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

There are basic occupation requirements that allow a foreign student or worker 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 USCIS's "Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers" report; the Fiscal Year 2019 report is the most recent available as of February 2021.)

As you can see from the below list, which is from prior USCIS reports, these are broad categories for the most part.

  • 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
  • Investment Banking and Securities Dealing
  • 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

For example, the "systems analysis and programming" entry on this list 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 went to court to request that a judge direct USCIS to approve these cases. Unfortunately, lawsuits take time. As of early 2021, litigation was ongoing over market research analyst petitions. A February, 2021 policy memo rescission suggests that computer programmers, and hopefully systems analysts, again can qualify as H-1B specialty occupations. As these developments continue, 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.

Matching Your Background to H-1B Job Types

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 occupations on the list above 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 might 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 company's job can qualify to sponsor an H-1B worker. For example, you might 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 offering further to see whether it will qualify. Also keep in mind that there are other ways for a 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 get 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 might 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.

Also, 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 job postings and compare how the courses you've 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.

Finally, the USCIS Employer Data Hub allows you to see reports of employers that have submitted H-1B petitions going back to fiscal year 2009. That at least could provide you with examples of organizations willing to sponsor H-1B workers.

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