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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.
- CIS assumes that because the job is set at level 1 wages it is entry level.
- 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.
Overturn an H1B Nightmare RFE in Three Steps
It’s RFE season and the prevalence of the dreaded Nightmare RFE is on the rise right along with the rate of RFE responses. We’re not sure what triggers this RFE, and we’re not even sure CIS has the right to make these requests, but they keep on coming.
The Nightmare RFE is virtually impossible to answer by following its own guidelines. However, at TheDegreePeople, we work with these RFEs regularly and with a creative approach have a very high rate of success in getting them overturned and our clients’ visas approved.
Here’s how it works:
- Read it.
Sit down with your team and read through the entire RFE carefully. Look at the documentation and evidence that you are being asked to provide. Don’t panic, you won’t have to provide the virtually impossible amount of evidence in the virtually impossible amount of time the RFE states.
- Put it down and go back to the original H1B requirements.
This RFE will not tell you how to answer it. The second step is to put the RFE down and return to the initial H1B requirements. In looking at the original H1B requirements in light of the evidence and documentation being requested, you can get a sense of what underlying questions CIS is really trying to answer in requesting the evidence indicated. Answer those underlying questions and you won’t need to jump through the impossible amount of hoops the Nightmare seems to require. Remember, the candidate’s job must be a specialty occupation requiring a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent to perform. The candidate must hold that degree in the exact field of employ or its foreign equivalent. Your client’s employer must be economically viable and pay the H1B worker the prevailing wages for that job for a company of that size in that geographical location. The candidate and the employer must also have an employer-employee relationship in which the employer can hire, fire, promote, pay, supervise, and otherwise control the candidate’s work. Find out which of these requirements were not clearly met, and provide the evidence to fill in the gaps left open in the initial petition.
- Go to CCIFREE.COM for a free consultation on how to best proceed.
Visit us for a free consultation on your education situation, or the situation of your employee or client. Oftentimes, what was missing in the original petition was a credential evaluation – or the RIGHT credential evaluation. If you or your employee or client has a degree from outside of the United States, incomplete college, or a degree in a generalized field or field that does not exactly match the H1B job, a credential evaluation is needed so CIS can clearly see the value of the education. Oftentimes, a credential evaluation agency will write an accurate evaluation, but not take the nuances of the H1B visa into account. If you’re wondering why you, or your employee or client got an RFE even though you submitted a credential evaluation, this may be your situation. Did the agency ask about the job or visa? These are two essential components of writing the RIGHT credential evaluation for the H1B visa.
Are you staring down a Nightmare RFE? We can help. Simply go to ccifree.com and submit the candidate’s educational documents and a current, accurate resume and we will get back to you within 24 hours with a full pre-evaluation and analysis, and all of your options moving forward.
About the Author
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.
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 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.