H-1B Visa for Workers in a Specialty Occupation: The Educational Requirement

The popular H-1B Visa category allows foreign nationals to work inside the United States in a specialty occupation. This particular non-immigrant visa is specifically designed to allow persons with a college education or its equivalent to find employment with a United States employer. The foreign national need not have attended college in the U.S. in order to obtain an H-1B visa. In certain circumstances, the foreign national need not have attended college at all! What a prospective H-1B Beneficiary needs in the way of initial evidence is the appropriate credentials for the specialty occupation that the employer is hiring them for. These credentials may be proven in a variety of ways depending on the facts of the case.

H-1B Beneficiary’s Holding at Last a Bachelor’s Degree

The completion of a bachelor’s degree in the specialty occupation that the worker is hired for fulfills the minimum educational requirement for an H-1B visa. A foreign national who has obtained a bachelor’s degree in an academic field related to the specialty occupation that they have been recruited for will usually have no problems fulfilling the academic credential requirements of the H-1B Visa.

Furthermore, many foreign nationals who obtain H-1B visas have gained their bachelor’s degree at colleges outside of the United States. When this situation arises an academic equivalency evaluation needs to be done on the foreign degree. An academic equivalency evaluation can be done by several different types of organizations. Among the most popular and reliable ways to have an equivalency carried out is to hire a private company that specializes in researching foreign degrees and finding their equivalent in the United States degree nomenclature. Many times these private firms will offer a variety of specialized services for foreign nationals such as translation services and letters showing that a clooge degree is needed by a person attempting to fill the proposed job position.

These private credential evaluation services will require certain documents to carry out their research. First, the company will need a copy of all diplomas. Secondly, the company will need a copy of all academic transcripts in order to examine the courses that you have taken. Thirdly, any government issued licenses or certificates may also be submitted to show full eligibility for the specialty occupation that the alien wishes to fill. It is important to note that the United States Government as well as most private academic credential evaluation companies will need a certified English translation of all of the academic documents that are to be presented as evidence.

Translation of academic documents can be costly, so foreign nationals and/or employers must plan for this expense in advance. Credential evaluations can usually carried out by private companies in a week or less as a matter of course. Rush services are almost always available, however, as with any rush service, the cost will increase in hurried situations.

H-1B Visa for Those Foreign Nationals who do not Have a Bachelor’s Degree

In certain situations, those foreign nationals who do not possess a bachelor’s degree may be eligible for H-1B status based upon their prior work experience and/ or technical training. In most instances, those persons who have a technical degree or some formal training plus work experience in a specialty occupation will have an advantage over those who possess only experience. In cases of mixed education and work experience, an evaluation of the foreign national’s work experience is conducted in conjunction with an analysis of the person’s education. Many reputable private companies will conduct an evaluation of work experience.

What is usually required to conduct an evaluation of work experience is a detailed resume and letters from previous employers giving the dates of the work performed and the duties undertaken. The fee for this type of evaluation is usually more than that of an academic evaluation alone. This is because such an evaluation is often carried out by a professor. The USCIS prefers to have work experience evaluations carried out by a professor in the field and it is worth the added expense for this service if there is any doubt regarding educational requirements in a case.

Work experience alone may even qualify for the requisite education level to obtain an H-1B visa. The USCIS is usually more critical of those who rely solely on their experience to obtain an H-1B, so it is important to leave e no doubt in the minds of the adjudicator on this issue. The work experience must involve a gradual increase of responsibilities and increase in complexity over time. On-the-job training of ordinary tasks will usually not qualify for such an equivalency. Rather, the foreign national must show that he or she has applied specialized knowledge in their job that could only be learned from many years of experience or through formal education. As far as the years of experience necessary, the most cited successful cases involve H-1B Beneficiary’s that possess twenty or so years of experience. However, it is important to remember that these cases are highly fact specific, so the years of experience necessary may vary.


It is important to never overlook the educational requirement in H-1B cases. With all of the other factors that have made obtaining an H-1B visa more difficult in recent times, avoiding an oversight in obtaining the educational evidence for this type of visa should be priority number one. If you have questions about an immigration visa or green card matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney. Our law firm handles various matters including Green Cards and Permanent Residence, family immigration, immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas, employment visas and H1B visas, Investor Visas, PERM applications, and many more. Please contact us and experience how our law firm can assist you in your immigration matters. Whether you are an employer, an employee or a family member, The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has competent, responsive and innovative lawyers who can make your immigration experience pleasant and seamless.

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