Immigration Success Story: H1B Without a Degree – “It never hurts to try”

Our law firm represents numerous hotels and restaurants across the U.S. Over the past several years, we have established ourselves as leaders in hospitality immigration, helping all levels of hospitality professionals. Sometimes their cases are straightforward. Other times, their stories are full of twists and turns.

Our client, a leading luxury hotel in California, was employing Mr. G. as a Banquet manager on a J1 visa. The J1 visa unfortunately allows the employer to keep the employee for a period of 18 months and not more. The hotel was impressed with Mr. G’s work and senior management expressed desire to keep him beyond the J1 term. We presented a few options, first the H2B visa for a short duration employment of up to 10 months. The problem is that H2B visas<a href= ran out in early March and that was not an option. We were left with the H1B visa that would allow Mr. G. to work up to six years. However, we discovered that he did not have a Bachelor's degree in the field of employment, a minimum requirement for the H1B Visa. Mr. G. was not qualified for the H1B visa at the time. His position was also one that did not require a Bachelor's degree.

In order to obtain his H1B, Mr. G.’s experience had to be equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree awarded by a US University. Immigration service regulations provide that 3 years of progressive experience in the specialty occupation equals one year of university-level schooling. That means for each year of academic training less than the normal 4 years of schooling required to obtain a bachelor’s degree, an alien must have three years of progressively responsible experience in the specialty occupation (i.e. 12 years of work experience), Mr. G had to obtain such evidence to show that he had 12 years progressive experience in the Hospitality management field. We immediately started working with Mr. G. to organize his resume in such an order that would allow him to gather all the relevant experience, in a chronological order with the detailed duties summary for each position. We also assisted him with the preparation of reference letters from past employers to assist in the evaluation.

We asked all past employers to fax the reference letters to our office for review, and upon approval, had them signed by the employers. With the letters in hand, we prepared a detailed report and submitted it to the credentials evaluations agency for review. We argued that Mr. G. met the requirements in the above referenced rule and should be awarded the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. After several days, the agency returned a positive determination and we were ready to proceed with the H1B petition.

The next step was to research the Occupational Outlook Handbook, used by the immigration to determine what a specialty occupation is for H1B visas. We learned that Banquet managers are not recognized as specialty occupations, but Food Service Managers are. Since Mr. G.’s overall job duties are similar to Food Service Managers, we suggested that the Hotel use this title in the Petition. Our problems were not over. H1B filing deadline was fast approaching.

Quick action was necessary. We immediately put together the case and it was ready to file on March 31, 2007 for April 2 delivery. The file was selected in the crazy H1B lottery and the case was approved in 3 days. Things worked out for Mr. G. because we took the time to look at all the available options, and applied the law in our client’s favor and got him an H1B without a degree. It just goes to show that in immigration, it never hurts to try.