Specialty Occupation

The term "specialty occupation" refers to an occupation that requires

  • (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.

Template for a Specialty Occupation Letter

Specialty Occupation Evaluation

H-1B and E-3 petitions must include documentation that corroborates the assertion that the job is in a specialty occupation that establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the occupation meets the statutory definition of "specialty occupation". It is not sufficient to argue that entry into the occupation requires "any" bachelor's or higher degree. The petitioner must establish that the job is in an occupation where "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." And it must also be shown that the beneficiary possesses such a degree or its equivalent.

The H-1B degree requirement

DHS regulations provide several options to show that the job in question qualifies as a "specialty occupation" for H-1B purposes. All focus on the degree requirement in one form or another, and must be read together with the statutory and regulatory definitions of specialty occupation, which also require the degree to be in a specific specialty. An employer must show one of the following:

8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)

(A) Standards for specialty occupation position. To qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must meet one of the following criteria:

(1) A baccalaureate or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for entry into the particular position;

(2) The degree requirement is common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations or, in the alternative, an employer may show that its particular position is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree;

(3) The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or

(4) The nature of the specific duties are so specialized and complex that knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a baccalaureate or higher degree.

These requirements relate to the sufficiency of the job as a specialty occupation. If the job does not require a specialized degree, the H-1B petition will be denied even if the beneficiary holds a specialized degree.

USCIS has been known to issue RFEs that delve into the employer's LCA and prevailing wage determinations. Employers should ensure that the wage level and SOC code of their PWD are commensurate with the assertion that an occupation requires at least a bachelor's degree in a specific field of endeavor.

USCIS may also consult other sources when evaluating whether an occupation requires at least a bachelor's degree in a specialty as a minimum requirement for entry to the profession. One common point of departure is the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook .

It is also possible for an occupation to have too broad an educational requirement to satisfy the specialty occupation definition. For example, USCIS pointed out that:

"there must be a close correlation between the required specialized studies and the position, the requirement of a degree with a generalized title, such as business administration, without further specification, does not establish the position as a specialty occupation"

Particularly where Occupational Outlook Handbook or O*NET indicate a bachelor's degree as a minimum requirement, but do not mention a specific specialty, petitioners may have to document the specifics of the degree specialization required for the position.

This task may be complicated even more if the employer's own official human resources job description or any position advertisements do not specify a specialty for the degree requirement, or where the specialties listed encompass too broad a range to constitute "a body of highly specialized knowledge."