Today, around 25% of all H1B applications are met with RFE responses. Since immigration is a hot topic in the political sphere, statutes surrounding the details of what qualifies individuals to come to, live in, and especially to work in the United States are changing rapidly. This has led to confusion and misconceptions about what evidence and documentation needs to be provided, as well as what educational standards must be met for a visa to be approved.
One of the big reasons we are seeing RFEs is because petitioners aren’t providing enough evidence for USCIS evaluators to clearly judge the value of their degrees and how it pertains to their H1B jobs. Here are three main reasons education RFEs are triggered and how you can avoid them in the first place, or deal with them as they arise.
For the same reason you wouldn’t just pay for a pair of shoes in the United States with foreign currency, you shouldn’t just petition the USCIS for a visa with your foreign degree. Why not? Because its value is unclear. Just like it’s the responsibility of the individual to exchange your money at the border, it’s also their responsibility to translate the value of your education across educational system structures. Your client can do this by sending in an evaluation of their foreign credentials along with the initial H1B petition, or if they receive and RFE, order an evaluation. In these evaluations, international education experts will examine the academic content of your client’s educational experience and write an evaluation of its US value equivalence.
This kind of RFE is surprising many petitioners and their employers because it’s a new standard. Until recently – like most employers – the USCIS would approve applicants whose advanced degree was in a field related to their field of employ. In the past five or six years, these standards have tightened and now the USCIS requires petitioners’ degrees to exactly match their field of employ. If your client has the right degree in the wrong field, you still have options. A detailed credential evaluation can show that your client’s degree in, for example, computer sciences, is the functional equivalent of an engineering degree with a detailed examination of your course content, work experience, and whether or not your client’s degree in engineering would qualify him for admission into a computer sciences master’s degree program.
Say you foresaw the first two hang-ups and ordered a credential evaluation but were still met with an RFE. Sometimes, RFEs are issued because your client’s credentials were evaluated by an evaluation agency with questionable credentials of their own. It’s of the utmost importance the value of your client’s education be evaluated by international education experts with the knowledge and authority to accurately translate the meaning of the degree. Help your client choose carefully when selecting a credential evaluation agency. The agency should be affordable, easy to reach, and make you and your client feel comfortable when corresponding with them. They should be able to provide you references with grace and ease, have great reviews, and clearly be able to show their experience working with the kind of case you are working with.
The best way to address an RFE is to meet all of the evidence requires in the first place. But if your client does get an RFE, don’t panic! While this is an undesirable and beyond inconvenient situation, it is not an NOID, it is not a Denial, and it is nothing out of the ordinary. Take the time to read over your RFE carefully with your client, fully understand what is being asked of them, and help them submit all of the evidence requested in order on time.
Sheila Danzig is the director of Career Consulting International at www.TheDegreePeople.com, a foreign credential evaluation agency. They specialize in difficult cases and RFEs, Denials, NOIDs, 3-year degrees, etc. and offer a free review of all H1B, E2, and I140 education at http://www.ccifree.com/.
This article was written by Rebecca Little