USCIS visa approval trends change with every year. When it comes to the H-1B visa, many of these trends center around education. The H-1B visa is for highly skilled workers coming to the United States to work specialty occupations. CIS defines a specialty occupation as one that requires a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent to perform because the skills and knowledge necessary are specialized to the occupation and field. For this reason, education RFEs inquiring into details about candidates’ credentials are always common for this particular visa. Below are five common education RFEs you need to know about.
While this RFE is primarily related to the nature of the job, it is also an EDUCATION related RFE. The question is about what level of education is needed to meet the MINIMUM qualifications to perform this job. To prove that your job, or your employee or client’s job meets CIS requirements for being a “specialty occupation,” provide the ad for the job that states it minimum requirements. You should also provide ads for similar jobs in the same industry to show that it is a general requirement for employees holding this position to have a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent. If your job, or your employee or client’s job has specialized requirements unique to the company or organization, provide an expert opinion letter stating why specialized knowledge and skills are needed for your particular job, or your employee or client’s particular job but not in similar jobs in the same industry. Remember, when in doubt, go back to the original H-1B requirements and work from there.
Do your or does your employee or client have a US bachelor’s degree? This might not be enough. CIS requires H-1B visa holders to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in the major that exactly matches their field of employment. In the not-too-distant past, CIS would approve visas of candidates with degrees in related fields, but now these same petitions are met with RFEs at best. Since specialty occupations require specialized knowledge unique to the field, candidates with related majors or generalized degrees are not making the CIS educational cut. However, employers don’t just take on new hires without the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job. If you or your employee or client has the right skills and knowledge through classes outside of their major, as well as direct work experience in the field, you need to find a credential evaluator with the authority to convert years of work experience in the field into college credit that count towards the correct major specialization.
An unfortunately common RFE arrives when a candidate has a three-year bachelor’s degree, particularly one from India. While the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree tends to have at least the same number of classroom contact hours as the four-year US bachelor’s degree, CIS still requires candidates to account for that missing fourth year. Simply submitting a three-year transcript without an evaluation or attempting to rely on the academic content vs. academic duration requirement will almost certainly trigger an RFE. Instead, talk with a credential evaluator with the authority to convert years of work experience into college credit to account for the missing fourth year.
Some advanced degrees do not have a clear US equivalency. For example, the job that gets the most RFE’s is Computer Systems Analysis. This is because this degree is EXTREMELY rare, and with current educational trends candidates must hold a degree in that very rare specialization to meet CIS trends. Another example of this is the Indian Chartered Accountancy certification. With the Canadian Chartered Accountancy certification and the US CPA are not bachelor’s degree equivalencies, the Indian Chartered Accountancy certification requires the same steps as a bachelor’s degree in accounting to qualify to take the test to become certified. This makes the Indian Chartered Accountancy the functional equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in accounting. When it comes to rare degrees or degrees without an intuitive equivalency, holding CIS’s hand and walking them through the steps of education to determine its functional equivalency is required to avoid an RFE in the first place or to answer the one that has arrived. This requires a detailed credential evaluation from a credential evaluation agency with specialized understanding of foreign and international education, as well as knowledge of where one can earn rare degree specializations in the United States.
Regulations surrounding educational equivalencies vary greatly from visa to visa. Some credential evaluation agencies offer cookie-cutter evaluations based on large databases without looking at each situation on a case-by-case basis. Everyone’s path through education is unique – from course content to work experience – AND every visa has different equivalency frameworks. For example, for the H-1B visa, CIS permits candidates to combine education from multiple sources, as well as years of progressive work experience to reach a US bachelor’s degree equivalency. This is not the case for the EB2 visa where the bachelor’s degree must be a single source. Therefore, it is common for candidates to end up with the right equivalency for the wrong visa. Before you hire a credential evaluator, make sure they specifically ask about your visa or your employee or client’s visa. Many credible evaluation agencies will write an accurate evaluation that does not meet CIS requirements for your visa or your employee or client’s visa. This does NOT mean your or your employee or client’s education and work experience cannot meet H-1B requirements. The evaluation must lend itself to the visa requirements, and client’s job offer. It must take into account the field of employ, the degree and specialization required, and the steps CIS allows for you, or your employee or client to get there.
When you receive an RFE, sit down with your team, read it over, and understand exactly what it is asking of you. The roadmap to your success, however, is NOT necessarily in the wording of the RFE. Your success lies within knowing CIS educational requirements for the visa, and in understanding CIS approval trends. The right credential evaluation for the right visa is your key to answering an education RFE.
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