Call Today to Get Started With Your Visa!
15+ Years of High Success Rates

How Changes In SOC Codes Affect Visa Applications

Explore the impact of evolving SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes on visa applications in this concise guide. Discover how recent changes may influence the visa process and gain insights into navigating these shifts effectively.

What are SOC Codes? 

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) is used by U.S. federal agencies to classify workers into occupational categories to facilitate job classification, including for immigrant and non-immigrant workers applying for employment-based visas or switching jobs.  

The SOC classifies all jobs in the United States, including public, private, and military jobs, to facilitate comparability across occupational data.  There are 867 detailed occupations all workers can be classified into, based upon the occupational definition of workers’ jobs.  Detailed occupations are combined into 459 broad occupations, 98 minor groups, and 23 major groups to facilitate classification.  Detailed occupations in the SOC with similar job duties, skills, education, or training are grouped.  

When are SOC Codes Used for Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Workers?

SOC Codes Used For Immigrants & Non Immigrants Workers 


Permanent Employment Certification “PERM,” ETA Form 9089

Employers who want to hire non-U.S. citizens for permanent employment under an immigrant visa (EB visa) must obtain a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) using ETA Form 9089.

The employer must receive a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) from the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) before completing the immigrant visa application.

The employer must also conduct recruitment efforts, prepare a recruitment report, and submit ETA Form 9089 to DOL for certification. The form includes information about the job offer, the employer, and the foreign worker, including the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code for the offered position.

Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers, ETA Form 9035

Employers seeking to hire a nonimmigrant worker, such as H-1B, H-1B1, or E-3 visa applicants, must first file a labor condition application (LCA).  On the LCA, the employer must provide the SOC code that pertains to the visa applicant’s job offer.  The employer should use the SOC code that most clearly describes the work to be performed by the visa applicant.  The SOC code can be determined using the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center Online Wage Library (“OWL”) developed via a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Form ETA 9142B

Employers seeking temporary non-agricultural workers under the H-2B visa must file Form ETA 9142B, upon which the employer must provide the SOC code that pertains to the visa applicant’s job offer. 

The employer should use the SOC code that most clearly describes the work to be performed by the visa applicant. The SOC code can be determined using the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center Online Wage Library (“OWL”) developed via a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Job Change During EB Visa Application 

When an EB applicant changes his or her employment during the application process, the applicant must show that the new employment meets the requirements of the EB visa.

To do so, the USCIS will use an analysis of the Department of Labor’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). However, the USCIS says it does more than draw numerical comparisons in the DOL’s system when determining whether or not jobs are the same or similar. 

Instead, the USCIS will look at several different factors, including the required skills, training, education, experience, licenses, or certifications for the job; how the wages associated with each job compare; and the job duties of both jobs. 

How are SOC Codes Determined? 

How SOC Codes are determined


SOC codes are determined and revised periodically using classification principles and coding guidelines. The most recent revision was completed in 2018. 

Occupations are classified based on work performed and, in some cases, on the skills, education, and/or training required to perform the work, but not the job title. Each occupation is assigned to only one occupation category at the most detailed level of the classification.  

For example, workers engaged in planning and the directing of resources are classified as management occupations in Major Group 11-000.  Major Groups are then broken into minor groups, which are then divided into broad occupations, which are then divided into one or more detailed occupations.  

To illustrate this, Major Group 29-000 is Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations, which includes the minor group 29-1000, Health Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners.  Minor group 29-1000 includes the broad occupation 29-1020, Dentists, which includes the detailed occupation 29-1022, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.  

The SOC was created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and is periodically revised by OMB and the SOC Revision Policy Committee (SOCRPC), which works in conjunction with numerous federal agencies to conduct revisions based upon the above criteria.  

How Have SOC Codes Changed? 

  • Revision Scope: The 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system was updated from the 2010 version, introducing various changes that include updates to occupation codes, job titles, definitions, clarification edits, and illustrative examples. Notable occupations such as Public Relations Managers, Fundraising Managers, Administrative Services Managers, and Facilities Managers all received comprehensive updates in these areas from their 2010 SOC descriptions.
  • Net Occupational Changes: The 2018 revision resulted in a net addition of 27 detailed occupations and the introduction of one new minor group. It also saw the removal of two broad occupations, although the total number of major groups remained constant.
  • Statistics of Changes: Of the 867 occupations detailed in the 2018 SOC, 382 remained entirely unchanged from the 2010 SOC. Among the occupations that changed, 356 had definition modifications, 131 experienced title changes, and 115 had code adjustments. Specifically, 254 out of the 356 definition changes were essentially editorial revisions or clarifications, indicating no significant change in the occupational content. This means that about 88% of the detailed occupations from the 2010 SOC underwent no substantial changes.
  • Crosswalk Tool: To facilitate the transition and understanding of the revisions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a “crosswalk.” This tool is crucial for identifying and navigating the specific changes made from the previous SOC version to the newly revised edition, ensuring stakeholders can accurately track and adapt to the updates.


Can I determine my own SOC code if my job duties don’t fall under an existing code?

No, SOC codes are standardized and set by the federal government. You cannot create custom codes if no fitting option exists. Discuss with an attorney.

Do SOC codes impact visa caps and quotas for categories like H-1B?

Yes. Certain SOC codes fall under the H-1B visa cap while others are cap-exempt, so codes impact eligibility.

If my SOC code changes between visa applications, will that create issues?

Possibly. Code changes can sometimes cause delays and discrepancies. Be prepared to explain and provide documentation

Can I appeal my position’s SOC code if I feel it’s categorized incorrectly?

You can submit justifications for recategorization, but codes set by the Dept. of Labor carry substantial weight

Do the same SOC codes apply to both EB and H-1B visas?

Yes, SOC codes are standardized across visa types to enable job comparisons, though specific requirements differ.


The Standard Occupational Classification system plays a vital role in categorizing jobs for immigration purposes. SOC codes help facilitate the visa application process by enabling consistent job classification across agencies.

They provide a standardized taxonomy that allows comparison of positions and duties when evaluating eligibility for visas like H-1B and EB.

Overall though, the SOC system provides an indispensable framework for immigration law to make fair determinations based on objective job classifications rather than just arbitrary titles.

Standardization promotes transparency and understanding between employers, employees, and the government.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Recent Posts

J1 Visa

J-1 Visa Waiver : Application, Process & Eligibity

Embarking on a journey with the J-1 Visa? This guide provides a brief yet comprehensive overview of the J-1 Visa application, process, and eligibility criteria. Whether you’re a prospective participant or a sponsor, unravel the key steps and requirements to


How to Choose an Immigration Attorney? Easy Guide

The United States immigration system is complicated, confusing, and often frustrating.  That is why choosing the right immigration attorney is crucial to achieving a successful outcome for your case.   Selecting an immigration attorney to help you can be overwhelming and

Marriage green card interview

Preparing For Marriage Green Card Interview

Preparing for your Marriage Green Card interview? We’ve got your back! In this quick guide, we’ll help you get ready smoothly. Let’s make sure you’re well-prepared for a successful interview. Dive in for essential questions and tips to ease your


Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

San Jose Office

95 South Market Street, Suite 410, San Jose, CA 95113
Phone: (408) 542-0499

San Francisco Office

404 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 Phone: (408) 317-4662

San Jose Office

2225 East Bayshore Road, Suite 200 Palo Alto, CA 94303
Phone: (408) 317-4662

Contact Us