When you read or hear about H-1B visas, there usually is a reference to "high tech" workers. To be sure, computer-related jobs consistently account for a large share of the H-1B visa petitions that employers file each year. There are many other jobs, however, that qualify for H-1B visas. You don't necessarily need to have a computer science degree to get an H-1B visa.
The H-1B Visa's Basic Requirements
As explained more fully in Nolo's article "H-1B Visa to the U.S.: Who Qualifies?," the H-1B visa is for "specialty occupation" workers. In brief, this means the job must require at least a U.S. Bachelor's degree in a specific field, and the worker must have a relevant degree or the equivalent combined education and/or experience.
For example, an entry-level Civil Engineer must have a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. If you have a Bachelor's degree in Accounting, you won't get an H-1B visa to work as a Civil Engineer.
Examples of Jobs That Have Been Approved for H-1B Visas
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes statistics on the employers that file H-1B visa petitions and the occupations that USCIS has approved for H-1B visas. (See the "Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers" reports available at www.uscis.gov, in particular the Fiscal Year 2011 report.)
As you can see from the below list, which is from the 2003 and 2011 USCIS reports, these are broad categories for the most part. For example, "systems analysis and programming" can include Software Engineers, Computer Programmers, Programmer Analysts, and Systems Analysts. Therefore, this list offers some guidance into the various occupational families, which you can explore further to identify jobs that can qualify for H-1B visas.
Accountants and Auditors
Budget and Management Analysts
College and University Educators
Data Communication and Network Administrators
Electrical and Electronic Engineers
Graphic Designers and Artists
Physicians and Surgeons
Sales and Distribution Managers
Systems Analysts and Programmers
Teachers, Primary and Secondary Schools
It's also important to be aware that, just like with any investment-offering prospectus, past results do not guarantee future success. If you are a possible H-1B applicant, you need to examine the employer's actual job carefully to make sure that a degree is required and that you have a relevant degree (or the equivalent). The above occupations merely serve as a starting point.
What Do Prospective Employers of H-1B Workers Need to Know?
If you're an employer, the above examples give you an idea of the jobs for which you can sponsor an H-1B worker. But don't let this be the beginning and end of the topic. You might have a job that does not fit neatly into one of the above categories, or it might be a job that is relatively uncommon.
If you have a history of requiring a specific Bachelor's degree, your job can qualify to sponsor an H-1B worker. For example, you may have hired five people, who all had the same degree, for a particular job. If the foreign national you want to hire has the same degree as the other five, that job can qualify.
With this in mind, use the above examples as a guide and then explore your specific job further to see if it will qualify. As explained in the article mentioned above, there are other ways for the job to qualify for an H-1B visa. The focus here is to provide some specific examples of jobs that USCIS has approved in the past.
What Do Students Interested in H-1B Status Need to Know?
If you're a student at a college or university and would like to position yourself to qualify for an H-1B visa in the future, you can use the above examples to give you an idea of the fields of study that can match up to a job that qualifies for an H-1B visa. If you plan to work as an Accountant, for example, you will need to major in accounting or finance. While art history may be of interest to you and have its own merits, it won't get you an H-1B visa to work as an Accountant. Focus on a major and coursework that are relevant to the job you're seeking.
And as noted above for employers, don't let the above list be the beginning and end of your search. Rather, take a close look at a job posting and compare how the courses you completed are relevant to performing that job. If there is a close connection, there's a good chance you can qualify for an H-1B visa.