When looking at the requirements of applying for an H1-B visa, you may have noticed the program's heavy emphasis on specialty occupations. That leads to a question that every H1-B visa lawyer gets asked, "What does 'specialty occupation' mean?" Let's take a look at how the H1-B visa system is used by workers.
First, it's worth noting that an H1-B visa is granted to a non-immigrant, temporary worker. It allows a person to stay in the U.S. for up to three years. Renewals are possible, and an employee of a U.S. company or organization can continue to work in America for up to 240 days with a pending renewal or until the application is rejected. If you leave the U.S. during this period, you will most likely have to wait for the renewal application to be completed before returning.
Foreign employees are typically allowed a maximum of 6 years on H1-B status. After that time, they must leave the U.S. Application for a different visa status is acceptable, and it should be done well before you hit the 6-year limit if you plan to stay longer.
Definition of a Specialty Occupation
The bulk of specialty occupations accepted for visa purposes are ones that require education of a bachelor's degree or higher. If you don't have a bachelor's degree, you may still be able to apply if the skill level involved in the work as it is done in the U.S. is the equivalent of a bachelor's degree-level job. Naturally, this sort of application will be subject to greater scrutiny. You may also need to meet state-level licensing requirements where you'll be working.
Requirements are kept somewhat intentionally vague to keep up with evolving economic conditions. An official from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will judge your application. The formal appeal of rejection must be filed within 30 days of the decision.
Jobs covered by the H1-B visa usually come with a labor condition requirement. This means that your prospective employer must file an application on your behalf. They also must certify that you'll be employed at the actual wage paid for similar work in the company or the prevailing wage for workers in the business's geographic region. Similarly, the employer must certify that the application was not filed during a pending strike, lockout or other types of legally recognized forms of work stoppages. The employer must also indicate that the employment of the non-immigrant worker does not displace an American employee.
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