Analysis of Mar. 31st Policy Memo on “Computer Programmer”

The policy memo issued on March 31, 2017 clarifies USCIS’s approach to determining whether the position of “Computer Programmer” is deemed a “specialty occupation” that would be eligible for an H-1B visa. The new memo rescinds the December 22, 2000 memorandum titled “Guidance memo on H-1B computer related positions” issued to Nebraska Service Center employees by then-director, Terry Way.


In light of the significant evolution of the high-tech industry since 2000, the Terry Way memo has now become somewhat obsolete. Therefore, as described in the current Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Programmers, especially those in entry-level positions, may not be considered to be employed in a “specialty occupation” because a bachelor’s degree in a specific field may not be required for the position. The new memo supports the proposition that a position cannot simultaneously have a job classification and pay rate at the low end of the industry salary range, while at the same time listing specific job requirements and skills that are more complex and specialized.


According to information and cases within the legal community, for at least the past several years, USCIS has not taken the approach that a “Computer Programmer” is a slam-dunk H-1B. The new memo would appear to offer transparency and clarity regarding the approach USCIS has taken on these cases for the past several years. However, the true test of this memo will be in how it is actually interpreted by adjudicators in the field, especially over the next few months as H-1Bs are adjudicated.


AILA Doc. No. 17040334