It’s RFE season! Amongst the most common H-1B RFEs applicants receive this time of year have to do with education.
H-1B visa eligibility is dependent on be beneficiary having an advanced degree with specialized skills and knowledge necessary to perform the specialty occupation they were hired for. This means the beneficiary must have a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent in a specialization that exactly matches their job offer. Due to the specificity of these requirements, even if you, or your employee or client did submit a credential evaluation along with the initial petition, the evaluation may not meet CIS requirements for this particular visa.
Finding the right credential evaluator to answer an H-1B RFE is the difference between success and rejection. The evaluator you want to work with can be found with these five questions:
- Do they offer a free review of the case?
An evaluator cannot know what services must be provided – or whether or not your education, or your employee or client’s education and work experience will even work for the H-1B visa at all – without reviewing your employment history, or your employee or client’s employment history and educational documents. You received an education RFE. Before you answer it, make sure you CAN answer it successfully with what you, or your employee or client has to work with, and what needs to be done to write the equivalency that will accurately meet H-1B education standards. If an agency or evaluator asks for payment before looking into what needs to be done, look elsewhere.
- Are they easy to work with?
The evaluator who you want to work with is one who wants to work with you. Answering an RFE means you have to collect a lot of documentation – some not so easy to secure – in a short amount of time. Don’t waste your time working with an evaluator who doesn’t answer your calls, your text, your emails, or your questions to your satisfaction. Being easy to work with also means they are affordable and offer rush delivery options. When it comes to credential evaluation agencies, you don’t “get what you pay for.” The best ones tend to be inexpensive.
- Did they ask about the visa?
A common cause of an education RFE is that the evaluator wrote the right evaluation for the wrong visa. Many evaluation agencies will write a standard evaluation of your credentials, or your employee or client’s credentials without regard for the particular, unique educational requirements for the H-1B visa. Educational requirements, as well as approval trends and standards surrounding what education and work experience can be combined to write an equivalency vary from visa to visa. For example, an H-1B beneficiary may combine work experience and college credit to write an acceptable equivalency to a US bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, an EB2 beneficiary who tries to do the same thing will fail because for that particular visa the bachelor’s degree must be a single source. The evaluation must lend itself to the visa in question to be successful.
- Did they ask about the job offer?
Just like the particular visa requirements, the evaluation must also lend itself to the client’s job offer. In the past, CIS has accepted petitions in which the beneficiary holds a degree in a field related to the job offer. This is not the case anymore. Now CIS requires beneficiaries to have a degree in their exact field of employ. This is because H-1B visas are for beneficiaries working specialized occupations, with knowledge and skills specialized to their field. While an employer will look at a candidate’s education and work experience and see that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to work their job, if the degree is not in the field, CIS will require more evidence. If your credential evaluator doesn’t ask about your job, or your employee or client’s job, he or she does not understand this and you need to look elsewhere. If your degree, or your employee or client’s degree is in a mismatched field, a credential evaluator with the authority to convert progressive work experience in the field into college credit in that specialization is exactly who you need to be working with.
- Do the often work with RFEs, Denials, and NOIDs?
The credential evaluator you want is one who does not shy away from difficult cases. You, or your employee or client received an RFE, so you want to work with an evaluation agency with extensive experience answering them. It’s important to keep in mind that the roadmap to answering the RFE is NOT IN THE RFE ITSELF. Especially with RFEs like the Nightmare – which is virtually impossible to answer if you follow its instructions – guidance from those who know the terrain and can navigate it successfully is essential to success. Evaluators that work with these kinds of cases know what CIS is looking for in the documentation they request, know what triggers and RFE, and what works and what does not in answering it. These evaluators follow CIS approval trends, which change from year to year.
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.
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 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.