H-1B Strategy: Analyzing Education Requirements

Employment-based H-1B visas are for professional-level jobs that require a theoretical or practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and typically require a university degree, the equivalent or higher. But do you have to have a degree to get an H-1B visa? Not always.

Here are my tips on analyzing the H-1B visa education requirements and applying them to the beneficiary's background for a successful H-1B petition.

H-1B Visa Educational Requirements

First, you need to know if the job requires a university degree

How do you find out whether the beneficiary meets the H-1B visa educational requirements? You go to the Department of Labor's (DoL) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), and find the most similar job, then click on the "how to become one" tab. Are the requirement for a university degree specified? If so, does the beneficiary have that same degree or a similar one?

If yes, the educational standards are met. If not, there are other factors that can meet H-1B requirements.

H-1B Work Experience Three-to-One Rule

Does the beneficiary have work experience related to the degree requirement? If yes, how many years and can you show it with contracts, pay slips, or letters?

Immigration will accept a 3:1 work to study ratio under 8 C.F.R. §214.2 (h)(4)(iii)(D)(5). Every three years of work experience is equivalent to one academic year at a university.

For example, if the beneficiary's education were an associate's degree or two years, the work experience would need to be six years to meet the education requirements.

H-1B Education Evaluation

If the beneficiary doesn't have a bachelor's degree, provide the name of any institution of higher education, the credited course work, and time enrolled at the school. Also, give the job titles, industry, and duties of previous employment.

It is a smart idea to have an expert evaluate the work and educational experience. The evaluating expert must show that they have the authority to assess credentials.

The next thing to look at is whether multiple majors can qualify under the OOH.

Does the beneficiary have a bachelor or higher degree that could have provided all or some knowledge required for the job? Did the beneficiary change majors from a degree that was related? Did they obtain an associate's degree in a related major?  

Provide the person's name who evaluated the degree, position, and organization. Also, list the evaluation company and the degree equivalent.

On occasion, United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires experts to interview the individual. All experts are not equal as USCIS prefers some to others.

Note: Best practice is to get a professional credential evaluation service instead of trying to argue it yourself.

Example: 

On behalf of Relativity Evaluation Services, Dr. Albert Einstein of Princeton University found Mr. Smith's BS Degree in Horticulture from Oxford University in England to be equivalent to a four-year degree in Horticulture at an institution of Higher Education in the United States.

On occasion, United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires experts to interview the individual.

Note: Best practice is to get a professional evaluation instead of trying to argue it yourself.

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H-1B Visa Denial

USCIS has denied cases where they believe the spectrum of knowledge is too broad to meet the criteria of a specialty occupation, reasoning that it must require only one degree.

The case of Relx vs. Barron provides a strong holding in opposition to a USCIS decision stating that there is no requirement that a specialty occupation can have a single degree to qualify. 

The following analysis is whether the degree requirement is similar enough to qualify as a specialty

USCIS has denied cases where a specialty occupation has required any engineering degree instead of a subspecialty like software or mechanical engineering.

It is a solid practice to suggest a subspecialty where it fits, such as a software developer requiring a computer science or computer engineering degree. However, there is no single degree requirement.

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