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ICAE Demystifies the Complex Nature of Degree Accreditation

ICAE has recently joined NACES and AICE in being the only credential evaluation membership organizations with UNESCO approval. What sets ICAE apart is that evaluators also have a complex understanding of curriculum development that meets US regional and national accreditation requirements, setting the highest standard for credential evaluation in the industry.

Credential evaluation goes far beyond simply translating transcripts into English. When ICAE evaluators conclude that a foreign degree is the equivalent of a given US regionally or nationally accredited degree, it means that the degree has been thoroughly reviewed to certify that the requirements for the areas of study necessary to meet US accreditation requirements for that degree have been met.

ICAE works with boards of education as well as US institutions of higher education to develop and review curriculum to submit for accreditation In every degree curriculum, the following areas of study must be met for US accreditation: Natural Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Electives, and a Field of Specialization – the “major.” The sequence of classes taken, including prerequisites, lower level, and higher level classes, are also important to structure curriculum fit for accreditation in the US. Having completed a major factors into this as well. If a student completes the baseline 120 credits required for a US Bachelor’s degree, but has not completed a major, then the terms of graduation have not been met.

It is important to note that a Bachelors of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree are different in that a BA requires at least 3.0 credits of Language Arts or a Liberal Arts component, and a BS requires at least 5.0 credits of Natural Sciences.

When ICAE evaluators review credentials, whether or not the program meets US accreditation requirements for the degree equivalency are examined closely. ICAE members’ advanced understanding of curriculum accreditation requirements makes the organization the ideal resource for the highest standard of credential evaluation services, raising the standard of excellence for the industry. To learn more about ICAE, visit http://www.academicevaluation.org.

What is a Degree? – Find out Before You File!

RFEs are on the rise across the board for visa candidates. Education RFEs are particularly common for visas like H1B and EB2, which are contingent on the candidate’s advanced degree and skill specialization. Candidates who earned their degrees from outside of the United States run into trouble because educational systems vary across borders, and academic value does not always translate along with the language.

Before you file, make sure you know what education you’re working with. All you have to do is go to ccifree.com, let us know the visa and job, and attach the candidate’s educational documents and resume. Within 24 hours, we will send you a pre-evaluation and full analysis of all of your options. You will know what you’re working with, and be able to move forward accordingly.

It’s not uncommon for candidates to insist that their high school diploma is a college degree, or for a translated document to report a false academic equivalency.

This happens for two main reasons. First, many degrees don’t actually have the word “degree” in the title. When this is translated, it is unclear whether or not the candidate actually has earned the postsecondary education necessary to meet the academic qualifications for their visa. On the same note, some credentials that do have the word degree in the title are not the academic equivalent of US postsecondary education, and some credentials don’t have the word “degree” in the title and are not degrees, period. Some countries have the same titles for different education. For example, the Indian Chartered Accountancy certification is the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in accounting while the Canadian Chartered Accountancy certification is not.

The second reason this happens is because when documents are translated from their original language into English, some degree titles don’t actually have a direct linguistic translation into English. Others do, but the academic value is different. It’s easy for translators to accidentally insert misinformed judgment into the academic value of a degree through translation. It is always best for translators to simply perform a direct translation and then have the documents passed onto a credential evaluator for the next step.

Understanding the value of a foreign degree requires a complex, specialized understanding of international education. Understanding the structures of education and the educational steps required to earn each credential, as well as international trade agreements, graduate program admissions trends, CIS trends and precedents, and federal case law is required to write an accurate evaluation that CIS will understand and accept.

Before you file, make sure you, or your employee or client has the right education for the visa. If you’ve already received an RFE, it’s not too late! Simply go to ccifree.com and submit the educational documents and a current resume, and indicate the visa and job. We will get back to you within 24 hours with a pre-evaluation of your case and all of your options for evaluation.

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.

Your H1B Solutions for the Generalized Degree

H1B visa eligibility boils down to two things:

  1. Specialized Job
  2. Specialized Education

Successful candidates meet both of these requirements by having a job that requires an advanced degree – a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent – to perform, and the accompanying education required to perform it. CIS requires this education to be specialized precisely to the field. That’s where candidates run into trouble come filing season.

Do you, or does your employee or client have a generalized degree or a degree specialization is a field other than the job? Then you need a credential evaluation. Even if the degree is from a US institution, CIS requires a degree equivalency in the exact specialization of the candidate’s job. For example, a business degree will not cut it for a job in finance. A sociology degree will not cut it for a job in psychology. A job in biology requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in biology – not chemistry, geology, or physics.

If you or your employee or client has a generalized degree or a degree mismatched to their job, take the transcripts and work experience to a credential evaluator who works regularly with H1B visas and their RFEs. Evaluators who work regularly with RFEs understand what triggers them and how to prevent them. CIS approval trends regarding education have changed in the past six or seven years, and one of those changes is that the degree specialization must be an EXACT match for the job offer. The evaluator can take a close look at the course content of the candidate’s education, and combine that with progressive work experience in the field to write the evaluation you need to prove educational specialization.

Be sure that the evaluation agency you work with has professors on hand who are authorized to issue college credit for work experience. This way, the candidate’s years of work experience in the field can be converted into college credit counting towards their specialized major equivalency. CIS accepts a three years of progressive work experience to one year of college credit in the field equivalency for the H1B visa. Consult with your evaluator to make sure you or your employee or client has the right kind of work experience – and enough of it – before you order your evaluation.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

5 Signs You’ve Found a Good Credential Evaluation Agency

More and more RFE’s are being issued inquiring into the credibility of credential evaluation agencies. Even if you’ve submitted an evaluation of your foreign degree along with the rest of your H1b petition, the USCIS may have questions about how reliable the agency that made the conversions is, and whether or not they actually have the authority to make the conversions they did.

Not all evaluation agencies have international education experts and professors on hand to write the detailed evaluation you need to prove the value of your education in terms of US standards. Not all agencies are authorized to convert classroom contact hours and years of work experience into the college credit you need to bridge the gaps between the US academic system structure and that of the country in which you earned your degree.

Just like any other kind of business, agency, or professional, some credential evaluation agencies are quality and reliable while others are not. Here are five signs that you’ve found a good one:

  1. They answer when you call…or text, or email. A good agency will always be there to answer your communication in whatever medium you prefer. A great agency is ALWAYS available because they know the time crunches involved in the petition process.
  1. They have satisfied customers. NEVER order an evaluation without asking for past client references and following up on them. Search for and read reviews and read client testimonials. If past customers are satisfied, chances are you will be too.
  1. They offer you options. Reliable agencies have a wide range of options. This is because experience working with visa applicants has taught them the last minute really does mean the last minute when it comes to getting your petition in, or your RFE answered. They should offer a variety of rush delivery options at reasonable rates.
  1. They’re inexpensive. This is NOT one of those things where you get what you pay for. In fact, an expensive evaluation is a big red flag. Reliable agencies don’t have to squeeze as much cash as they can out of every client they get. Furthermore, reliable agencies understand how costly it is to petition for an H1b visa and their prices will reflect an understanding of and respect for your budget. Save your money and get a credible evaluation.
  1. They are a pleasure to talk to. A good conversation – whether it be over the phone, or by text or email – is a great indicator that you have found a good credential evaluation agency. This is because it shows that you are comfortable working with them, they are able to answer your questions to your satisfaction, and that they are confident in the work they do.

If you see these five signs when you research which agency to order your evaluation from, you have likely found a reliable credential evaluator who can write you the evaluation you need to get your visa approved.

How to Avoid the RFE Explosion

In the past six or so years, we’ve seen an explosion in Requests for Evidence in response to H1B petitions. Just less than a decade ago only about 4% of all H1B petitions were met with RFE’s while today we’re seeing 25%. One of the main reasons this is happening is because the USCIS is getting flooded with more H1B petitions than they know what to do with every year. With the growing number of STEM industry jobs requiring highly skilled workers, US companies are hiring foreign workers and applying for as many H1B visas as they can. The rate of acceptance is low. Even companies like Microsoft will only be approved for around half of the petitions they submit.

Another reason for the increased number of RFE’s is because the USCIS and your boss have different standards by which to judge your qualifications. While most employers will hire workers with degrees in the fields related to their job, the USCIS won’t approve their visas. The USCIS has recently tightened its standards to only accept applicants whose degree matches their field of employ exactly. Because these standards are new and because they differ from your employer to the government, many of these petitions are now met with RFE’s or worse.

Don’t panic if this is the situation you’re in. You can fix this before it even becomes a problem. All you have to do is submit a credential evaluation along with your educational documents written by an evaluator with the authority to convert work experience into college credit hours. That way, your work experience in the field can be counted towards your degree specialized in the field of your job. Not all credential evaluation agencies have evaluators on hand with this authority, so be sure to check before ordering your evaluation.

Before the USCIS has to ask you about your education, spell it out clearly for them and avoid a pesky RFE.