extensions of status, but may only accrue 6 years of H-1B status.