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Federal Court Rejects USCIS Interpretation of “Specialty Occupation”

On December 16, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on Innova Solutions, Inc. v. Baran, holding that the languages used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for the computer programmer occupation meets the H-1B “specialty occupation” definition. The OOH publishes information on many occupations and their requirement for entry. USCIS regularly relies on the OOH to evaluate whether a particular position qualifies as a “specialty occupation.”  

The regulatory language states that a “specialty occupation” is one that a bachelor’s degree is “normally” required for entry. Despite the OOH stating that “most” computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree, USCIS relied on this language to deny a visa for a computer programmer finding that it was not a “specialty occupation.” The court rejected USCIS’ logic stating that there is no difference between the words “normally,” “most,” and “typically.” 

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