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Degree Mill Empire Busted

Axact, a highly respected company based in Pakistan with over 2,000 employees was recently exposed as a prolific degree mill empire with 370 fake university and college websites. What is a degree mill? A degree mill sells fraudulent academic degrees and diplomas. People will buy fake degrees and the paperwork that goes along with it to falsely show that they earned a degree. Sometimes the fake degrees will come from schools that are completely fabricated. Other times, a real school’s name will be used but the degree and transcripts will be false.

Most people who patronize these sites purchase fraudulent degrees on purpose. However, sometimes people are duped by the websites of fake schools these mills use to churn out degrees. Websites for these schools are purposefully misleading, touting names like “Columbiana University” or “Barkley University.” People seeking international education or to study abroad are particularly at risk for falling victim to this fraud. On the same note, companies that tend to hire foreign workers are also at heightened risk of hiring people with fake degrees because there are so many schools in so many countries with different educational systems and customs.

The solution is NOT to just stop hiring foreign workers or to never live abroad for school. There are too many opportunities in the increasingly global job market to shut yourself and your business off from opportunity just to protect yourself from the possibility of falling victim to degree mills. Going to school abroad will give you an international perspective that will give you a competitive edge in the job market. You will learn new languages and cultures. Hiring foreign workers will allow your company to gain an international and multicultural perspective, and give you the ability to choose from the best and brightest potential hires from around the world.

So how can you protect yourself and your business from hiring people with false credentials?

First, make sure the college or university the alleged degree was earned at actually exists. If it does exist, double check to make sure the program the degree was earned in actually exists. If either the school or the program doesn’t exist, the degree can’t be real.

Second, take a detailed look at the timeframes expressed in your potential hire’s application. If they completed a bachelor’s degree BEFORE their high school degree, you may have a fake on your hands.

Building Your H-1B Visa Team

The road to getting your H-1B visa approved is a multi-step process involving three government bureaucracies, your employer and you. The reason for the many steps and different agencies is to ensure the information you submit is consistent. If you submit one petition with different information than another, or with information differing from a transcript, resume, or other required document, it raises a big red flag. For this reason, you and your employer need to work together and be very organized. Make copies of each of the petitions you submit and cross reference them before filing subsequent petitions. Triple-check your answers before filing to make sure all of the information matches. Even misspellings can be met with an RFE you will then have to deal with.

Your H-1B process is a team effort between you and your employer. You will not be a direct part of every step of the process, but it’s important for you to know what’s going on so you can do your part to get all of the documentation and evidence together on time.

After you are approved for hire for your specialty occupation, your employer must submit a Labor Conditions Application to the Department of Labor to prove they meet standard working conditions and can pay you prevailing wages and benefits. This application is for your safety. If they don’t meet labor standards, you don’t want to be working for them anyway. If they can’t pay you fairly for your work, you don’t want to be working for them anyway. If the company isn’t economically viable, you don’t want to be working for them anyway.

Once this application is approved, you and your employer must arrange and file an I-129 petition with the Department of Homeland Security. This petition must provide evidence to prove that your job is a specialty occupation requiring a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent or higher to carry out the tasks of the job. To do this, your employer has to show that industry standards require a specialized degree as a minimum qualification for your job. That means similar companies have the same requirements of employees filling similar positions. Along with this evidence, you also must prove you meet these requirements by submitting your transcripts and diplomas. If your specialized degree is from outside of the United States, you will have to take an extra step to prove the value of your education in terms of US standards by submitted a detailed evaluation of your credentials from an authorized credential evaluation agency. This evaluation will clearly show the academic content and value of your degree in terms of US education standards.

Once your I-129 is approved, you can start in on your H-1B petition with the Department of State. This final petition must clearly prove that you, your employer, and your job meet all of the H-1B visa requirements.

A detail-oriented team effort is required to get your visa approved. Work together with your employer, always keep the lines of communication open, and ALWAYS check over your petitions thoroughly before filing.