It’s RFE season! With over one in every four H-1B petitions receiving an RFE in the past few years, there’s a good chance that one of those was sent to you, or your employee or client. While there are many problems associated with receiving an RFE – even more time, money and work invested in the petition, stress, a red flag that draws attention to the little details of your case, or your client or employee’s case that would have otherwise gone unnoticed – it is also far from the end of the world. It is also an opportunity to strengthen the case.
To successfully answer an RFE, you must sit down with your team and understand what documentation and evidence is being asked for, and what questions CIS is trying to answer with this evidence requested. Once you understand what questions CIS has that were left unanswered by the initial petition, you can take the next step to answering it. Providing the answer may not be so straightforward. In fact, many RFEs don’t actually have a solution in the wording. Talk to a credential evaluator with experience working with RFEs and difficult cases. They understand CIS trends, and what CIS is REALLY asking for when they request specific evidence which may or may not be possible or realistic for you to provide with the time and resources allotted.
Below are four common RFEs we have seen cross our desks more and more frequently in the past few years.
The H-1B visa is for foreign nationals coming to work in the United States with a bachelor’s degree or higher to work in a specialty occupation. No doubt, this is why we are seeing so many RFEs that deal precisely with these factors. Let’s take a closer look.
What is the foreign equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree or higher? This has proven a difficult question because educational systems differ greatly across borders. The two most common RFEs we have seen resulting from this have to do with degrees that don’t call themselves degrees or do not have a direct equivalent specialization, and Indian three-year bachelor’s degrees. If you or your employee or client has an Indian three-year bachelor’s degree, do NOT submit a petition without a credential evaluation or you will get an RFE regarding this. Although the Indian three-year degree tends to have more classroom contact hours than a US four-year degree, CIS requires you or your employee or client account for the missing fourth year to have an acceptable equivalency for the H-1B visa. Three years of progressive work experience can be converted into one year of college credit to account for this year. Talk to a credential evaluation agency with the authority to do this, and the knowledge of international education to provide the evidence to fortify this equivalency.
The Indian three-year bachelor’s degree is not the only difficult degree. Degrees without a clear US equivalency are often met with RFEs. One example of this is the Chartered Accountancy Certificate from India. This is a degree that does not call itself a degree, and due to the educational steps required to attain their certificate, it is the functional equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in accounting. However, the US CPA and the Canadian Chartered Accountancy certificate are not functional equivalents to a US bachelor’s degree. You can see how this can get very confusing very quickly without a thorough evaluation that guides CIS through the functional steps of you or your employee or client’s degree.
Another education-related problem that triggers an RFE is when a specialty occupation does not have a major that fits it. In fact, the job that receives the most RFEs is Computer Systems Analyst. This is a very specific occupation that requires a very specific specialization – one that there are very few bachelor’s degrees in to draw an equivalency from. A credential evaluation that clearly spells out a functional equivalence – meaning what graduate programs, licenses or jobs having a particular degree or certification functions as a prerequisite for – of you or your employee or client’s degree is necessary for difficult degrees and difficult jobs. If you or your employee or client has a difficult degree, or a job that does not have a clear field specialization in terms of college majors, talk to a credential evaluator with an in depth understanding of international education. This kind of evaluator will know which degree to reference for the equivalency, and the steps in education required to earn a certificate in the country you or your employee or client completed their education in.
The two common job-related RFEs we see are the degree not matching the job, and CIS not having enough evidence to determine whether or not the job is a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation means that to perform the duties of the job at hand, the employee must possess specialized skills and knowledge unique to the position. This typically means that the position requires a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent. If CIS issues an RFE seeking insight into whether or not your or your employee or client’s job is a specialty occupation, you can provide the ad for the job showing the minimum requirements necessary to perform its duties. Include ads for similar jobs in similar companies in the industry to show that these are typical requirements for such positions. If this job does require a level of expertise unusual to what the same job in this industry typically requires, include an expert opinion letter about why this particular position for this particular country, or in the particular geographic location is unique.
If the RFE arrived because your job or your employee or client’s job was not an exact match for the degree, this is also the result of the job being a specialty occupation. While most employers will hire employees with degrees in fields related to their job, in the past seven or so years CIS has made an approval trend shift and stopped approving these visas. CIS now requires the degree to be an exact match to the job to ensure that the employee has learned the specialized skills and knowledge required for their H-1B job. However, employers understand that skills and expertise can be learned through related degrees, classes taken in the field even if that was not the central major of the degree, and through hands-on work experience. This can be translated in CIS approval standards through a credential evaluation in which the evaluator takes into account the course content of your degree or your employee or client’s degree as well as years of progressive work experience in the field. Courses in the specialization of your job or your employee or client’s job can be evaluated to count towards a degree equivalency in that field, as well as progressive work experience. Three years of work experience in which you or your employee or client took on more skilled work and responsibilities as the job progressed can be converted into the equivalency of one year of college credit in that field. If you receive this RFE, consult with a credential evaluator about your education or your employee or client’s education and work experience to see what can be done.
About the Author
Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director at TheDegreePeople.com, a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a free analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.
This article was written by Rebecca Little