US employers who want to hire H 1b workers for specialty occupation jobs in the United States must be familiar with Labor Condition Application (LCA) occupation codes or Standard Occupational Classification codes (SOC), which are an integral part of the H1b visa process. This article will be an excellent read for you if you would like to know about SOC codes, why it is so important to choose the correct SOC code, and where you can find it.
What are SOC codes?
Standard Occupational Classification codes system is created and used by the United States government to classify the current occupations in the US. The Federal government agencies can use this system to collect and compare the different sets of occupational data. It is intended to reflect the existing occupational structure in the US by covering all jobs (public, private and military sectors) in which work is undertaken for pay or profit.
The SOC follows a hierarchical format to improve the classification and presentation of the data collected under the system. That means it is been structured in a tier system with four levels, including the broader categories of occupation to further narrower and more specific classification. For example, the 2018 SOC has 23 major groups, which are further divided into 98 minor groups. The minor groups are further broken into 459 broad occupations and are further listed as 867 detailed occupations. You will find the definitions of the job duties performed only at the detailed occupation level.
To explain this with a practical example:
If you are looking for Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for your company and want to hire a foreign national for that. This is how you will choose the correct SOC codes for the job position. For a 2018 Standard Occupational Classification System
- The name for the major group for this position is Management Occupations, and the code is 11-0000.
- The further sub-category which is the minor group, is Top Executives with code 11-1000.
- The broad occupation for this position is Chief Executives with code 11-1010.
- The last category, i.e., detailed occupation, is also known as Chief Executives (which include positions such as Admiral, CFO, COO, Governor, School Superintendent, University President) with code 11-1011.
You will find duties at the detailed occupation level. In the 2018 SOC Code system, you can find the definition of job duties of the Chief Executives as:
- Individuals who will decide and make policies of the company.
- The person is responsible for providing directions to companies or private and public sector organizations in pursuance of directions set up by a Bod (Board of Directors) or other similar governing body.
- He has the duty of planning, directing, and coordinating all the operational activities of the company at the topmost level of management by taking the help of the subordinate executives and staff managers.
The grouping of the detailed occupations is mainly on the basis of similar job duties, and in a few cases, it is based on similar education, skills, and/or training. However, each worker working in the US in any occupation will be classified in only one of the detailed occupations based on the duties they perform.
For the above example, if the individual hired by you has the title of Chief Financial Officer, however, his duties do not include the abovementioned duties, it is hard to choose code 11-1011 for him, and the employer should dig harder to choose the code that has most similarities in the job duties as defined in the codes and as assigned to the h 1B worker.
Why does a US employer need to know the SOC codes?
The H 1b visa is for specialty occupations jobs, and the USCIS will not accept H 1b applications in which the employer fails to establish specialty occupation requirements. There are several factors that could help in determining the specialty occupations, such as:
- SOC Codes
- Wage Levels
- Job Duties
Therefore, getting the right SOC code is essential in the approval of your H 1b visa application. The SOC codes are mainly used to determine wages in a particular type of occupation in specialty occupation jobs if hiring foreign workers. One of the H 1b LCA requirements is that the H 1b employer has to offer prevailing or actual wage levels to the h 1B employee. The recent trend shows that the USCIS has issued RFEs or has rejected the H 1b visas in which the wage offered to the h 1B employee does not match the job responsibilities /duties of the H1b employee.
The general guideline is that the actual wage offered by the employer should either match or exceed the prevailing wage for the job in the work location of the employment. SOC codes could help them to determine the wage levels so that they can offer appropriate wages to the H 1b employee.
Where can a US employer find Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code?
Working on the United States employment visa for so many years, we have been regularly approached by our H 1b employers that they are finding it hard to get correct SOC codes for their employment. This is because the organizing principle in the Standard Occupational Classification system is the job duties and not the job title. And among millions of jobs present in the US economy, which includes a few thousands of job titles, have only fewer SOC codes because of categorization on the basis of job duties.
We have identified one biggest mistake that employers often make is to search the SOC based on the job title of the h 1b employee and not on the basis of job duties. It should be kept in mind that the primary basis of categorizing the SOC codes is the job duties of the H 1b employee, and the search should be done accordingly.
One of the best places to locate the right SOC code for your employment position is O*NET which is the United States’ primary source to find occupational data. You can use this website to compare the job duties of the intended H 1b employee with similar job duties available on the O*NET. You could alternatively check the official US Bureau of Labor Statistics website to do your search for SOC codes.
This could be a complicated and a bit challenging task for a layperson and might end up in manual errors, which ultimately cost RFEs or rejections of your H 1b visa application. Imagine an employer who has to do a couple of H 1b petitions for his company; how tedious and confusing the whole process of choosing the correct SOC code could get. That is why it is recommended to take help from Herman Legal Group immigration experts, who will take away any unnecessary burden from you related to choosing the correct SOC code and will provide the best services available in the market.
How can Herman Legal Group help you?
If you still have doubts about SOC codes or need help in determining which SOC code will suit best for the job duties of the H 1b employee intended to be hired by you, connect to one of Herman Legal Group’s immigration attorneys.
We have been providing immigration services in the US for the last 26 years and are AV-Rated and have been awarded the designation of “Best Law Firm” by US News & World Report. Sit with one of our immigration attorneys or consult with them online to discuss your immigration matter. You can set up a consultation with our experienced immigration attorneys by calling us at 1-800-808-4013 or 1-216-696-6170 or by booking online. Most of their meetings with clients and prospective clients are conducted online, via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, or Google Meet.