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Yearly Archives: 2018

Specialty Occupation and Wage Level H1B RFEs: Who Dropped the Ball?

When an RFE arrives, it means CIS does not have enough information from the initial H1B petition to make a decision about your case, or your employee or client’s case.

If you or your employee or client receives an RFE, don’t panic. RFEs have become very common, and can be a helpful tool to fortify the case for approval. Sit down with your team and carefully read through the RFE, then put the RFE down and go back to the original H1B eligibility requirements and see where the case is lacking. In this process, it is important to see who dropped the ball, and how to pick it back up. This does not mean pointing fingers, placing blame, or spouting anger. Oftentimes the reason for the RFE is changing CIS approval trends. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault.

Specialty occupation and wage level RFEs jumped ahead of education RFEs in response to last year’s lottery. H1B requirements state that to be eligible for this visa the job must require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent to gain entry into the position. This must be an industry standard, or you must go a step further to prove that this position is uniquely specialized and holding an advanced degree is consistent with employer hiring practices. The job must also pay the prevailing wage for the job in the industry, for companies of that size in that geographical location.

Last year, computer programmers making level 1 wages were hit especially hard with RFEs. CIS claimed that since some employers will hire entry-level computer programmers with only an associate’s degree, the job does not meet specialization requirements, or the wage level is not set correctly. One of the main problems with the reasoning for this RFE is that wage level does not necessarily determine the specialization of the position, rather it is set in accordance with the prevailing wage and takes the level of training and supervision required for the employee into consideration as well.

Specialty occupation RFEs and wage level RFEs are so interconnected they often come together. Now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s see where the fault may lie.

Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault. CIS approval trends change, and the best we can do is learn for the approval trends of last year, and what RFE responses worked and which ones did not. Sometimes it’s CIS’ fault. You could file an immaculate petition and still receive an RFE. CIS could be unreasonable with their justification for the RFE, or just plain wrong. Whatever the reason, you still must answer it.

Sometimes the attorney will make a mistake when filing, there will be omitted pages in the petition, or it will be filed out of order. Sometimes it’s the beneficiary’s fault. Providing poorly translated educational documents, misconceptions about the value of a credential’s academic value, and providing misleading or false information in resumes happens. These mistakes are not necessarily on purpose, even if it involves providing false information. Sometimes names are misspelled or answers are inconsistent from one document to the next.

Sometimes it’s the employer’s fault. Maybe the job really is set at the wrong wage level. Maybe the job indicated in the LCA is different than the job title in the petition. Inconsistencies across documents are easy mistakes to make, especially in the rush to file by April 1st, but these mistakes have far-reaching consequences. Maybe your team didn’t provide enough detailed evidence regarding the duties and responsibilities of the job in question.

Whatever the reason for the RFE, it’s important that you identify where the case is lacking in evidence, whose job it is to provide it, and fix it. At Evaluation Credentials, we work with difficult RFEs every year. We can help you identify what went wrong and how to fix it. For a free review of your case visit EvaluationCredentials.com.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

Specialty Occupation RFE: Know the Job Inside and Out

Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of RFEs targeting computer programmers making level 1 wages. These RFEs questioned whether this job met H1B specialization requirements, which states a specialty occupation requires a minimum of a US bachelors degree or higher or its equivalent for entry into the position.

Here’s why:

  1. CIS assumes that because the job is set at level 1 wages it is entry level.
  2. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook entry level computer programmers are sometimes hired with only a US associates degree, which falls short of H1B educational requirements for a specialty occupation.

This RFE was based on two misconceptions. First, just because a job is set at level 1 wages doesn’t mean it’s entry level. Determining the wage level for any given position is complex, involving a great number of factors. Second, while some employers will hire entry level programmers with only an associate’s degree, this is the exception for the position, not the norm. The exception should not make the rule for determining whether an entire occupation meets specialization requirements.

While this job got the most grief last season, any job can be met with a specialty occupation RFE. To answer this RFE, you need to know the job in question inside and out, far better than CIS does. That means knowing the passage in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, having the ad for the job documented that shows its minimum educational requirements, and having documentation of the requirements for similar jobs in similar companies in the industry. You also need documentation of the employer’s past hiring practices with regards to educational requirements for this job.

If this job is uniquely specialized and requires an advanced degree to perform its duties even though similar jobs in similar companies in the industry don’t require an advanced degree, you will need to clearly and thoroughly explain why this is the case. Both the employer and an expert who can add weight to the argument with an expert opinion letter need to offer detailed explanations.

If you, or your employee or client receives a specialty occupation RFE, you will need an expert opinion letter to fortify your case. We have experts on hand with the highest rate of success in answering these RFEs. For a free review of your case, visit evaluationcredentials.com. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

How to Answer the Triple H1B RFE

The short answer is, you will need expert help.

The triple RFE combines the Nightmare RFE – which is virtually impossible to answer in time by its own instructions – the level 1 wages RFE, and the specialty occupation RFE all into one big giant headache.

To answer this, you will need to first justify that the wage level is correct for the job, meaning that the H1B employee will be paid the prevailing wages and benefits for that position, in that industry, in similar sized companies in that geographical area. Second, you will need to show that the job meets H1B specialization requirements, and third, you will need to show that the beneficiary meets the educational requirements for the specialty occupation.

To answer the first two, you will need to include an expert opinion letter that explains how wage levels work for that position, and that explains why this particular position meets specialty occupation requirements. You don’t need to order two separate letters for this, at Evaluation Credentials we have experts available 24/7 with the highest rate of success in answering these RFEs, and they can do it in just one letter.

For the third component, you, or your client or employee will need a credential evaluation that clearly shows that they meet educational requirements for the H1B job. For a job to be a specialty occupation, entry into that position must require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree in the field. That means you need to show that you have, or your employee or client has a US bachelor’s degree in that exact field, or its equivalent. At Evaluation Credentials, we keep one eye on the education and the other on CIS approval trends, which change every year. Writing the correct evaluation means knowing the education, the job, and what CIS will and will not accept as proof of equivalency.

In answering any difficult RFE, the answer is to not get bogged down in the wording, but rather go back to the original eligibility requirements and see where your case, or your client or employee’s case is lacking in meeting them, and to seek expert help.

For a no-charge and no-obligation review of your case, or your employee or client’s case, visit EvaluationCredentials.com. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less with a full analysis and our recommendations.

Attention: H1B Filing Opens TODAY!!!

TODAY MONDAY APRIL 2nd filing season for H-1B visa petitions officially opens. USCIS will continue to accept petitions until the cap of 65,000 visas plus an additional 20,000 for candidates with masters degrees or higher is filled, or for at least five business days.

For the past few years, the cap has been met before the mandatory five business days is up, so that means you have to file THIS WEEK for you, or your employee or client to have a shot at making the H-1B lottery for FY2019.

Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of RFEs, especially targeting computer programmers. This year, make sure you take steps to preempt an RFE or rejection. Don’t fall into common RFE traps by taking these precautions:

  1. Consistent Answers – make sure what is entered on the LCA matches the petition, including the job title and description.
  2. Start Date is NO EARLIER THAN October 1st 2019.
  3. Borderline jobs that don’t necessarily require a US Bachelors degree or higher according to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook are accompanied by a detailed job description and expert opinion letter to prove specialization.
  4. The beneficiary’s degree or degree equivalency specialization matches the job title or is accompanied by a credential evaluation.
  5. Degrees earned outside of the US, incomplete college, or mismatched degree specialization is accompanied by a credential evaluation.

If you, or your employee or client needs a credential evaluation or expert opinion letter, don’t file the petition without one. We have credential evaluators and experts on hand 24/7 ready to write the evaluation or expert opinion letter you need, or your employee or client needs for visa approval.  Time is of the essence. Simply visit evaluationcredentials.com to get started now!

H1B Alert: Don’t Submit the Right Evaluation for the Wrong Visa

If you or your client or employee has a degree from outside of the United States, or a degree that is generalized, incomplete, or doesn’t exactly match the specialty occupation, you need to submit a credential evaluation with the H1B petition to prove that the beneficiary meets H1B educational requirements.

However, not all evaluations will do the job. The right evaluation for you or your client or employee needs to take into consideration H1B requirements – as different visas have different regulations for combining education – as well as the beneficiary’s education, work experience, and job, and CIS approval trends.

It’s important to make sure you choose the right evaluation agency to work with because the industry is not well-regulated by a central governing body, so you could end up with an agency that is not up to quality standards. You could also choose an agency that writes a perfectly accurate evaluation that does not work for your client or employee’s situation. Not all agencies know how to work with visa cases.

When you contact a credential evaluation agency to write your evaluation, or your client or employee’s evaluation, here are three questions to keep in mind:

  1. Did they ask about the visa?
  2. Did they ask about the job?
  3. Do they work with H1B cases and their RFEs on a regular basis?

The right evaluation agency for you case, or your client or employee’s case is the one that asks about the visa and the job, and works regularly with H1B cases and H1B RFE cases.

We follow CIS approval trends, and work regularly with H1B cases and their RFEs. We know what triggers common RFEs, and we know how to prevent them. For a free review of your case, or your client or employee’s case, visit evaluationcredentials.com.

Your H1B Checklist for FY 2019

April 1st is coming up fast and that means it’s time to get started on H1B petitions for fiscal year 2019.

For the past few years, the H1B quota of 65,000 visas and an additional 20,000 for candidates with US Masters degrees or higher or their equivalency has been met within the mandatory five business days that CIS must continue to accept petitions, causing the H1B lottery.  This year, we predict the same situation. That means you need to be ready to file right on April 1st.

Before you file, make sure your petition, or your employee or client’s petition is seamless.  With so many petitions and so few annual cap-subject visas available, CIS is on the lookout for shortcuts to make their job easier.  Don’t let your petition, or your employee or client’s petition raise any red flags.  Make sure the requirements are met, and always be aware of common RFEs and CIS approval trends.  We work with difficult cases and RFEs every year and we keep a close eye on what CIS is doing.  Based on what we’ve seen over the past few years, here are some things to keep in mind when organizing the petition:

1. Does the job meet H1B requirements for specialization?

To qualify for H1B eligibility, the job must have a minimum requirement of a US bachelors degree or higher or its equivalent.  To prove this, include the ad for the job that specifies its requirements, and include evidence that similar jobs in the industry require the same credentials.  If this job requires a unique level of specialization that is unusual to the typical occupation, include a detailed description of the job and its duties and an expert opinion letter explaining why this job requires an advanced degree to perform.

Last year, CIS used this H1B requirement to issue the Level 1 Wages RFE to an unprecedented number of computer programmers petitioning for H1B status.  Their reasoning was that according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the US Department of Labor, entry level computer programmers are sometimes hired with only a US associates degree, which does not meet the H1B requirement of a US bachelors degree or higher.  This RFE caught everyone off guard and we won’t know until RFEs come out for the FY 2019 round of petitions whether or not measures to prevent this RFE will work.  However, if you, or your employee or client has this job at this wage level, here are our recommendations:  If you can, set the job at Level 2 Wages, or indicate a different occupation if you can.  The second option gets tricky because the job on the LCA must match the job on the H1B petition.  Before you try to fit your job, or your employee or client’s job into a different category, consult with us to make sure the job title fits the description, and that the job indicated also meets H1B requirements.  If you cannot take either of these measures, include an expert opinion letter that explains why this job meets H1B requirements.  We have experts on hand 24/7 to help you with this, and we have had great success in answering these RFEs.

2. Does the beneficiary and the employer have an employer-employee relationship?

To meet H1B requirements, the employer must be able to hire, fire, promote and demote, pay, and otherwise control the work the employee does.  Along with this relationship comes the H1B requirement to pay the H1B employee the prevailing wages and benefits for similar jobs in that industry in that geographical location.  To prove this, include a copy of the employment contract and documentation that details the nature of the employee’s work.

This is another area that CIS came down on H1B candidates last year with the Level I Wages RFE.  This issue can be addressed through the means mentioned above.  More importantly, it is important to explain the CIS in the expert opinion letter that just because a job is set at Level 1 Wages doesn’t mean it is entry level, and if it is not entry level, it does not mean that the employee is being underpaid.  That’s not how wage levels work; there are many factors to be taken into consideration that must be detailed in the expert opinion letter.  Including this with the initial H1B petition may be the key to preventing this difficult new RFE.

3. Does the beneficiary clearly meet H1B educational requirements for the job?

H1B educational requirements state that to be eligible the beneficiary must have a US bachelors degree or higher or its foreign equivalent.  You, or your employee or client must hold an advanced degree that meets the requirements for the H1B job.  For the better part of the past decade, CIS approval trends have shown that the degree specialization must be an exact match for the job title.  This is where things get tricky.

If the degree specialization is not an EXACT match for the field of employment, the beneficiary will need a credential evaluation that utilizes years of progressive work experience and a close examination of the courses taken within the degree program to write an evaluation that solidifies the equivalency to the correct degree in the correct field.

If the degree was earned outside of the United States, you will need to include a credential evaluation that clearly spells out the academic value of the degree in terms of US educational standards.  Some degrees, like the Indian three-year bachelors degree, are RFE magnets because CIS is hung up on the missing fourth year even if there are an equal or greater number of actual classroom contact hours in the three-year degree.  Some jobs like Computer Systems Analysis are RFE targets because there are very few colleges and universities that offer that specific major track.

For these two circumstances, you will need a professor with the authority to issue college credit for work experience to write an evaluation that converts years of progressive work experience in the field of the job into years of college credit.  Progressive work experience means that the nature of the work became more complex and specialized, and the beneficiary took on more responsibility as the work experience progressed.  This indicates that skills and knowledge specialized to the field were learned on the job.  We have professors on hand with the authority to write these evaluations.

The final hangup with regards to education that tends to trigger an RFE happens when a beneficiary has a degree that doesn’t have the word “degree” in the title.  For example, the Indian Chartered Accountancy certification is actually the equivalent of a US bachelors degree in accounting.  The Canadian Chartered Accountancy and the US CPA are not bachelors degree equivalents.  If you or your client or employee has earned an Indian Chartered Accountancy certification, this credential DOES meet H1B eligibility requirements. You will need to submit a credential evaluation with the H1B petition that clearly describes the steps of education and exams – matriculation structure – required to earn this certification to show that the steps involved are equivalent to a US bachelors degree in accountancy.

Before you file, let us review your client’s entire case to make sure there are no red flags, missing documentation or analysis, or gaps between the beneficiary’s job and education, and H1B eligibility requirements.  Simply visit evaluationcredentials.com and submit the educational documents, resume, and job description and we will respond within 48 hours with a full analysis and pre-evaluation of the case, and our recommendations for how to preempt an RFE for the FY 2019 filing season.

How to Use the Level 1 Wages RFE as a Tool

It seems like every year CIS is coming out with a new difficult RFE to throw H1B beneficiaries and their employers and attorneys a curve ball.

This year, we were all caught off guard by the Level 1 Wages RFE that targets computer programmers. As with all other years, this RFE is an opportunity to strengthen your case, or your client or employee’s case when you respond to it. In fact, your response to this RFE should be viewed as a tool to do this, and to preempt a second round of RFEs.

When you respond to the Level 1 Wages RFE, it’s important to be aware of other risks involved in your case, or your client or employee’s case. Some jobs, like Computer Systems Analyst, are RFE magnets. Some degrees, like generalized degrees or the Indian three-year Bachelors degree, also attract a disproportionate number of RFEs. If a candidate’s degree is not an exact match for their H1B job, CIS is likely to issue another RFE about that issue when you answer the first. That’s why when we answer the Level 1 Wages RFE, we review our clients’ entire case and write a credential evaluation that preempts these situations.

Don’t let the Level 1 Wages RFE catch you off guard or distract you from the classic RFEs we’ve seen year after year, because they haven’t gone away.

For a no charge and no obligation review of your case, or your employee or client’s entire case, please contact us.