H-1B Visa for Specialty Occupation

H-1B Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models: A Comprehensive Guide

The H-1B visa program is a route for skilled professionals seeking to work in various specialty fields in the United States. This visa category is designed for individuals in specialty occupations as well as extends to Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project workers and fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.

At the Law Offices Of Sarah X.Q. Mu, we have a deep understanding and extensive experience in managing the complexities of the H1B visa process across all its categories. On this page, our experts provide a thorough overview of the H-1B visa, covering its scope, application process, and the specific categories it encompasses.

What is the H-1B Visa?

The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa category in the United States, specifically created for professionals with specialized skills and expertise. It’s a pathway for U.S.-based organizations to employ foreign workers in certain occupations that require highly specialized knowledge.

This visa category is a critical tool for U.S. businesses to fill gaps in their workforce with highly skilled professionals from around the world, fostering innovation and competitiveness in the global market.

Primarily, the H1B visa applies to three distinct groups:

  • Specialty Occupation Workers: These are individuals who enter the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, along with at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the specific field. For these occupations, the U.S. Department of Labor certifies the employment through a labor condition application.
  • DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers: This category includes professionals who contribute to cooperative research and development projects or co-production projects under a government-to-government agreement administered by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. These roles typically demand exceptional merit and ability.
  • Fashion Models: The H1B visa also covers fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. Like specialty occupation workers, fashion models must have their employment certified through a labor condition application filed by the employer.

We will discuss each route in more detail later in the article.

Understanding the Cap for H-1B Visa

The H1B visa program is subject to an annual cap, a limit set by the U.S. government on the number of visas that can be issued each fiscal year. This cap is a crucial aspect of the H1B program and directly impacts the availability and competition for these visas.

For the general category of H1B visas, the annual cap is currently set at 65,000. However, there is an additional set-aside of 20,000 visas specifically for applicants holding a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution. This is often called the “master’s cap” and is intended to attract highly educated professionals to contribute to the U.S. workforce.

It’s important to note that not all H1B applications are subject to this cap. Certain categories of employers are exempt from the cap limitations. These typically include higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government research organizations.

H-1B Specialty Occupations Route

The H-1B Specialty Occupations Route is a pathway under the H-1B visa program for foreign professionals with specialized knowledge and skills. The route may include fields such as architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.

Occupations under this route typically require a higher level of education and expertise, often requiring at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a related field. The essence of the H-1B Specialty Occupations visa lies in its focus on roles that are not just advanced in terms of complexity but also specific enough that the skills required are not commonly found in the general workforce.

Employers in the United States who seek to hire foreign workers under this route need to demonstrate that the position in question qualifies as a specialty occupation. This involves showing the necessity for specialized knowledge and that the job’s complexity is such that it can only be performed by an individual with the required higher education and skills.

This route is particularly popular in sectors like technology, where there is a high demand for specialized skills that are not readily available in the U.S. labor market. It allows U.S. companies to address skill shortages in key areas by tapping into a global talent pool.

Requirements for H-1B Specialty Occupations Route

To be eligible for the H-1B Specialty Occupations Route, both the applicant and the job position must meet specific criteria. These requirements are in place to ensure that the visa is used for its intended purpose: to employ foreign professionals in roles that necessitate specialized knowledge and skills.

Requirements for visa applicants include:

  • For you to qualify to perform services in a specialty occupation, you must meet one of the following criteria:
  • Hold a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
  • Hold a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to practice the specialty occupation fully and immediately engage in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
  • Have education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience that is equivalent to the completion of a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.

For a job to be considered a specialty occupation under the H-1B visa, it must fulfill one of the following requirements:

  • The position should generally require a bachelor’s or higher degree (or its equivalent) as a minimum entry requirement.
  • The role should be unique or complex enough that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree. This implies that the job’s duties are of such a specialized nature that the knowledge required to perform them is typically associated with attaining a bachelor’s or higher degree.
  • The position should align with the employer’s usual requirement for a degree for the role, indicating that the industry or the employer typically hires individuals with a certain level of education for the position.

These requirements aim to maintain the integrity of the H-1B visa program, ensuring that it is reserved for jobs requiring specialized skills and knowledge and for candidates who are adequately qualified to fill these roles.

H-1B2 DOD Researcher and Development Project Worker Route

The H-1B2 visa is a subset of the H-1B program, designed for individuals working on cooperative research and development projects or co-production projects under a government-to-government agreement administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The H-1B2 visa is geared towards researchers and professionals who are essential to DOD cooperative projects. These projects are typically high-level research and development initiatives that require specialized knowledge and skills.

Unlike the general H-1B visa, the H-1B2 visa has no annual cap. This allows for greater flexibility and responsiveness in meeting the staffing needs of critical defense-related projects. Applicants for the H-1B2 visa are not required to have a Labor Condition Application certified by the Department of Labor.

Requirements for H-1B2 Route

The H-1B2 visa category is specifically designed for individuals who can contribute uniquely to cooperative research and development projects supervised by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). To qualify for an H-1B2 visa, applicants must fulfill several criteria that underscore their specialized role and the importance of their work in these projects.

  • Applicants must have been accepted for a job that requires at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher or an equivalent foreign degree. The degree should be pertinent to the duties of the specialty occupation.
  • A verification letter from the DoD project manager. This letter must confirm that the applicant will be working on a cooperative research and development project or co-production project under a government-to-government agreement.
  • Applicants must provide a general description of their duties in the project, including the start date of intended employment. This gives a clear understanding of the role and its timeline within the project.
  • A statement listing all non-U.S. citizens currently employed on the project, along with those whose employment ended in the past year, is required. This list should include the start dates of intended employment for these individuals.
  • In addition to holding a relevant Bachelor’s degree or higher, applicants may qualify if they possess an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes full practice in the specialty occupation. Alternatively, recognized training, education, or progressively responsible experience equivalent to such a degree for the position may be considered.

These requirements are tailored to ensure that individuals who are part of the H-1B2 visa program bring essential skills and knowledge to projects critical to U.S. defense interests and bilateral cooperation in research and development.

H-1B3 Fashion Model Route

The H-1B3 visa category is a specialized segment of the H-1B visa program, specifically designed for fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. This visa is reserved for individuals who are recognized as being at the top of their field in fashion modeling and are seeking to engage in modeling work in the United States.

Requirements for H-1B3 Route

The H 1B3 visa is aimed at individuals who have achieved a high level of recognition in the fashion industry and are sought after for their exceptional skills and prominence. Requirements for this visa include:

  • To qualify for an H-1B3 visa, the applicant must be established as a prominent fashion model. This prominence is typically evidenced through a record of high achievement in the field, which may include recognition from notable fashion houses, appearances in leading fashion publications, or participation in prominent fashion shows.
  • The applicant must demonstrate distinguished merit and ability in fashion modeling. This involves showcasing a history of notable accomplishments and recognitions that set them apart from their peers in the industry.
  • The U.S. job the applicant is applying for must specifically require a fashion model of prominence. This means that the role is tailored for an individual who has achieved a high level of success and recognition in fashion modeling and whose skills are essential for the position.

Electronic Registration Process for H1B Visa

Introduced in 2020, the electronic registration process is a compulsory initial step for employers seeking to secure an H1B visa for prospective employees. This process is managed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and involves a few key steps.

First, employers must create an account on the designated USCIS webpage. This account is essential for managing the registration and application process. During registration, employers need to submit specific details about their organization and each prospective employee (beneficiary) for whom they are seeking an H-1B visa. This information is crucial for USCIS to assess the eligibility for visa issuance.

A fee of $10 is charged for each beneficiary during the registration process. This fee must be paid for each prospective worker included in the registration. After the registration period closes, USCIS conducts a selection process. Only those employers with selected registrations will be eligible to proceed with filing a complete H1B visa application for their prospective employees.

Application Process for an H-1B Visa

Applying for an H1B visa involves several steps, each crucial to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration laws. The process involves obtaining labor certification, filing the visa petition, and making the visa application.

LCA Certification

The first step in the H1B visa application process is obtaining Labor Condition Application (LCA) certification. Employers must submit Form ETA-9035 electronically to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This application should be filed no more than six months before the proposed start date of employment.

The DOL reviews the LCA within seven working days, and upon certification, employers can proceed to file H1B petitions.

H-1B Petition Filing Process

With a certified LCA in hand, employers must then submit Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition must include the DOL-certified LCA and all necessary information and documents to establish eligibility for the employer and the prospective employee.

Visa Application Process

Following the approval of the H-1B petition, the next steps depend on the employee’s current location.

Prospective workers outside the U.S. should apply for the H-1B visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country, a process known as consular processing. This involves completing the online Form DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application and paying the associated fee.

Upon arrival in the U.S., they must apply for admission in H-1B status through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a port of entry.

For those already in the U.S., when the petition is approved, the next step is to take the approved Form I-129 to CBP at a U.S. port of entry. They will then complete Form I-94, the Arrival/Departure Record, and legally enter the country as an H-1B visa holder.

It’s crucial to note that the application process may vary slightly depending on the specific type of H1B visa. For personalized and expert guidance from our H1B visa immigration lawyer, contact us at Law Offices Of Sarah X.Q. Mu.

How Much Does the H1B Visa Cost?

The cost of an H1B visa involves various fees, primarily borne by the employer, as stipulated by the U.S. Immigration National Act (INA). Costs include:

  • Registration Fee: A nominal fee of $10 is required for each H1B registration, paid by the employer.
  • Public Law 114-113 Fee: Public Law 114-113 mandates that specific petitioners must pay an extra $4,000 for certain H-1B petitions and an additional $4,500 for some L-1A and L-1B petitions. Enacted on December 18, 2015, this fee is applicable to petitions filed from that date onwards. This fee requirement will remain in effect until September 30, 2027.
  • Basic Filing Fee: The standard filing fee for the H1B visa is $460, which is the employer’s responsibility.
  • Anti-Fraud Fee: An anti-fraud fee of $500 is also charged to the employer.
  • ACWIA Training and Education Fee: This fee varies based on the company’s size. Employers with 1-25 full-time employees pay $750, while those with more than 25 pay $1,500. Certain organizations, such as nonprofit research institutions, are exempt from this fee.
  • Premium Processing Fee (Optional): For expedited processing (15 days), there is an optional fee of $2,500, which can be paid by either the employer or the employee.
  • Attorney Fee (Optional): The cost for legal services, if utilized, varies and can be paid by either party.
  • Consular Processing Fee: Employees applying from outside the U.S. must pay a $190 fee for consular processing. This fee, and any additional embassy-specific fees, are typically the employee’s responsibility, although some employers may choose to cover these costs.

Both employers and employees need to be aware of these costs to plan accordingly and ensure compliance with all financial requirements of the H1B visa process.

How Long Can I Stay in the USA on an H-1B Visa?

The H1B visa typically allows for an initial stay of up to three years in the United States. After this period, you have the option to apply for an extension. The maximum duration for staying in the U.S. on an H1B visa is six years. However, in certain situations, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may permit a longer stay based on specific conditions or ongoing processes.

In cases where your employment is terminated before the end of your authorized stay, your employer is responsible for the cost of your return transportation. This obligation does not apply if you choose to resign voluntarily; in such instances, you would be responsible for your own return transportation costs.

Let Us Help You with Your H-1B Visa Application!

The H-1B visa process can be complex and stressful. But you don’t have to do it alone. Our experts at Law Offices Of Sarah X.Q. Mu is ready to assist you. Our H1B visa consultants in the USA offer clear, strategic advice and hands-on assistance to ensure your application meets the necessary requirements.

Our team is adept at handling the unique challenges that come with each specialized route, ensuring that every client receives expert guidance tailored to their specific situation. With a track record of success and a dedication to client satisfaction, we are here to make your American dream a reality.

Contact us today and take the first step toward achieving your professional aspirations in the United States!