H1B filing season is over. That means now it is RFE season. Over one in four H1B petitions receive and RFE, which is a drastic increase from just less than ten years ago, but not a new trend for the past few years. The number of H1B petitions filed has skyrocketed while the number of annual visas available has remained the same. At the same time, CIS trends regarding education for this visa have become much more strict. If your client has received an RFE, don’t panic. This is an opportunity to strengthen your client’s case.
The first step is to understand what documentation the RFE is asking you and your client to provide, and the second step is to understand the questions CIS is seeking to answer in requesting this particular evidence. Below are four common RFEs you need to know about because it is likely the RFE your client received is one of them.
If it is not clear to CIS that your client’s job is a specialty occupation – one that requires a minimum of US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent – this is the kind of RFE that will be issued. To answer this RFE, you must prove that your client’s job requires specialized skills and knowledge to perform that only comes once a certain level of education and experience is met. How can you do this? CIS will typically ask for the ad for your client’s job that indicates the minimum requirements necessary to perform. Include ads for similar jobs in similar industries to show that this level of education is necessary for this kind of job in this kind of industry and that your client’s job was not tailored to meet the visa requirements of your client. If this particular job DOES require an unusual level of expertise due to the nature of the company, provide an expert opinion letter and documentation showing why this job in particular requires an advanced degree.
In the past, CIS has approved visas for beneficiaries who had degrees in fields relating to but not precisely matching their job titles. In fact, employers regularly hire workers with degrees in related fields because the specialized knowledge and skill set required for the job are taught in certain related fields. However, CIS trends regarding this have changed in the past six or seven years, and now we are seeing RFEs for petitions that would have been approved before. Another reason your client may have received this kind of RFE is that they hold a generalized degree. CIS requirements state that a generalized degree without experience in the field is insufficient for H1B visa approval. If your client is in this situation, a credential evaluator can take a close look at the course content of your client’s education and convert classroom contact hours in the field into college credit that count towards a specialized major in the correct field. CIS will also accept years of progressive work experience in the field counted towards a major in the field. An authorized credential evaluator can convert three years of progressive work experience – meaning your client took on more and more responsibility as time progressed on the job – to one year of college credit in the field. These conversions will fill in the gap between your client’s education and the H1B job that trigger this kind of RFE.
One of the most common triggers for H1B RFEs is a client who has an Indian three-year bachelor’s degree. While these degrees tend to have more classroom contact hours than US four-year bachelor’s degrees, CIS requires the missing fourth year to be accounted for in order to accept the equivalency to a US four-year bachelor’s degree. If your client is in this situation, talk to a credential evaluator about your client’s education and work experience. Three years of progressive work experience can be converted into one year of college credit in the field to account for the missing fourth year. If your client has a three-year bachelor’s degree, NEVER file without this kind of credential evaluation. It will almost ALWAYS receive an RFE without one.
Some degrees do not have a clear US equivalency, especially degrees that do not call themselves degrees. For example, the Chartered Accountancy Certificate from India can actually be evaluated to be the equivalency of a US bachelor’s degree in accounting because the steps in education require post-secondary equivalencies. At the same time, the US CPA and the Canadian Chartered Accountancy certificate are not bachelor degree equivalencies. This is confusing and needs extreme clarification when presented to CIS. For this reason, degrees such as this one are often met with RFEs. Sometimes, specialty occupations simply do not have degrees that clearly fit their field, such as Computer Systems Analyst. So many RFEs have been issued for H1B candidates with this job because it is unclear what degree fits this very specialized, very specific occupation. If your 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 your client completed their education in.
If your client receives an RFE for an education or occupation-related situation, talk to a credential evaluator with extensive experience working with difficult cases, RFEs, NOIDs, and Denials. As evaluators who see these kinds of cases day in and day out, we understand what triggers them, what questions CIS seeks to answer in issuing them, and how to answer them. We do not charge to review your case before you file or if you get an RFE or Denial. As an evaluation agency with international education experts on staff, we have a clear understanding of CIS trends as well as being aware of creative ways to successfully address even the most complicated RFEs. For a review at no charge or obligation please go to www.cciFree.com and fill it out. Send the requested documents. I will personally get back to you within 24 hours.
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