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H-1B visas: degree and experience requirements 


Are related degrees and experience sufficient for an H-1B?  

For an H-1B applicant who possesses a degree in the specific field that she will be working in, demonstrating that the job is a specialty occupation is less likely to be problematic. A job qualifies as a specialty occupation if a baccalaureate degree is a normal minimum requirement for entry into that position. Thus, a foreign national possessing a bachelor’s degree in interior design should get an H-1B approved for an interior designer position.  

But what if the applicant’s credentials are not quite on target? What if his degree is in a different but related field? What if he has significant experience, but doesn’t have the requisite degree? What are the parameters that will determine whether an applicant who is not a perfect fit will get an H-1B?  Given the rise in multidisciplinary jobs and the increase in cross-trained employees, these issues are frequently touched upon as multi-talented foreign nationals apply for H-1Bs.  

In a case, Tapis International, 4/24/00), the court held that a combination of experience and education could be used to show that the H-1B applicant has the “equivalent” to a baccalaureate degree. In that case, the applicant possessed experience in the field of interior design, but did not have a bachelor’s degree in the field. Instead, he possessed an associate’s degree in interior design and a master’s degree in business administration. 

The court held that such a combination was close enough to be considered the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the specialized field.  

From this case, one can see that relevancy in experience and education can make up for a lack of the requisite degree.  If the applicant’s experience is in the specific field that he will work in, it’s more likely that the INS will value the experience. If the applicant’s degree is closely related, (e.g., finance major applying for an accounting position), he has a better chance of approval. On the other hand, simply having a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient to obtain an H-1B if the degree is completely unrelated to the area of work. And significant experience in an unrelated field, is unlikely to be helpful.  

In summary, applicants should recognize that not having a degree in the exact area of expertise is not necessarily a roadblock to an H-1B approval. By examining the applicant’s studies and experience and carefully bringing this out in the petition to show how it relates to the H-1B position, an immigration attorney can increase the chances of an H-1B approval.




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