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Fall into an H-1B Education Trap? Fix that RFE!

The H-1B visa is a dual-purpose visa that allows foreign nationals to come work highly skilled jobs in the United States for long periods of time. This visa is highly desirable and laden with sneaky education traps that can tank your case, or your employee or client’s case in a hurry. H-1B eligibility requirements state that a beneficiary must hold a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent, and to be a specialized occupation, the job must require such a degree as a minimum. Educational requirements as well as what constitutes sufficient evidence to prove US equivalence for a foreign degree vary from visa to visa. At the same time, CIS trends regarding what they will approve in terms of education, and what they will not approve change.

If you’ve received an RFE for an education situation, it means you’ve already fallen into an H-1B education trap. Don’t panic! The situation may be salvageable. Here is what may have happened:

The degree came from a college or university that is not government accredited.

Many institutions that provide a rigorous, quality education that fully prepare you or your employee or client for the specialty occupation he or she has been hired for are not actually government accredited. Two common examples of this situation are NIIT and Aptech. CIS will not approve unaccredited education.

The “college” degree is actually a high school diploma.

Yes, this happens. Attorneys: don’t listen to your clients when they insist that their high school diploma is a college degree. This tends to be an honest mistake that gets taken too far. Mistranslations, misunderstandings, and different educational systems from one country to the next cause a lot of confusion in this area. Different degrees are often called by the same name, which becomes a problem when transcripts and credentials are translated but not evaluated for academic equivalence. The H-1B visa requires a US bachelor’s degree or higher. A high school diploma does NOT meet these requirements.

If your degree, or your employee or client has a degree from an unaccredited college or university, or no bachelor’s degree equivalence at all, talk to a credential evaluator with the authority to convert years of work experience into college credit. You may be able to salvage your case.

The degree was not evaluated correctly. 

If your degree, or your employee or client’s degree is from a different country with a different language, the transcripts must be translated into English and evaluated for US academic equivalence. Sometimes, documents do not get translated correctly, or they are only translated but never evaluated. Sometimes, they are evaluated, but incorrectly. Sometimes they are evaluated correctly, but not for the H-1B visa. This H-1B trap is becoming increasingly common because some translation agencies now offer a sort of one-stop-shop for translation and evaluation. Just like document translation, evaluation is a highly specialized field that requires extensive knowledge of international education, international trade agreements, CIS precedent decisions, federal case law, and various visa requirements. This is because some visas allow education and experience from different sources to be combined to show equivalence while others do not accept that combination but require others. This is also because some degrees exist in one country but not in another, and others don’t have a direct English translation. Some degrees don’t call themselves degrees but are actually the equivalent of post-secondary education. Simply translating documents from one language to another means understanding of the academic content is lost. A credential evaluator can identify where this occurs and fix it. Each evaluation must be conducted on a case-by-case basis.

Before you file your case, or your employee or client’s case, be aware that it may not be as straightforward as you think. Educational systems vary from country to country, and your degree or your employee or client’s degree may not be what you think it is in terms of US academic value.   At the same time, the right degree may be in the wrong field, or difficult to find a US equivalent degree for. Talk to a credential evaluator with experience working with H-1B visas and their RFEs. The evaluator you want understands the specific requirements of H-1B visas as well as CIS trends regarding these much sought-after visas.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

Avoid an EB2 RFE Before You Have to Respond to One

The approval process for EB2 visas is long, arduous, and can get quite costly. That means when you submit your petition, or your client or employee’s petition for adjudication, you want to get it right the first time. If there are errors, inconsistencies, or requirements not met in the initial petition – or if CIS does not feel they have adequate evidence to make the right decision about your case, or your client or employee’s case for any other reason – a Request for Evidence (RFE) will be issued that you will have to respond to.

Why you do NOT want that RFE

Aside from taking more time and money to address an RFE, an RFE is also a big red flag on the petition. When you get an RFE for a glaring error, it draws attention to the small mistakes that would have flown under the radar, and the more holes in your petition CIS finds, the more complicated your RFE will be to respond to.

If you receive an RFE, don’t panic! Receiving an RFE can be transformed into an opportunity to strengthen your case, or the case of your client or employee. However, the best way to address an RFE is to avoid it in the first place.

An RFE is by no means a rare occurrence. In fact, we see more and more RFEs every single year. At TheDegreePeople, we help clients with education RFEs, which are extremely common for the EB2 classification because CIS trends change with regards to educational requirements, especially from the prevalence of work visas in STEM industry companies, and also because equivalency requirements differ from other work visas.

The first mistake petitioner commonly make is that the degree must be an EXACT match for the job offer on the PERM. In most cases, employers will hire employees with degrees in related fields because there is enough educational overlap that they can be sure the employee has the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the duties of their job. This is especially the case when the employee has years of work experience in the field alongside a degree in a related field. However, CIS disagrees. If the degree is not an exact match for the job offer on the PERM, you, or your employee or client will receive an RFE. To address this issue, you or your employee or client needs to have their education and work experience reviewed to write the equivalency of the necessary degree in the appropriate field, and submit that to CIS.

The second mistake – which can also be made with regards to the equivalency in the first mistake – is that the petitioner’s bachelor’s degree must be a SINGLE source. This is particularly a problem when a petitioner needs a credential evaluation to write the equivalency for a degree in the exact field of employ, or if the petitioner holds a degree from a country with a three-year bachelor’s degree track. Other visas allow for work experience and different education sources to be combined to write the equivalency to the appropriate bachelor’s degree. This is not the case with EB2. The way we handle this situation is to convert years of progressive work experience into a bachelor’s degree equivalency or a master’s degree equivalency, and then cite federal case law, graduate school admissions requirements for programs in the client’s field, and provide other necessary documentation to fortify this equivalency.

If you, or your employee or client receives an EB2 RFE, talk to a credential evaluation agency with extensive experience working with specific visas, and international education experts on hand. If you call and the agency does not ask about the particular job or visa, look elsewhere. While they may be able to write an accurate equivalency, they will not be able to write the accurate equivalency that you or your employee or client needs to fulfill the unique requirements of the EB2 visa.

If you have yet to file, make sure your petition, or your employee or client’s petition does not fall into one of these common EB2 education traps. Don’t give CIS an excuse to issue an RFE. Get it right the first time.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director at TheDegreePeople.com, a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a free analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

 

Who is at Fault for Your RFE?

About one in every four H-1B petitions receive an RFE. The first step to answering an RFE is to understand what CIS is asking, who dropped the ball, and who can provide that information. Just because someone is at fault for your RFE, or your employee or client’s RFE does not mean you should fire them or find someone else. At this stage, it is often unwise to find a new attorney, evaluator, or employer for that matter. Sometimes it’s the candidate’s fault. Sometimes, CIS is at fault. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault. CIS trends change every year and it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. Sometimes, you do need to find someone else for the job.

Regardless, the first step to successfully answering your RFE, or your employee or client’s RFE is to discover why it was issued in the first place and who is to blame. Remain calm, refrain from pointing fingers, and ALWAYS remain solution-oriented through this process.

Sometimes No One is to Blame

In many cases, this is exactly the situation. CIS visa approval trends change every year and it is practically impossible for everyone to keep up on them – even CIS. The best you can do is to work with a team that follows CIS trends as closely as possible and do your best. Working with a credential evaluation agency that specializes in RFEs and difficult cases is advised because they understand what works and what does not. This will not always prevent an RFE, but you’ll know you are in good hands in any case.

Sometimes it’s The Candidate’s Fault

This is a hard but true fact. Oftentimes, a candidate will make a mistake, and if this is your situation, it’s time to eat some humble pie and move forward towards a solution. Candidates, did you make a mistake about the value of your degree, certificate, license or diploma? Did you provide poorly or even fraudulently translated documents? Did you provide poorly evaluated documents? Did you receive your degree from an unaccredited institution? Educational document errors and inconsistencies, as well as mistranslations can be picked up by a skilled credential evaluator, but sometimes that’s not the first agency you work with. Be honest with yourself and your team about your credentials, and find honest, well-trained translation and evaluation agencies to work with from the beginning. At the end of the day, candidates, your petition is your responsibility.

Sometimes it’s The Attorney’s Fault

Attorneys, did you file the petition incorrectly? Sometimes this happens. Find out what went wrong and what you need to do to fix it. At this point, it’s probably not worth it to fire the attorney unless a horrible mistake was made. Oftentimes, when the attorney is at fault it’s for the same reason that candidates may have been at fault: they worked with the wrong translation or evaluation agency and ended up submitting inaccurate documents. These problems can be addressed by working with credible translation and evaluation agencies. Just make sure you work with TWO SEPARATE agencies – one for translation and one for credential evaluation – as these are two highly specialized services that require very different and very specific sets of skills.

Sometimes it’s CIS’s Fault

It’s no secret that CIS makes mistakes. Sometimes an RFE may be factually incorrect. Your petition, or your employee or client’s petition could be absolutely spotless, filed perfectly, and filed on time, and CIS will still issue an RFE. While these RFEs are frustrating, they are also easy fixes because you already have all of the documentation and information you need at your fingertips.

Sometimes Your Evaluator – or the Evaluation itself – is at fault

Maybe it was your evaluator’s error that triggered the RFE. Maybe it was the evaluation that your evaluator wrote but not your evaluator. This may sound confusing, but it’s actually a fairly simple differentiation. The candidate’s visa requires a very specific evaluation to write the equivalency to the US degree that you, your employee, or your client needs to meet H-1B visa requirements, and in the field that matches the H-1B job. If your degree, or your client or employee’s degree was earned outside of the United States, or with a major that is not an exact match to the job, you need an evaluation written that converts years of progressive work experience into college credit to fill in the gaps between the degree and the job, or the degree and the degree CIS requires you, or your client or employee to have.

Not every evaluation agency can provide this. Some do not specialize in immigration and visa evaluations, and some don’t have the authority or cannot provide the evidence needed to back up a work experience conversion. Talk to potential credential evaluation agencies. They may be able to write an accurate evaluation, but it may be the wrong evaluation for the H-1B petition. If an agency does not ask about the job or the visa, look elsewhere. The agency you want is one that specializes in immigration and visa evaluations, and specializes in RFEs and difficult cases.

An RFE is a chance to strengthen your case, or the case of your client or employee. Sit down with your team to find out who – if anyone – dropped the ball, who can solve the problem, and how to best proceed.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director at TheDegreePeople.com, a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a free analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

 

H-1B Lottery Brought Under the Freedom of Information Act

When the number of H-1B petitions submitted that are not cap-exempt exceeds the allotted 85,000 annual visas, USCIS uses a randomized, computer-generated lottery to determine which visas are accepted for consideration for these visas. All visas selected are reviewed by CIS, and the rest are sent back to the petitioners and their employers. For the past ten years, the number of visas submitted has exceeded the cap. In the past four, this has happened within a week. This year, 236,000 H-1B petitions were submitted for fiscal year 2017. The H-1B lottery has been a staple of the process for about a decade now, and still lawyers, employers, and H-1B candidates have no idea how it actually works.

This year, the American Immigration Council and Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd. brought the H-1B under the Freedom of Information Act. The intention is to audit the system to see how it works, and to make sure the lottery is as fair and impartial as CIS claims it to be.

The specific questions under investigation are:

  1. How does the electronic selection process work?
  2. How does the process for rejecting or accepting a petition function?
  3. How does CIS determine how many petitions to select for the lottery, and how does CIS determine when they have reached the limit for petition approval?
  4. How does CIS track visa numbers?
  5. Does CIS actually allocate all of the visa numbers available?

Unless major immigration reform happens to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas available annually, the lottery is here to stay. That means it needs to be made public record how it works. Candidates and their employers and lawyers have no control over whether or not any given petition is selected, but checking the process to ensure that it is up to statutory standards, and as impartial as it claims to be is necessary for accountability.

If your petition, or your employee or client’s petition is selected, it must be impeccable. CIS selects more petitions than there are H-1B visas available in the lottery process, then reviews the petitions they receive. That means they are looking for red flags, and many petitions must be rejected as part of the process. It is imperative that you get it right the first time. While RFEs can be answered, it is always best to prevent getting one in the first place.

If your education, or your employee or client’s education is from outside of the United States, never file without a thorough credential evaluation that clearly spells out the US equivalent of your client’s degree, with a specialization that matches their job offer. We see so many RFEs every year that could have been prevented simply by taking this step before CIS has to ask you, or your employee or client to do so.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

 

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.

 

FY2017 H-1B Predictions and Requirements

The past decade has seen a significant annual increase in H-1b petitions, and this year the trend is projected to continue. Experts estimate that more than 200,000 H-1b petitions will be filed this year before CIS closes its doors after the mandatory five days of accepting petitions. For cap-subjected H-1b jobs, there are only 65,000 visas available for candidates with US bachelor’s degrees or it’s equivalent or higher, and an additional 20,000 H-1b visas with candidates with US master’s degrees or its equivalent or higher available. There will most definitely be a lottery, and that means you and your client need to have your petition ready, spotless, and filed on April First of this year.

But what does a spotless petition look like?

Your client’s petition must meet H-1b requirements as well as current CIS trends to be approved. CIS has been issuing more and more RFE’s every year, up from around 4% less than a decade ago to 25% in recent years as responses to H-1b petitions. That means your client has a one in four chance of receiving an RFE that the two of you will have to address. Your client doesn’t have to be a statistic so long as you clearly show that your client and his or her job and employer meet H-1b requirements in adherence to current CIS trends.

What are the H-1b requirements and how do trends affect how to properly evidence these requirements?

  1. Your client’s job must be a specialty occupation. This means that to perform the duties of the job, your client must hold a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent in a related field. In recent years however, CIS has issued RFE’s for degrees that do not exactly match candidates’ job titles. If your client’s major is not an exact match for his or her job title, you need to find a credential evaluation agency that can take a close look at your client’s education to count classroom contact hours in classes matching your client’s job towards a degree equivalency. The evaluator can also convert years of progressive work experience in the field to years of college credit in the major of your client’s job offer. To show that your client’s job is a specialty occupation, you need to provide evidence that your client’s employer requires this degree for this job, and that similar positions in similar companies also require an advanced degree. If this is not the case, you need to provide evidence as to why your client’s particular job is so specifically complex as to require an advanced degree to carry out its duties.
  1. Your client must hold a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent. H-1b visas are for specialty occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher to perform. If your client has a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent, and the degree matches the job, all you have to do is submit the educational documents with the petition. However, if your client’s degree is from a different country – particularly a country with a three-year bachelor’s degree – you need to have your client’s education evaluated for US equivalence. This is because educational systems vary from country to country, and CIS must clearly see the value of your client’s education in terms of US educational value. Some post-secondary degrees from other countries are the equivalent of US bachelor’s degrees even though the word “degree” is not in the title. Others are not. A detailed evaluation from a credential evaluator with expert understanding of international education is needed to meet this requirement. For three-year degrees, a progressive work experience conversion is needed to fill in the missing fourth year. Although three-year degrees, like the Indian three-year degree, have the same if not more number of classroom contact hours as a US four-year degree, CIS does not accept this equivalency on face without a detailed credential evaluation.
  1. There must be an employer-employee relationship. This means that your client’s employer can hire, fire, promote, pay, and otherwise control the work your client does. You can show this by submitting a copy of the employee contract or providing other documentation regarding your client’s job.
  1. Your client must be paid the prevailing wage for his or her job. Prevailing wage is determined based on the job, the company, the geographic location, and other factors. To prove that your client will be paid the prevailing wage for his or her job, you need to provide evidence that states common salaries for your client’s occupation in similar companies in similar locations, as well as proof that your client’s employer will be paying that wage. At the same time, you also have to show that your client’s employer is economically viable to pay your client the prevailing wage without affecting the salaries of other employees, operating costs, or other aspects of the business.

Before you file your client’s H-1b petition, have a credential evaluator review his or her education to make sure all your ducks are in a row. If you submit a petition without an evaluation where one is needed, you can expect an RFE. While an RFE is not the end of the world, it is a big red flag on your client’s petition, and will trigger CIS to comb over the petition and find misplaced details that would otherwise have gone by unnoticed. CIS has a big job to do when it comes to cap-subject H-1b visa selection. Make their job easier by making sure your client’s visa is easy to approve, not by giving them a big red flag to look at.

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

Building Your Immigration Practice: Should You Write a Book?

I’m Sheila Danzig, international education expert and executive director at TheDegreePeople, a foreign credential evaluation agency. I also run a strong marketing division, and I want to share with you my expertise to help you build your immigration law practice so you can help more clients get approved for the Visas they deserve. I usually write about the Visa process and how to avoid or resolve RFEs, Denials, and NOIDs. Today, let’s talk about how to build your practice.

For any kind of consultant, there are few better career decisions than writing a book. Now is the time to write the book on immigration law. Publish a non-fiction book, do it right, and watch the opportunities present themselves as you build your audience, write your book, and promote what you’ve written. Note the “do it right” part. Simply writing a book will not make you an overnight success. When you commit to writing a book, you commit to being an author. In this case, when you commit to your book, you agree to make its topic the central focus of your immigration law practice for at least the next few years.

Before you commit to being an author, here are three questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Do I REALLY want to put myself and my ideas out there for all to see? This means taking a public stand and being held accountable to the words you write. You will never be able to please everyone, and you won’t be able to sit down with everyone who reads your book and explain yourself. However, if you invite your readers to get in touch with you with any questions they may have regarding what you’ve written, you’ve taken a massive step towards building your business.
  1. Do I have a book concept that REALLY inspires me? Ask yourself, is there anything you know enough about that will drive you to set aside time to work on your book even when you’re busy? Is this concept so compelling to you that you are willing to make it a central focus of your law practice for the next few years? Are you inspired by the topic to the extent that you are willing to pass up short-term opportunities to focus on the long-term goal of getting your book out there? Writing a book is a process, and if you’re not inspired by the concept you won’t have the energy to complete this process.
  1. Do you REALLY want to be a writer? When you commit to writing a book, you commit to being an author. This means doing things that authors do like giving talks and webinars, maintaining a blog, publishing articles, and, of course, actually writing your book. However, you don’t technically have to be a writer to be an author. If you have all of the expertise and information but writing isn’t really your passion or practice, you can hire a ghostwriter to help you.

If you are committed to putting your ideas out there, have a topic you are passionate and inspired by, and you want to be a writer (or at least hire one to help you), then the answer is YES! You should absolutely write a book. Being a published author will build your business and launch your career to new levels of success.

Now that you’ve decided to write a book, the next step is to write, right?

Wrong.

The next step is the step that will give you that initial bump in business growth, and here’s why.

When you approach a publisher with your non-fiction book concept, your publisher already knows that in today’s market a non-fiction book on average sells less than 250 copies each year, and less than 2,000 copies in its lifetime. One thing you cannot count on your publishing company to do is to help you market your book. This is something that now falls mostly on the author. That means even if your content is amazing, it’s very unlikely the publishing company will profit much from it. That’s why when you pitch your story, you need to show two things:

  1. You have an audience ready to buy your book.
  2. You have a marketing plan to promote your book when it comes out.

Even if you decide to self-publish, these are the first two things you need to be thinking about. Fortunately, these are also the first two things you need to be thinking about to build your business. Even if you don’t end up writing a book, preparing to write a book will build your business in ways you would have otherwise missed out on. To build your audience, you need to show that your ideas are compelling, unique, and helpful to the people affected by your law practice and your book concept.

Write articles on the topic of your book. Maintain a blog with many of your postings focusing on the concept of your book. Blog about your writing process and include excerpts of what you’ve written. Give talks and host webinars on the topic of your book and your law practice. You can even attend conferences regarding your book topic, including writer’s conferences where you can glean ideas about how to best get your book out there. These are great opportunities to network with journals and other publications to get your articles published in.

If you are not already taking these steps to build your business, you should be doing them anyway. Writing a book has short-term and long-term benefits for business growth. Making a commitment to your concept and your book gives your business marketing strategy focus and momentum. Then, getting your book published and out there opens up even more doors for you and your law practice.

You can learn exactly what to do to build your audience base, devise an effective marketing strategy for your book, and write the non-fiction book that will skyrocket your practice to new levels of success in my book Invisible Marketing for Attorneys. You can download this book for free at www.ccifree.com from the link on the left side of the page. This is also the website to visit for a free review of any H1B, E3, TN, or I-140 case.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople, a foreign credentials evaluation agency. For a no-charge analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

The Top 3 Reasons for Education H1-B RFEs

Every year, we see more and more education RFEs on H1-B visas. In the recent past, maybe 4% tops of all H1-B petitions were met with RFE’s. Now, around 25% of all of these petitions are met with RFEs. Issues with a candidate’s education are very common reasons USCIS will issue an RFE.

Why are there so many education RFEs?

Reason #1 – The candidate’s education equivalence does not match the job offer.

Reason #2 – See Reason #1.

Reason #3 – See Reasons #1 and #2.

Aren’t there any other reasons CIS would call a candidate’s education into question? Not really. There are small issues where CIS requests additional or more complete education documentation, but 90% of the RFEs are about the education equivalence not matching the title of the job offer. Education RFEs are very common because while employers will hire employees with degrees in related fields, CIS requires an H1-B employee’s degree to be an exact match for their job.

Many evaluation agencies write standard evaluations of foreign credentials without taking particular Visa requirements, federal case law, and CIS trends into account. In these situations, you will likely have an accurate evaluation, but your degree still will not match your job offer. This is an example of a good evaluator writing the wrong evaluation.

Well, you might get lucky and slide through, right? So why not just wait for an RFE to submit the education evaluation that CIS wants? Luck HAS worked reasonably well up until just recently. Some petitions did manage to slide by, but in the past two years we started seeing the “Nightmare” RFE begin to increase. If your degree or your degree evaluation does not match your job offer, you will likely run into problems with CIS, and the “Nightmare” RFE is a problem you never want to have to face. This is an extremely complicated RFE that is literally impossible to answer. While no one knows what triggers these particular RFEs, we DO know that they almost always occur when the candidate’s education does not match the job offer.

Send in a credential evaluation that takes your work experience and course content into account to fill in the gaps between your degree and your job offer before you have to do it the hard way. A simple work experience evaluation can prevent this “Nightmare” experience.

If it’s too late and you have already received a “Nightmare” RFE – also known as the “Kitchen Sink” RFE because absolutely everything is in it but the kitchen sink – we can help you. While this RFE cannot actually be met as written, we have developed a systematic approach to addressing this RFE that has worked 95% of the time.

To learn more about the Nightmare RFE, check out my article http://discuss.ilw.com/content.php?4449-Article-You-Can-Beat-The-Nightmare-RFE-for-H1B-By-Sheila-Danzig. You CAN beat the “Nightmare” RFE, but why do it if you don’t have to? Don’t risk this “Nightmare” scenario. Get your credentials evaluated by an evaluation agency with the authority to convert work experience in your field of employ into college credit. Some agencies simply do not write these kinds of evaluations. When you talk to them on the phone, tell them that you need an education evaluation for an H1-B Visa petition. If they don’t ask about your job offer, look elsewhere. You need an evaluator knowledgeable about international education as well as CIS trends.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723. Mention that you saw this in the ILW article and get 72 hour rush service at no charge.

How to Bridge the Fatal Gaps Between Your Degree and Your H1B Job

When evaluating a candidate for a job position that requires a specialized degree, employers will almost always consider a candidate with a degree in a related field qualified. Until about five or six years ago, USCIS would also accept a degree in a related field as sufficient qualification to approve an H1B visa. This is no longer the case and H1B candidates are running into trouble in the form of RFE’s and Denials. Employers hire H1B candidates, but CIS does not approve their visas. The same goes for candidates with generalized degrees. Even though these candidates continue to get hired, their Visa petitions hit a brick wall. The percentage of H1B petitions that are met with RFE’s and Denials climbs higher every year for this reason.

If your job offer is for accountancy but your degree is in economics, CIS will raise a red flag. If you have a generalized degree and are hired for any job that meets the specialization standards of an H1B Visa job, CIS will raise a red flag.

CIS requirements clearly state, “USCIS precedent decisions have confirmed that a generalized degree in business administration, absent specialized experience, is insufficient to qualify an alien beneficiary in a specialty occupation […] a petitioner with a business administration degree must establish a particular area and occupation in the field of business administration in which he is engaged.”

CIS states, “A generalized degree, absent specialized experience, is insufficient.”

Does this mean H1B candidates with degrees in fields that don’t exactly match but are related to their field of employ are out of luck? Absolutely not.

Even though your education alone cannot prove that you have the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to qualify for your H1B job, your education combined with work experience can. Employers hire candidates with related degrees because they have gained the specialized skills and knowledge they need for the job by directly working in the field. To prove specialization with a related or generalized degree, you need an evaluation of your education and work experience from a professor authorized to grant college credit for your work experience. ONLY a professor authorized to do this can write the evaluation you need to get your H1B Visa approved.

Authorized professors can convert years of progressive work experience into college credit to bridge the gaps between your job and your degree. Your work experience must be in the exact field of you H1B job. To qualify as progressive work experience, the nature of the work must have required you to take on progressively more work and responsibilities representing your progressively growing specialized knowledge base and skill set.

Don’t wait for an RFE or Denial to get your degree and work experience evaluated. While an RFE or Denial is not the end of the world, it is a big red flag to CIS that will trigger a close scrutiny of your petition. Minor errors and glitches that would have otherwise gone unnoticed will be unearthed because attention has been drawn to your petition. With hundreds of thousands of H1B Visa petitions to mire through, CIS uses red flags to make the hard decision of who gets their Visa approved and who does not for the set amount of annual Visa slots. Make the decision to approve your Visa easy by making your specialized knowledge and skill set clear with a credential evaluation from a professor authorized to convert work experience into college credit.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723. Mention that you saw this in the ILW article and get 72 hour rush service at no charge.

 

Who is to Blame for Your H1B RFE?

As foreign credential evaluators who specialize in handling RFEs and denials, we are constantly evaluating USCIS policy and trends. Just like last year and the year before, this year we have seen more H1B RFEs than we ever have in the past. When CIS issues an RFE, much concern and angst arises. A lot is at stake with Visa approval, so getting to this point in the process only to find more is being asked of you is a lot to stomach. Employers look to the attorneys, attorneys look to evaluators, and candidates panic.

But whose fault is it REALLY and why does it matter whose fault it is anyway?

True, sometimes it is the attorney or evaluators fault, but sometimes it is CIS’s fault.

Sometimes it is the fault of the evaluation but not the evaluator.

Sometimes it is CIS’s fault.

Sometimes it is the candidate’s fault.

Sometimes it is no one’s fault at all.

It matters because there is absolutely no reason to get a new attorney or a new evaluator at this stage of the process if the RFE was not their fault.

The first step to successfully responding to an RFE is to understand what is being asked for, and of whom is it being asked, and which party can provide the necessary evidence. Knowing who is at fault for the RFE is a big part of understanding how to move forward.

When is it the attorney’s fault?

Very rarely, an attorney will file an application incorrectly. Generally, however, the attorney error occurs when the candidate’s education is not reviewed by an education specialist before the application is filed. In this case, the candidate’s account of their education and experience is incorrect or does not meet the CIS requirements for the H1-B. Unless this is the case, don’t fire your attorney over an RFE.

When is it the evaluator’s fault, and how can it be the fault of the evaluation but NOT the person who wrote the evaluation?

There are situations when the RFE is clearly the evaluator’s fault because the evaluation was done incorrectly. For example, when a non-accredited PGD is listed as accredited, CIS jumps on that inaccuracy to issue an RFE.   This rarely happens, because most evaluators are highly trained in spotting unaccredited education.

However, every evaluation is different, and evaluations for different Visas must be written very differently. When an evaluator writes an evaluation for any particular visa, he or she needs to know both the Visa regulations AND current CIS trends. Not every evaluation agency is aware of the Visa regulations. The evaluator may have provided the evaluation ordered by the client, only to find that the equivalence does not work for the particular Visa. For example, if you have a four-year degree in electrical engineering, you can receive an evaluation written correctly showing an equivalency to a US bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, but then receive an RFE anyway because your job is in the field of computer software analysis. This sort of mismatch triggered an onslaught of RFEs this year. The evaluator did a good job, but the evaluation was not correct for the purposes of the Visa. In this case, you may have likely found the right evaluator, but he or she provided you with the wrong evaluation even though they acted in good faith. To avoid this, make sure you order your evaluation from an agency that knows education regulations for each Visa. If you advise an evaluation agency that you need an evaluation for an H1-B visa and they don’t ask about the job offer, find a new agency. The degree must precisely fit the field of employment for this Visa and the evaluator needs to know this information so they can evaluate an equivalency to the proper degree. If you are not asked about the job offer, the agency does not look at the Visa regulations and is not right for this job.

If you have already paid an evaluator and a mistake was made, I suggest you go back to that evaluator to try to address your RFE. However, if the evaluation agency did not make sure that the evaluation was written for the particular Visa it was ordered for, that may just be how they operate. There is nothing wrong with that unless they lead you to believe that they evaluate for immigration and meet Visa requirements as part of their service. They may just be writing standard evaluations and not be authorized to make the conversions from work experience to education, which is necessary to prove equivalency between fields or across educational system structures. You cannot expect an agency to do something they don’t claim to do. So the evaluation agency you want and need is one that will look at the education, as well as the visa requirements and current CIS trends.

When is it CIS’s fault?

Government bureaucracies make mistakes and some RFEs are simply factually incorrect. Everything in a petition could be done correctly and you can still receive an RFE. Often when CIS is at fault, the RFE will state that an accredited university is not accredited, or that a qualified evaluator is not qualified. While these RFEs are frustrating, they are usually also easy fixes. With the help of your evaluator, you can easily provide these facts and receive an approval.

When is it the Candidate’s Fault?

Yes, you make mistakes too. Candidates have been known to insist that their high school documents are college level or that unaccredited education is accredited. They have also been known to provide poorly translated documents, or even fraudulently translated documents. Generally, a good evaluator can pick up on these problems before starting in on the evaluation, but not all evaluation agencies will review a candidate’s case before accepting payment and writing it. To be sure that no problems arise further down the road that can trigger an RFE, we always review all of the documents before accepting a credential evaluation order. Before we have seen all of your education documents, a resume, and the RFE or Denial if one has been issued, we have no way to discuss your case. We want to discover any issues in the documents right away in order to eliminate the vast majority of the confusion and misinformation you may experience down the road.

When is it no one’s fault?

Sometimes, it really is no one’s fault. CIS trends change. As we have seen especially in the past seven or so years, CIS trends can change very quickly. We can only know what they generally do and what they have done in the past, which helps a great deal. CIS can be a wildcard, and no one can guarantee what they are going to do. When this happens, all you can do is carefully read the RFE with your team, understand what is being asked of whom and who can provide the requested evidence, and then do your best to beat it.

Can we draw a usable conclusion?

Yes. The entire team should review the RFE. Your attorney, your employer, your evaluator, and, of course, you should review the RFE. An evaluator with extensive experience with RFEs could be familiar with the RFE and know how they have been resolved. Work with him or her to resolve the RFE. If you used an evaluation agency before receiving an RFE, go back to them. Next time, make sure you are working with an evaluation agency that reviews the education and Visa requirements and gives you all of your options before you order. If that is not their policy, it might be best to try a new agency. Remember that few agencies have passed through the RFE gauntlet this year unscathed, and many of these RFEs are not the fault of the agency, or the fault of the attorney or employer or you. Do your homework before you file because avoiding RFEs is far superior to resolving them.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

Sheila Danzig is a foreign credentials evaluation expert and international education expert. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723. Mention that you saw this in the ILW article and get 72 hour rush service at no charge.