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What are H-1B Specialty Occupations?

How do you prove eligibility for your H-1B work visa through specialty occupations?
Proving your employment eligibility is critical to your H-1B work visa application’s success, but navigating these waters doesn’t have to be complicated. We invite you to use this list to ensure that your H-1B work visa application meets all the necessary requirements and moves through the review process with ease.

It is important to know what is expected before you start your application journey. Legalpad’s team of experts are here to make your journey smooth and efficient. Keep reading to learn about the H-1B work visa application process. 

Navigating the H-1B work visa’s application process has two basic requirements

1) Applicants must meet the H-1B Work Visa Criteria and 

2) Applicants must prove Specialty Occupation status
(see below for a partial list). 

What is a specialty occupation according to H-1B? H-1B work visa specialty occupations are defined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as specialty occupations that are narrow, focused positions. These positions require “theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields” and include positions in domains such as IT, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science and medicine. Only 65,000 of these work visas are given out every year.

H-1B Criteria states that applicants must have a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) in the specific field that the employer is hiring for. Employers of these specialized workers must also be eligible for sponsorship which we cover in detail here. This visa category is also open to applicants with graduate level education (or higher).

Be prepared for the USCIS to review the role you are attempting to fill. Their job is to ensure that the role you are hired into is highly specialized. H-1B specialty occupations must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s degree.
  • The degree requirement is standard in the industry or the occupation is so complex that it can only be performed by an individual who has–at a minimum–a bachelor’s degree.
  • The employer normally requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the position.
  • The nature of the positions’ duties is so highly specialized that the knowledge required to meet the expectations of the position is usually associated with having a bachelor’s degree in the field.


This incomplete list of specialty occupations for the H-1B visa provides some examples for how a specialty occupation is defined by the USCIS:

  • IT/Computer Professional
  • University Professor or Teacher
  • Engineer
  • Healthcare Worker
  • Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Management Consultant
  • Lawyer
  • Architect
  • Nurse
  • Doctor
  • Physician
  • Surgeon
  • Dentist
  • Scientist
  • Systems Analyst
  • Journalist
  • Editor
  • Foreign Law Advisor
  • Psychologist
  • Technical Publication Writer
  • Market Research Analyst


A Request for Evidence (RFE) may be the biggest potential obstacle applicants face on the road to securing an H-1B specialty occupation visa. In some cases, the USCIS may challenge the status of your position and request more detail in order to prove that the position can in fact, be classified as a specialty occupation. When this happens the USCIS will mail an RFE to your sponsoring employer asking that they provide demonstrable evidence (e.g.- employment agreements, job duties, organizational charts, etc.) that proves that the position meets the education criteria to be deemed a specialty occupation (see H-1B specialty occupation’s criteria above). 

This request requires the written opinion of an expert or external organization (e.g. law firms, Chief Technology Officers, academic professors at credential evaluation companies) to help support or deny the job classification. Supporting documentation like expert opinion letters are meant to corroborate the validity of the positions’ qualifications by the opinion of an outside organization or expert. These RFE’s provide clarification on how–in the auditor’s view–your position doesn’t qualify as a specialty occupation. They will also document the ways in which this position meets the required, qualifying criteria. 

We recognize that the RFE process may feel stressful. It can be frustrating to invest all that time and energy into submitting your application, only to get stuck in review at the last step. Make sure you follow these important steps for an easy application process and reach out to us if you would like more help.

  • Find a sponsoring employer for your H-1B work visa
  • Make sure this role fulfills the H-1B specialty occupation criteria (above)
  • Make sure you have the requisite education requirements 
  • Submit your application and supporting documentation 

Don’t let the potential obstacle of an RFE scare you from pursuing this work visa if it best suits your needs. RFE’s are often just a matter of due diligence, and are not necessarily a sign that your application is denied. A team of experts like Legalpad can utilize tactics like expert letters to help you strengthen your petition and satisfy the concerns that USCIS has with your case.

It’s important that you know how to define H-1B work visa specialty occupations. This knowledge will be beneficial to you as you try to work with your sponsoring employer to petition for an H-1B work visa.

It’s also important to know what the specialty occupation qualifying criteria are and what steps you need to take to meet them. Your approval is decided on whether or not you meet these criteria. Immigration in the U.S. can be a confusing landscape to navigate. If you find that you are running into problems along the way, or if you need help charting your course forward, we encourage you to reach out to us today.

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