What is an H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa. It is designed to allow US employers to recruit & employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations within the US.

Do I qualify for H-1B Specialty Occupation Status?

The main criteria for entry under the H-1B specialty occupation visa category are that you:

  • Are in a “specialty occupation”;
  • Have a US petitioning employer who, inter alia, offers remuneration equal to or more than the prevailing wage rate within the relevant state and profession; and
  • Have an offer of employment in a permanent position.

What is a Specialty Occupation?

A “specialty occupation” is defined as one requiring “theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge”, combined with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. It is not enough to hold a bachelor’s degree in a specialized area; your proposed employment must require such a degree or its equivalent in order to meet the criteria.

What occupations may qualify for H-1B?

Specialty occupations include, but are certainly not limited to: lawyers, accountants, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, social workers, engineers and architects.

What are the limitations of H-1B?
  • H-1B is notoriously difficult based on the yearly cap – therefore despite being eligible, you/your intended employee may be unsuccessful.
  • You may only apply once per year – the whole quota is usually far exceeded on April 1 – the first day visas become available;
  • LCA is required
  • You require a job offer at the prevailing wage rate/ you as an employer are required to pay the prevailing wage rate
  • An H-1B employee’s spouse may not work other than in certain specified circumstances

What is the cap/quota for H-1B?

Presently, only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued per fiscal year, of which 6,800 are allocated to Chile and Singapore. While the fiscal year runs from 1 October to 30 September, applications are made six months in advance; it is advisable to start the process as early as possible.

I am a fashion model – do I qualify for H-1B?

You may be eligible if you are of merit and distinction and meet the criteria.

What are the main criteria for a fashion model applying for H-1B?

You must:

    • Have a contract to perform services for a distinguished event or organization with a distinguished reputation or record for employing prominent persons; and
    • Satisfy two of the following four criteria through documentary supporting evidence:
      1. National or international recognition evidenced by critical reviews, articles, news stories or the like;
      2. Recognition by experts or critics;
      3. Performance for employers with distinguished reputations; or
      4. Command high salary in relation to others.
        Fashion models may also wish to consider applying for an O-1 visa

For how long are H-1B visas approved?

Generally, H-1B recipients may enter for a maximum of six years. Extensions of one year increments are available under certain circumstances. If you do not adjust status to another visa category, it is a requirement that you remain outside the United States for a year before applying for another H-1B visa.

Can I bring my spouse and children?

Your spouse and children under the age of 21 years may apply at the relevant embassy or consulate for an H-4 visa based on their relationship with you, the H-1B holder.

While family members in H-4 status are generally not authorized to accept employment while in the United States, they are permitted to study during their stay.

Accompanying family members are also subject to a six year maximum duration, although they may change status without time spent in H-4 counting toward the maximum duration.

What is the procedure?
      • Petitioning US employer must first file a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) with the US Department of Labor;
      • Upon receiving a certified LCA, the applicant files a petition, comprising relevant supporting documentation, at the relevant USCIS service center; and
      • Upon the petition being approved, the applicant applies for a visa at the relevant US consulate or embassy.