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International Student Working in the U.S. with H-1B Visa

An Overview of the H-1B Visa—Finding a Job and Understanding the H-1B Process

Posted March 24, 2021 by Zachary Johnson - Associate Professor of Marketing, - Adelphi University, Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, and Entrepreneur

If you are an international student in the United States, you may hope to work in the U.S. after graduating with your bachelor’s or graduate degree in an exciting business field. Whether this is you or someone you know, the post-graduation reality for international students is not just about having the right credentials; it is contingent on being granted an employment-based visa.

For most business students, that visa is the H-1B—a visa that is issued to 65,000 foreign workers and an additional 20,000 graduates of master’s or doctoral programs from an institute of higher learning in the U.S. Certain organizations including institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations, and government research organizations are not subject to this cap and sometimes called “cap-exempt” employers. Part of the popularity of the H-1B visa is in its seemingly simple definition. So, what is an H-1B visa?

The H-1B is a visa that permits foreign workers to temporarily work in the U.S. in what are called ”specialty occupation” roles, which means that the position must require a specialized bachelor’s degree and that the beneficiary (the person being hired) must have the U.S. equivalent of that degree. An example of a specialty occupation for a business student could be a “marketing research analyst” role, which that requires a beneficiary to have obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing, management, or a related field.

If this sounds overly simple, that is because a lot can go wrong. According to data from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the percent of cases receiving a Request For Evidence (RFE) has ranged from about 12% to just over 60% on a quarterly basis between 2015 and 2019. It is too early to tell whether these rates will change under the Biden and Harris administration, but many immigration experts have expressed optimism for improved opportunities for international students.

Most of the RFEs that my company,, sees respond to specialty occupation RFEs. Referring to our example from earlier, the USCIS may question why the duties associated with the position of marketing research analyst require a bachelor’s degree. If even some of the duties are perceived to be too simple, the USCIS may issue an RFE. For instance, my team responded to an RFE to explain why an operations manager would need a degree in management, operations management, or strategic management. Part of the challenge was explaining how and why courses the beneficiary had taken in their degree specifically prepared him for the role. Another part of the challenge is explaining this to someone who is unfamiliar with the terminology of supply chain, operations, and other topics covered in these business degree programs.

In addition to specialty occupation requirements, the USCIS commonly issues RFEs for reasons including employer-employee relationship, availability of work (off-site), beneficiary qualification, and maintenance of status.

Finding a Job

One key point about the H-1B application process is that the foreign worker must secure a conditional job offer with a U.S. company before moving forward with the visa application process. Fortunately, there are many ways to find jobs with companies that seek to hire employees with H-1B visa status. Finding a potential job can start with specialized searches on major job sites like Indeed, LinkedIn,, myvisajobs, and other sites. You can also look up employers that hire H-1B workers on the USCIS employer data hub or on

Applying for the H-1B Visa

If an applicant meets the requirements to apply for an H-1B Visa, the process starts with the prospective employer filing a Labor Certification Attestation (LCA) petition through the USCIS using the Labor Certification Registry or Foreign Labor Certification Forms on behalf of the foreign worker. This form is designed to show that there is a lack of qualified American workers to fill the position being offered. Next, the I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker will need to be submitted to USCIS by the sponsoring employer. This form is used by the employer to petition USCIS to allow a foreign worker to enter the United States for the purpose of performing work or to receive training. And finally, the applicant will need to complete the Visa application process by interviewing at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. offers many resources available to help you on your journey.

Zachary JohnsonZachary Johnson is an associate professor of marketing and Viret Family Leadership Fellow at Adelphi University. He is also the founder of a small business, ProfVal, LLC.


Alexanda VanDerlyke Alexandra VanDerlyke is a key team member at ProfVal. She researches universities and professors to find the most qualified professionals to provide our clients with high-quality expert opinion letters.