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H-1B Visas and 

Specialty Occupation

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Qualifying requirements (Specialty Occupation)

A specialty occupation is one that requires the following knowledge:

"(A) theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and (B) attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.” Section 214(i)(1) of the INA, 8 USC 1184(i)(1)

Put simply, one must have no less than the equivalent of specialized bachelor's degree from a U.S. college or university and that the beneficiary has earned this degree.  To understand how this requirement can affect H-1B petitions, consider some of the stories of clients who received Expert Opinion Letters from ProfVal in order to provide the evidence that they needed.


Example 1 (Specialty Occupation Position)

A Los Angeles-based movie studio that has produced award-winning movies and commercials for international automakers, sought to hire a Cinematographer in areas related to: pre-production, production, and post-production. The USCIS questioned whether the role as a Cinematographer would require a bachelors degree, as some people succeed in this career without having earned a bachelor's degree.


An award winning professor with work featured at the Sundance Festival, IFC, and other major film events explained in a standard Specialty Occupation Expert Opinion Letter from ProfVal why this particular role is of such complexity that it would require no less than a bachelor's degree in Cinematography.  Ultimately, the petition was approved.

Example 2 (Specialty Occupation Position & Beneficiary Qualifications):

A small Information Technology company sought to hire a IT Developer involved with areas related to technology development, product testing, and requirements gathering. After reviewing the petition, the USCIS questioned both the position and also whether the beneficiary's Masters Degree in Information Technology would qualify the beneficiary for the position. The USCIS asserted that: i) the duties were not of sufficient complexity to require a bachelor's degree based on the current requirements stated by the Occupational Outlook handbook and ii) a qualifying degree for this type of role would be in computer science, rather than Information Technology.


Accordingly, a professor of Computer Science with ProfVal provided an H-1B Specialty Occupation Expert Opinion Letter with a discussion of Academic Credentials that explained why the duties and responsibilities corresponded to curriculum requirements and also explained how the beneficiary's Master's degree specifically qualified the beneficiary for this role. Ultimately, the petition was approved.

Example 3 (Beneficiary Qualifications, work experience

An Information Technology company petitioned to hire a beneficiary in an IT role.  The USCIS agreed with the complexity of the role, but questioned the appropriateness of the beneficiary's qualifications, as it determined that a typical requirement for the position is a degree in Computer Science. The beneficiary had a degree in Computer Engineering from an accredited university in India, so the USCIS questioned: i) the discipline of the degree and ii) the U.S. equivalence of the degree from the foreign degree.


After receiving an academic equivalence evaluation of this degree, a work experience evaluation from ProfVal written by an administrator at a nationally-ranked U.S. university demonstrated that the beneficiary's three years of prior work experience in IT, along with his degree in computer engineering, led to the U.S. equivalent of a bachelors degree in Computer Science. Ultimately, the petition was approved.

As an example, the position of Database Engineer may require a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or related. Assuming that the USCIS agrees that the position does indeed require this degree and that a potential beneficiary has the appropriate degree, this requirement has been met.


  • It is important to demonstrate why the position and all of the duties of the position require a bachelors degree or above is needed in order to succeed in the position. While it may not be appropriate for all employers, here is a template that many companies use.

  • The most common reason that the USCIS issues a denial or an RFE is based on specialty occupation requirements.



Do you need an Expert Opinion Letter?

A Specialty Occupation Expert Opinion Letter from ProfVal is used to address USCIS specialty occupation requirements related to a position and/or a beneficiary's qualifications. ProfVal's experts have written letters on behalf of candidates now employed by Fortune 500 companies, consulting firms, small businesses, startups, and nonprofits.

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External Websites

  • General requirements of H-1B

    • In-depth discussion of H-1B qualifications (

    • Visit the USCIS page regarding H-1B visa requirements (USCIS)

  • Read about specialty occupation requirements

  • Masters Cap:

The H-1B Visa​ is for roles that qualify as Specialty Occupations. What does that mean?

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