Arguing the Case that an Operations Research Analyst is a Specialty Occupation

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By: Jioselin Juarez

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data shows that since 2016, the overall issuance of Request for Evidence (RFE) notices by USCIS has increased significantly. One of the frequent issues raised in H-1B RFE notices relates to SOC code 15-2031 (Operations Research Analysts), as USCIS has been challenging the position being defined as a specialty occupation.

In the case of an Operations Research Analyst, USCIS argues that because there are different fields of study that a person in the position may have engaged in, rather than a very specific field of study, the Operations Research Analyst cannot be defined as a specialty occupation. In support of this argument, USCIS cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), saying Operations Research Analysts may have degrees in business, operations research, management science, analytics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, or another technical or quantitative field of study. Therefore, USCIS sustains that a position, like Operations Research Analyst, which includes various fields of study such that there is no one specific degree required, cannot qualify as a specialty occupation.

A Different View on the Operations Research Analyst

In contrast to USCIS’s stance on the Operations Research Analyst, the opposing view is that the OOH should not be a controlling authority in their decision, especially as the BLS states themselves that “The OOH, therefore, is not intended to, and should never, be used for any legal purpose.”

INFORMS (The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences), an association included in the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), is an “online database that contains hundreds of occupational definitions to help students, job seekers, businesses and workforce development professionals to understand today’s world of work in the United States.” On their website, INFORMS states that the different fields of study adequately allow an individual to perform the job duties attributed to an Operations Research Analyst. For example, INFORMS asserts that “Entry-level professionals generally begin with a bachelor’s degree in math, business, or industrial engineering with an emphasis on quantitative methods.” They also state that “University Operations Research and Analytics programs are housed in different departments and schools, and most universities offer degrees in Operations Research and Analytics only at the graduate level. But it isn’t necessary to hold a degree in Operations Research or Analytics to get your career started as long as you’ve developed the necessary problem-solving skills.”

This statement by INFORMS demonstrates that an O*Net-listed association believes the different fields of study allow for an individual to perform the job of an Operations Research Analyst because those particular majors provide the fundamental skills and knowledge required for an Operations Research Analyst. Based on that information, and the minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree in the fields of study, one could argue that an Operations Research Analyst is still a specialty occupation.

H-1B RFE Response for an Operations Research Analyst

In light of the above information, there are good faith arguments that can be made in an H-1B RFE response to show that SOC code 15-2031 (Operations Research Analyst) is, in fact, a specialty occupation:

  • OOH is not a controlling Therefore, the USCIS citation of the OOH should not be considered a controlling argument that Operations Research Analyst is not a specialty occupation based on the different fields of study;
  • University programs and associations like The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), which is included under the O*NET, demonstrate that the fields of study related to Operations Research Analyst still allow for a finding that the Operations Research Analysts position is a Specialty Occupation.

Most significantly, the increase in frequency of H-1B RFE notices that include the specialty occupation issue for an Operations Research Analyst position may cause an employer to closely evaluate their decision on whether to sponsor an individual for H-1B visa. However, as discussed above, it is important to thoroughly communicate the argument to USCIS that the Operations Research Analyst position is a specialty occupation.

Even though the OOH states several fields of study, there are reputable associations and educational programs that show how the different fields of study each allow an Operation Research Analyst to perform their job. Therefore, the position of Operation Research Analyst may still be considered a specialty occupation.

Please contact your local Chugh, LLP office for assistance with your H-1B case or for any other immigration questions.