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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.