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The notorious Specialty Occupation RFE has become a perennial roadblock to H-1B approval for applicants in positions that normally but NOT ALWAYS require a bachelor’s degree minimum.  Often, this issue grows into a Double RFE when the job is set at Level 1 Wages, causing applicants to revisit both specialty occupation and wage level requirements.

At CCI TheDegreePeople.com we work with specialty occupation cases every year.  We know what red flags trigger USCIS to issue an RFE, and we know how to prevent them.  This first step is to identify if your case is at risk:

  • The entry in the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook states that the position does not ALWAYS require a bachelor’s degree minimum.
  • The employee starts at Level 1 Wages.
  • The H-1B position is entry level.

USCIS has been consistently adjudicating the exception as the norm when it comes to advanced degree requirements.  In the past, occupations like computer programmer would easily meet specialty occupation requirements because employers typically require the bachelor’s degree minimum.  Now, applicants are running into trouble.  When the compensation is set at Level 1 Wages, USCIS assumes that either the position is entry level, or the employee is not being paid the prevailing wage for the job.  The reality is, many four-year college graduates enter the workforce with bachelor’s degrees but little to no work experience in the field.  These workers require a level of training and supervision that factors in to setting their starting wage at Level 1 Wages, even if the position is not entry level.  If the position is entry level, often there will not be a bachelor’s degree requirement in every single instance someone is hired to the position. 

If any of these situations apply to your case, you will need to go the extra mile to prove to USCIS that the job meets specialty occupation – and by extension wage level – requirements for H-1B eligibility.  This means showing that the job in question is uniquely specialized so as to require the employee to have at a minimum the knowledge and applicable skills learned through a bachelor’s degree program in the field.  You will need to show that the employer consistently makes hiring decisions for this position that require a bachelor’s degree minimum, and that it is the same for this position in parallel companies.  This means providing the ad for the job and parallel jobs for different companies, the job contract, and a breakdown of the duties and responsibilities of the job.  You will also need to include a breakdown of the factors that went into setting the wage level appropriately. To tie it all together, you will need to include an expert opinion letter from a professional with extensive experience working in the field of the H-1B job.  This expert ideally has made hiring decisions regarding this position and supporting roles that require the employee in this position to have a bachelor’s degree minimum.  This letter can address both specialty occupation and wage level issues.

At CCI TheDegreePeople.com we work with experts in all H-1B fields.  We will work with you to identify the additional evidence and documentation needed for the expert to write a strong letter, and needed to include in your initial petition to show USCIS that the case meets specialty occupation and wage level requirements. 

For a free review of your case visit www.ccifree.com.  We will respond in four hours or less.

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com.  Sheila specializes in overturning RFEs and Denials for work visas.

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