Types of Jobs Most Likely to Qualify for an H-1B Visa

There are basic occupation requirements that allow you to apply for H-1B visas.

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 H-1B Visa to the U.S.: Who Qualifies?, the H-1B visa is for "specialty occupation" workers who have a job offer in the United States. In brief, this means the job being offered must require at least a U.S. bachelor's degree in a specific field, the job duties are sufficiently complex to require at least a bachelor’s in a relevant 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 qualify for 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 2018 report, which is the most recent one available as of January 2020.)

As you can see from the below list, which is from prior 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.

(Be aware, however, that in mid-2018, USCIS began denying H-1B petitions for computer systems analysts, financial analysts, and market research analysts. USCIS had long recognized these jobs as qualifying specialty occupations. Employers are likely to go to court to request that a judge direct USCIS to approve these cases. Unfortunately, lawsuits take time. In the meantime, employers will want to proceed with caution and consult an immigration attorney if considering an H-1B petition for one of these "analyst" job categories.)

  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Architects
  • Biologists
  • Budget and Management Analysts
  • Chemists
  • Civil Engineers
  • College and University Educators
  • Database Administrators
  • Data Communication and Network Administrators
  • Economists
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineers
  • Financial Analysts
  • Graphic Designers and Artists
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Sales and Distribution Managers
  • Software Engineers
  • Statisticians
  • Surveyors
  • Systems Analysts and Programmers
  • Teachers, Primary and Secondary Schools
  • Therapists

If you are a possible H-1B worker, examine the employer's actual job description and requirements 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. They do not include every job that can qualify as a specialty occupation for purposes of the H-1B.

You may have also heard that some consulting companies and labor brokers serve as middlemen, lining H-1B workers up to work for various U.S. employers. Such positions might receive extra scrutiny from USCIS, however, so be cautious when looking into such offers.

What Do Prospective Employers Need to Know About Which Jobs H-1B Workers Can Fill?

If you're an employer, the above examples give you an idea of the jobs for which you can go through the steps of sponsoring 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 whether 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 Before Job Hunting?

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 through sponsorship for that job.

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