Many businesses in Pennsylvania have seen the H-1B visa program as a lifeline to work with highly skilled experts, especially those in the tech industry. In many cases, the employees sponsored through the program received advanced education in STEM subjects at leading American universities. However, a number of companies have reported increasing problems with their H-1B applications, including extensive delays, lagging renewals and even denials. In one case, however, a federal judge ruled that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acted improperly when it denied one company’s H-1B petition.

In the case, USCIS claimed that the company filing the petition, InspectionXpert Corporation, did not show that their engineering position was actually a specialty occupation. The agency argued that since the company said the position could be filled by a mechanical engineering graduate or a computer science graduate, it was not sufficiently specialized to qualify for an H-1B approval. The candidate the company was sponsoring has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and the job would require an engineer familiar with computer-aided design (CAD) in order to develop and provide quality testing for the company’s CAD software. USCIS seized upon the acceptance of multiple degrees to argue that the position was not sufficiently specialized.

However, a federal judge agreed with the company, which had challenged the USCIS H-1B visa denial in court. The judge said that the requirement of a specialty occupation had never been intended to impose a rule that companies could accept only one type of specialized academic degree, backing up his ruling with legislative history and past practice.

Companies may face unexpected challenges when trying to find the most skilled employees for technical positions, especially when dealing with the H-1B visa program. A business immigration attorney may help companies to file their positions and work through the process successfully.