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Common Foreign Degrees that Get Lost in Translation

If your degree, or your employee or client’s degree is not in English, it must be translated. However, translators are not credential evaluators, and both practices require very different, and very specialized skills. A common and costly mistake EB2 candidates, and their lawyers and employers make is filing for this advanced degree visa without the proper educational credential to back it up. While this is sometimes the fault of the candidate – EB2 has a much shorter processing time than EB3 – it is often a mistake that comes about honestly from mistranslated education.

While translators need to know the nuances of language – which words translate directly, which words have changed over time, and which words do not have direct English translations – evaluators possess the same kind of specialized knowledge about international education.

One common example of this is the mistranslation of Baccalaurate, which is often translated into Bachelor’s degree even though there are not the same. The words diploma and postgraduate diploma do not have clear meanings, and a postgraduate diploma is not necessarily the equivalency of postgraduate education. Some are, some are not. For this reason, translators will often translate a postgraduate diploma into a Master’s degree. This is an insertion of a value judgment through making a translation that is not direct and holds academic weight. This error would trigger an RFE or worse on an EB2 petition. Many degrees simply do not have a US equivalent and must be evaluated using detailed tactics, drawing from international trade agreements, CIS precedents, federal case law, and US graduate program admissions norms. Without this knowledge, translators often make value judgments when translating educational documents without realizing the damage it causes.

Another example is the Russian specialist degree – the kandidat naouk – which is generally considered to be the equivalent of a US doctorate degree. However, it cannot be TRANSLATED as such; the degree must be evaluated in terms of academic content and functional equivalency. In the same way, the Indian Chartered Accountancy Certificate, which is the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, is NOT a US CPA, a certificate that does not equate to postsecondary education. However, the Canadian Chartered Accountancy Certificate DOES fit the equivalency of a US CPA, and for this reason candidates with Indian Chartered Accountancy certificates often have their degrees mistranslated in such a way that it looses academic value.

How can you prevent mistranslations from putting a costly damper on your EB2 filing process? First, have the documents translated. The translator should make direct translations without inserting value judgment, sticking to the literal translation of the words in the document. Second, take these translated documents to a credential evaluator who can review the language translation for academic accuracy, and then write the detailed evaluation necessary to show the academic value of your client’s education. Do not trust agencies that offer a one-stop shop for translation and evaluation. If your educational documents, or your employee or client’s educational documents must be translated, make sure that translation and evaluation remains a two-step process, working with professionals in both separate fields.