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

Alert: Petitioners should expect a delay in data entry and receipt notice generation for fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions until at least May 1, 2020, due to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 20, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the immediate and temporary suspension of premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

This nonimmigrant classification applies to people who wish to perform services in a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability relating to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability.

Eligibility Criteria

Classification General Requirements (among others) Labor Condition Application Required?
H-1B Specialty Occupations The occupation requires:
  • Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge; and
  • Attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.

The position must also meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:

  • Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the particular position
  • The degree requirement is common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organization or, in the alternative, 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.*

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 that is the 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 fully practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged 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.**

Yes. The prospective petitioner must include a Form ETA-9035/9035E, Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), with the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. See the links to the DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification and USCIS forms to the right.

For more information see the Information for Employers & Employees page.

H-1B2

DOD Researcher and Development Project Worker

The job must require a bachelor’s or higher degree, or its equivalent, to perform the duties.  The petition must be accompanied by:

  1. A verification letter from the DOD project manager for the particular project stating that the beneficiary will be working on a cooperative research and development project or a coproduction project under a reciprocal Government-to-Government agreement administered by DOD. Details about the specific project are not required.
  2. A general description of the beneficiary's duties on the particular project and the actual dates of the beneficiary's employment on the project.
  3. A statement indicating the names of aliens currently employed on the project in the United States and their dates of employment and the names of aliens whose employment on the project ended within the past year.

To be eligible for this classification you must have a baccalaureate or higher degree or its equivalent in the occupational field in which you will be performing services. This requirement can be met based on one of the following criteria:

  • Hold a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the duties from an accredited college or university
  • Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to fully practice the duties of the job and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment
  • Have education, specialized training, or progressively responsible experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.**
No.

H-1B3

Fashion Model

The position/services must require a fashion model of prominence.

To be eligible for this visa category you must be a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.

Yes. The prospective petitioner must include a  Form ETA-9035/9035E, Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), with the Form I-129. See the links to the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification and USCIS forms to the right.

*For more information, see 8 CFR §214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A).

**For more information see 8 CFR §214.2(h)(4)(iii)(C).

H-1B Electronic Registration Process

On Dec. 6, 2019, we announced that we would implement the electronic registration process for the fiscal year (FY) 2021 H-1B cap. A cap-subject H-1B petition will not be considered to be properly filed unless it is based on a valid, selected registration for the same beneficiary and the appropriate fiscal year, unless the registration requirement is suspended. For more information about the H-1B registration process, visit our H-1B Electronic Registration Process webpage.

Petition Filing Process

Step 1: (only required for specialty occupation and fashion model petitions): Employer/Agent Submits LCA to DOL for Certification.
The employer/agent must apply for and receive DOL certification of an LCA. For further information regarding LCA requirements and DOL's process, see the Foreign Labor Certification, Department of Labor page.

Step 2: Employer/Agent Submits Completed Form I-129 to USCIS.
The employer/agent should file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the correct USCIS service center. Please see our I-129 Direct Filing Chart page. The DOL-certified LCA must be submitted with the Form I-129 (only for specialty occupation and fashion models). See the instructions to the Form I-129 (PDF, 472.95 KB) for additional filing requirements.

Step 3: Prospective Workers Outside the United States Apply for Visa and/or Admission.
Once the Form I-129 petition has been approved, the prospective H-1B worker who is outside the United States may apply with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for an H-1B visa (if a visa is required). Regardless of whether a visa is required, the prospective H-1B worker must then apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for admission to the United States in H-1B classification.

Labor Condition Application (LCA)

Prospective specialty occupation and distinguished fashion model employers/agents must obtain a certification of an LCA from the DOL. This application includes certain attestations, a violation of which can result in fines, bars on sponsoring nonimmigrant or immigrant petitions, and other sanctions to the employer/agent. The application requires the employer/agent to attest that it will comply with the following labor requirements:

  • The employer/agent will pay  the H-1B worker a wage which is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area in which the H-1B worker will be working.
  • The employer/agent will provide working conditions that will not adversely affect other similarly employed workers. 
  • At the time of the labor condition application there is no strike or lockout at the place of employment. 
  • Notice of the filing of the labor condition application with the DOL has been given to the union bargaining representative or has been posted at the place of employment.

Period of Stay

As an H-1B specialty occupation worker or fashion model, you may be admitted for a period of up to three years. Your time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years, though some exceptions do apply under sections 104(c) and 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21), 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D) and (E).

Your employer will be liable for the reasonable costs of your return transportation if your employer terminates your employment before the end of your period of authorized stay. Your employer is not responsible for the costs of your return transportation if you voluntarily resign from your position. 

H-1B Cap

The H-1B classification has an annual numerical limit (cap) of 65,000 new statuses/visas each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education are exempt from the cap. Additionally, H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities, a nonprofit research organization or a government research organization are not subject to this numerical cap.

For further information about the numerical cap, see our FY 2021 H-1B Cap Season page.

Family of H-1B Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in the H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Beginning May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, as long as the H-1B nonimmigrant has already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status. Please visit our Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses page to learn more.

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