Is a bachelor's degree enough to get me an H-1B visa?

Bachelor's degree alone not enough to get an H-1B visa.

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Question

I have a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from my home country. I contacted a reputable service in the United States to obtain an equivalency determination of my degree. The report states that my Bachelor's degree is the equivalent of a four-year Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in the United States. Does this mean I now can apply for an H-1B visa?

Answer

You're asking about the "specialty occupation" subcategory of the H-1B visa. It's a bit more complex than just earning a Bachelor's degree and applying for a visa.

There are three basic parts to the H-1B visa, to answer your question. The first is that you need to have a job offer from an employer in the United States that is willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa.

Second, the job must be one that requires a specific Bachelor's degree as a minimum qualification. The U.S. government’s H-1B regulations provide four ways an employer can demonstrate that its job requires a bachelor's degree:

1) A bachelor's degree normally is the entry-level requirement for the job.

2) A bachelor's degree is common in the industry among comparable employers.

3) The employer normally requires a degree for the job, or

4) The job duties are "so specialized and complex" that you typically need to have a bachelor's degree to perform them.

For jobs such as accounting, engineering, and many information technology professions, it's clear that you need a specific bachelor's degree to get the job. For other jobs, it's less clear. For example, marketing and sales jobs often present challenges in the H-1B visa category, because employers typically accept a wide range of degrees. For example, Sales Representatives might have degrees in business, marketing, psychology, history, communications, political science or other fields. This makes it difficult to demonstrate that a specific bachelor's degree is required.

For more guidance on how the government views employers' job descriptions under the above criteria, see the Nolo article on H-1B visas.

Finally, the third part to your question is that you must have a degree that is relevant to the job the employer is offering you. In your case, your Mechanical Engineering degree will qualify you for engineering jobs that have a strong mechanical orientation. One thing to keep in mind for an engineering job is that sometimes a Professional Engineer license is required. You'll need to review the job description carefully and look into any licensure requirements for the state where you'll be working.

Depending upon the specific coursework you completed, you also may qualify for an information technology position. For example, if your degree program included many courses in mathematics and information systems, it may be possible to get an H-1B visa to work as a programmer analyst, systems analyst, software engineer or similar position. Matching up your degree and coursework to the proposed job can be somewhat of an art. If you and your prospective employer have questions, talk to an immigration attorney who can guide you.

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