What are specialty occupations?
A specialty occupation is one that requires highly specialized training and/or experience. It can also be an occupation that requires at least a bachelor's degree* from an accredited college or university to perform. In fact, there is a separate number of H-1B visas allocated for candidates with a master's degree.
*While a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) is the minimum educational requirement for a specialty occupation, it must be a degree in a highly specialized field. It should be undeniable that only a candidate with this qualification can perform the role.
What are the specialty occupations that qualify for the H-1B visa?
Agents from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) to look for occupations that have already been defined as specialty occupations. This list is, however, not exhaustive.
When applying for an H-1B visa, it is imperative to outline how the role requires a very specific individual to perform it. For example, an individual who has been trained to use specialized equipment, and is one of few people who can operate said equipment, can be considered to perform a specialty occupation.
What is an RFE for specialty occupations?
An RFE is a Request for Evidence. Simply put, it means that your application needs more documentation. The USCIS will send a notice to request specific documents to help make a decision about your application, along with a due date for those documents.
An RFE is issued when the USCIS agent assigned to your case needs further convincing that your vacancy requires a specialized candidate. This request is not necessarily a bad sign regarding your application, but it is important to source and submit the documents asked for if your case is to be successful.
How to Prove a Specialty Occupation:
Five ways in which to prove a specialty occupation.
Proving that a role is a specialty occupation.
Consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH).
The OOH has a list of occupations that have already been defined as specialty occupations. If the occupation is not listed here, it does not mean that your application will be rejected.
Provide a description of the requirements of the candidate.
Next, an employer can provide a detailed description of the requirements of the candidate. This can include a timeline of the project, daily tasks required of the candidate, documents outlining the purpose of the project, and technical specifications.
Provide a detailed job description.
It is advised that employers also provide a detailed job description that highlights the complexities of the tasks that the candidate will perform.
For example, employers can explain that the candidate will need to extract DNA samples from extremely fragile sources using a rare, complex machine. This shows that only trained professionals can perform the task.
Seek confirmation from an industry expert.
A letter from an industry expert may also prove to be helpful in illustrating the need for an adequately qualified candidate to fill your position. For example, this expert may be able to describe similar vacancies that they have filled and sought out graduates for. Alternatively, they may be able to confirm the complexity of the role and its tasks.
A university professor would be a great choice as an industry expert, as their occupation requires someone with vast knowledge and experience.
State the wage being offered to the candidate.
Another good way to prove that the role is a specialty occupation is by comparing the average salary in this industry to the salary being offered for the position. A role that requires a highly trained individual will offer a more competitive wage than one that requires little to no training.
How do you prove a specialty occupation?
What are a few specialty occupations for the H-1B visa?
Is software engineer a specialty occupation?
A software engineer can be a specialty occupation if the specific project requires engineers with some unique qualification or proficiency.
What is a specialty occupation for an E-3 visa?
The E-3 visa and H-1B visa have the same definition of a specialty occupation: it is one that either requires specialized training and experience, or one that requires at least a bachelor's degree in a specific field.
Are RFEs common?
RFEs have become more common since 2017, and it should not be alarming to receive one.
Does an RFE mean approval?
Not necessarily. An RFE simply means that the agent overseeing your case needs more evidence that the role is a specialty occupation, or that the chosen candidate is the most qualified person to fill the position.
Can an RFE be rejected?
The USCIS can reject an application following the submission of supporting documents. If the documents fail to prove that a position is a specialty occupation, the employer will have to submit a new application.
What is the minimum salary required to apply for an H-1B visa?
There is no specific salary amount that qualifies a candidate for an H-1B visa. Employers must research the average wage for a similar position and offer a salary higher than that. This proves that the position can only be filled by a suitably qualified person with a specific degree.
What happens after submitting RFEs?
After an employer has submitted the requested documents, the assigned USCIS agent will review the evidence provided and make a judgment on the H-1B visa application.
Can I get an RFE twice?
Yes, it is possible to receive multiple RFEs based on the case and the information needed by the USCIS agent.
What is the minimum salary to file a H-1B visa?
The current minimum salary for an H-1B visa is $60,000 per year.
How many days will it take to clear a RFE?
It generally takes 60 days for your assigned USCIS agent to process your documents. However, depending on the agent's workload, processing times can vary between 15 and 80 days.