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Employment law

H-1B specialty occupation visa

The H-1B visa program applies to employers seeking to hire nonimmigrant aliens as workers in specialty occupations or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. A specialty occupation is one that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The intent of the H-1B provisions is to help employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce by authorizing the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the United States.

The law establishes certain standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers from being adversely affected by the employment of the nonimmigrant workers, as well as to protect the H-1B nonimmigrant workers. Employers must attest to the U.S. Department of Labor that they will pay wages to the H-1B nonimmigrant workers that are at least equal to the actual wage paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications for the job in question, or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment—whichever is greater.

In Texas, as in all states, the H-1B visa program is governed by federal law, not state statutes. The program allows employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens for specialty occupations that require highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. This federal program is designed to assist employers who are unable to find the necessary skills and abilities within the U.S. workforce. To protect U.S. workers and H-1B visa holders, employers must comply with wage standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor. They must pay H-1B workers at least the actual wage paid to other employees with similar experience and qualifications, or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of employment, whichever is higher. These requirements ensure that the employment of H-1B workers does not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.

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