With heightened immigration requirements making it more difficult than ever to gain legal residency in the United States, would-be employees applying for H1-B visas must be vigilant about the rules. Even with heightened restrictions, gaining access through legitimate employment prospects is still possible. Here’s what you should know about the all-important H1-B visa.

An employer-employee relationship with the company petitioning on your behalf

Put in the simplest terms, the company must have the ability to control your employment. They must be able to hire you, fire you, and promote you. If you’re planning to work as an independent contractor, you’re unlikely to qualify for an H1-B visa.

Your job qualifies as a “specialty occupation”

The US government is more and more interested in admitting only those people with solid education or professional credentials. This means your job must require a bachelor degree or its international equivalent at minimum. Those who want to give themselves the best chance will have advanced degrees and apply to positions that clearly require those degrees.

An occupation related to your field of study

Being an expert goes a long way to helping you get an H1-B visa. You’ll need to show that your job duties are related to your area of academic training. In some cases, you may be able to gain access without having a bachelor’s degree. If you have significant experience in a field, you may be able to get an academic equivalency evaluation to demonstrate your expert status. While this can vary, you’ll usually get credit for one year of education for every three years of professional work experience in the field. This can be a great option for people who went to work early in lieu of gaining an advanced degree.

Your salary matters

How much the company plans to pay you will help determine the success of your work visa application. You’ll need to be paid the prevailing wage for your occupation. If your company is offering a competitive salary and benefits, this part of the application shouldn’t be an issue.

There must be room

Even if you have the best credentials in the world, you’ll have trouble if the government’s already given out its allotment of H1-B visas for the year. The current limit is 65,000 per year. However, the first 20,000 people with a master’s degree from an American university don’t count in this number. Those who apply early have a much better chance of success.

Immigration law can be messy, and getting an H1-B visa can be competitive. Having the proper credentials is important, whether you qualify under academic requirements or professional equivalency opportunities. Given the deeply competitive nature of the process, you should ensure that you present as strong a case as possible in each of the above categories. You’d be wise to consult an expert if you want to compete with a large group of people who have gotten such assistance.