By definition, the US H-1B visa is a “non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.”

The most basic educational qualification for any of these specialty job profiles, is a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Any professional level job that requires you to have the same, or a higher level of educational achievement, can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.

However, if you have, or are able to show degree equivalence through work experience or other qualifications, you might still be eligible to apply.
The US Employer petitions for the H-1B visa in the US, not the visa holder, and the visa has a duration of up to 6 years.

An application for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa has proven popular for companies who wish to bring in staff for long-term assignments based in the US. As we mentioned earlier, for this particular visa, the individual cannot apply for it on their own. The visa application is from the employer, on the employee’s behalf, as a petition for entry.

Current US Immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available by the government in each fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas for overseas workers in speciality or professional level occupations with at least a bachelor’s degree. The remaining 20,000 are available for those speciality workers who hold an advanced degree from a US academic institution.

According to the department of US Immigration, the US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations.

The job they are applying from must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:

  • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent.
  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

So while a Bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) is the minimum requirement, an applicant does not necessarily have to hold anything higher. However, keeping in mind the sheer volume of applications the department receives every fiscal year, one would not be remiss in thinking that it would be well worth it to apply with higher qualifications. The fact remains that a bachelor’s degree is a minimum qualification, and anything additional would be advantageous.