Visa Approvals

Unique H-1B Issues that Face IT Consulting Firms this RFE Season


Recently a lawsuit was filed against USCIS by ITServe Alliance.  This is a organization of US IT service companies that had previously petitioned USCIS against new changes to H-1B adjudication rules.  The new rules state that for IT consulting companies that contract H-1B employees to work off-site to meet H-1B requirements, they had to prove the H-1B employee would have “Guaranteed specific and non-speculative work assignments” scheduled for the entire duration of their three-year H-1B visa.  This rule was applied to new employees seeking H-1B status for the first time, and for existing H-1B employees seeking visa renewal.

This new rule has taken a toll on IT consulting firms across the United States. Last fall at the end of FY2018, a study of the 30 top employers that sponsor H-1B employees found that while IT consulting firms saw 20-80% rates of H-1B Denials among their sponsors, non-consulting companies only saw a 1% Denial rate.  Consulting firms were answering RFEs and Denials well into the fiscal year the sponsored employee was hired for, cutting into business productivity and damaging relationships with customers because new hires could not start on time because they were still engulfed in a fight for their right to work.

While USCIS claims that this new rule is simply a reinterpretation of existing statutes, ITServe Alliance disagrees.  Regardless, USCIS is still the gatekeeper of you, or your employee or client’s visa status, and that means you must be prepared to prevent and answer the potential RFE or Denial that is likely to arrive this summer if you or your employee or client works for an IT consulting company.

Here is what you need to do to get this kind of RFE or Denial overturned:

1. Clearly show three years of guaranteed and non-speculative work for the H-1B employee.  This means providing a detailed itinerary of the employee’s next three years on the job bolstered by customer contracts and timelines.

2. Clearly show that the employer-employee relationship will be maintained even when the H-1B employee is working off-site.  This means providing a clear breakdown of the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the employee along with their means of reporting to the employer.  Clearly show avenues of control and accountability as you will need to prove that the employer maintains the ability to hire, fire, promote, and otherwise control the work the H-1B employee does throughout the duration of the H-1B visa, regardless of which site they are working at.

3. Include an expert opinion letter that analyzes, ties together, and lends credibility to the evidence and documentation you provide.  This expert must have extensive experience WORKING IN the IT consulting field, and not simply be an IT instructor or professor.  At TheDegreePeople.com, we have the right experts on hand 24/7 to write the opinion letter you or your employee or client needs to serve a strong case for approval.

4. Make sure all of your bases are covered.  When USCIS finds a red flag in a petition, they look deeper, and they usually find more aspects of a case to take issue with.  Education issues, wage level issues, and specialty occupation issues are common features of the first or second round of RFEs. 

Always take the opportunity to prevent a second round of RFEs when answering the first.  For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com/.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

What to Expect and When to Expect it this H-1B Adjudication Season

USCIS has completed selecting the 85,000 H-1B petitions to be adjudicated for approval for cap-subject petitions for FY 2020.


Those selected that filed for premium processing may begin receiving notice this week as to their approval status with the anticipated date of completion set at June 4th. Case adjudication for those who did not file under premium processing will begin early to mid-June and often takes months. Last year, adjudication for FY 2019 – which began October 1st, 2018 – extended into the 2019 calendar year.


If you are unsure of whether or not your case was selected, check the account activity on the account of the check written for the H-1B processing fee. If it has been cashed, your case was selected in the lottery.


When notice arrives of the status of the case, do not be alarmed if you receive an RFE or Denial. This is NOT the end of the road. Over the past few years the prevalence of H-1B RFEs spiked, especially for beneficiaries working entry-level positions, working as computer programmers, and working at wage level one. This year, USCIS adjudicators have been given the authority and encouragement to deny petitions outright without first issuing an RFE. This may lead to a spike in Denials instead of RFEs. Either way, they are possible to overturn and get the visa approved in time to get to work for FY 2020.


If you expect an RFE or Denial is coming this H-1B adjudication season, you can better prepare to defend your case, or your employee or client’s case. You will need a detailed credential evaluation that takes the job, the visa, USCIS approval trends, and any issues found in the case into consideration. You will also need documentation that details the demands, duties, tasks, and responsibilities of the job, and a detailed breakdown of employer and industry hiring practices with regards to minimum qualifications for the position in question. Finally, you will need an expert who works IN THE FIELD rather than just teaches it to write an opinion letter that ties the evidence you have provided together. First and foremost, however, you will need to take an honest look at your case, or your employee or client’s case and identify what might attract scrutiny by USCIS that could result in a visa Denial.


At TheDegreePeople.com, we work with RFEs and Denials every year. We understand what triggers them and we know how to successfully respond to them. For a free review of your case, or your employee or client’s case visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

Common H-1B Issues to Anticipate this Adjudication Season

In the next few months, H-1B petitioners and beneficiaries will find out if their petitions have been selected in the lottery, and accepted for approval.

We predict this year will follow the trend of the previous few years with an increase in H-1B issues that block beneficiaries from outright approval. What is unclear is whether beneficiaries will be receiving RFEs or Denials in response to these issues. Last year, adjudicators were given the authority and encouragement to deny petitions outright without offering an RFE as an opportunity to respond questionable cases. This was announced in a USCIS memorandum along with several other changes to the H-1B selection and adjudication process, some of which went into effect this lottery season, and some of which did not.

One thing is certain: preparation is key. It is FAR from impossible to overturn a Denial. You just need to stay one step ahead of the game. That means understanding what about your case may raise red flags, and that means going back to the basic H-1B eligibility requirements and taking an honest look at where your case may fall short.

Employer-Employee Relationship

Small businesses often run into trouble here if they cannot clearly show in the LCA that they can afford to pay the prevailing wage to the H-1B worker and maintain economic viability. Another big issue is when the beneficiary is an owner, founder or co-founder, or sole proprietor of the business. H-1B workers must have their work, wage, and employment status controlled by an employer to meet this requirement and beneficiaries cannot self-petition for this visa. If this is the situation, there must be a CEO or board of directors different from the H-1B worker that fills this role to prove an employer-employee relationship exists in the arrangement.

Wage Level

The H-1B employee must make the prevailing wages for the position. Factors that influence the prevailing wage include industry standards, company size, geographic location, and more. Workers making level one wages often run into issues. In a response to an RFE or Denial, you must articulate all of the factors that went in to setting the wage level and an expert opinion letter that assures the prevailing wage requirement has been met.

Specialty Occupation

For the last two H-1B seasons, this RFE has spiked in prevalence and is often linked with wage level issues. If you, or your employee or client’s job sometimes requires a US bachelor’s degree or higher, but not always, or if this job is particularly specialized, you need to take extra steps to meet this requirement. That means providing a detailed breakdown of the duties and tasks of the job, as well as the advanced knowledge, skills, and understanding that must be applied every day in this position. You will also need to show that a US bachelor’s degree or higher is a typical minimum requirement for this job as either an industry standard, or as a company standard as evidenced in the ad for the job and in past hiring practices. An expert opinion letter must also be included to lend validity to and analysis of the documentation provided by your team.

Educational Requirements

H-1B requires the beneficiary have a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent. Foreign degrees that are not accompanied by the right credential evaluation raise red flags, especially the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree. The right credential evaluation takes the H-1B job into consideration and makes the necessary work experience conversions and detailed course breakdowns necessary to fill in any gaps between the job and the degree as the degree must be in the exact field of the H-1B job to address the demands of a specialty occupation. Incomplete college or no college experience must be compensated for with work experience conversion that must be written by a professor with the authority to convert work experience into college credit.

Any situation out of the ordinary or that is not completely straightforward can raise a red flag, which in turn triggers and RFE or Denial. At TheDegreePeople.com we work with RFE and Denial cases every year. We know what to look for and we know how to successfully address it. For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

What Makes an H-1B Job a Specialty Occupation?

Over the past few years, H-1B cap-subject petitions have received record-breaking rates of RFEs for Specialty Occupation.  Many of these RFEs struck occupations that had never been called into question before.

USCIS visa approval trends change every year, and often the RFEs issued are virtually unanswerable by their own guidelines.  At TheDegreePeople.com we always advise our clients facing difficult RFEs to go back to the basics: what are the original H-1B requirements?  Specifically for the Specialty Occupation RFE, the central question is what makes a job a Specialty Occupation?  Answer this question and you’ve answered the issue.

USCIS determines that a job does meet specialty occupation requirements if it meets one of these four standards:

  1. This position normally requires a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher to be hired.
  2. This position in the specific industry or for this specific employer requires a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher because of the unique complexity of this position.
  3. A bachelor’s degree or higher minimum requirement for this position is a standard hiring practice for this specific employer.
  4. This specific position in question is uniquely specialized to the extent that only a candidate with a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher has the skills and knowledge necessary to performing the duties and responsibilities of the position.

The decision is based on the entry for the position in the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the opinions of experts, and on the details and documentation provided about the duties and responsibilities of the job, past hiring practices for the position, and industry standards when it comes to educational and experiential background for the position in question.

Read the Occupational Outlook Handbook for your H-1B position, or your employee or client’s H-1B position to understand which avenue is most appropriate to take for proving specialization.  Then, it’s your job to find the right expert to lend their opinion in a letter to fortify your case.  This expert works in the field of the specialty occupation, which means the expert cannot just be a professor who TEACHES the field but must have extensive field experience.  Then you must provide the expert and USCIS a detailed job description that emphasizes theoretical and practical application of specialized skills and knowledge on the job.  Provide proof of industry standard through showing USCIS ads for the same position for a different company in the industry, and provide documentation of past hiring practices.

At TheDegreePeople.com, we have experts in every specialization on hand to write the expert opinion letter you need, or your employee or client needs to get that H-1B visa approved.  They all have extensive experience and prestige in their field.  For a free review of your case, visit HERE.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

Case Study: Specialty Occupation RFE Overturned with Some Expert Opinion Letters but not Others

The Specialty Occupation RFE has become the new nightmare
facing H-1B beneficiaries, their sponsors, and their lawyers.  They can be answered successfully with the
inclusion of an expert opinion letter, but this does not always work.

There are two reasons why:

1. The letter is
lacking in detail.  
USCIS requires a
very detailed letter with a breakdown of the daily duties and responsibilities
of the job and how specialized knowledge and skills are required to carry them
out.  They need to understand this position
and its educational requirements within the broader context of the industry,
and they need to know all of the factors that went into setting the wage
level.  A detailed expert opinion letter
can only accomplish this if you provide said expert with as many details as
possible.  USCIS needs to know absolutely
everything.

2. The expert lacks
field experience.  
Every expert we
work with at CCI TheDegreePeople.com has extensive experience working in their
field of expertise.  While some of our
experts are professors in that field, they also work directly in the
field.  Teaching about the field is not
good enough for USCIS to consider someone an expert – they must WORK IN THE
FIELD beyond simply teaching it, and have extensive field experience and
respect within the field of specialization. 
When the right expert writes a detailed letter, the Specialty Occupation
RFE is overturned and the visa is approved. 
When the WRONG expert writes it, even if the letter is detailed, USCIS
denies the visa.

Make sure you work with the RIGHT expert this RFE season.  We have the right kind of experts on hand in every field ready to help you get that RFE overturned.  Your job is to provide the details, and their job is to lend their authority to strengthen your case and get that RFE overturned.  Get a free review of your case. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Survival Guide for the FY2020 Lottery

Next week, USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions on Monday April 1st.  We suspect that this year there will be more than enough petitions to fill the 65,000 general H-1B cap-subject visas and the additional 20,000 H-1B visas for advanced degrees, resulting in a lottery.

Getting selected in the lottery is just the first step of the process.  Last year, the rate of RFEs for H-1B petitions jumped 45% from the year before, and of the petitions that received an RFE only 60% ended up being approved.

The two most common RFE issues that blocked beneficiaries from getting their visas approved outright – and in some cases entirely – were specialty occupation and wage level.  These two issues often came tied together as USCIS made the assumption that occupations set at level one wages were entry level, and many of these assumed positions did not ALWAYS require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher for entry not the position.  For this reason, USCIS stated that the beneficiary either was not being paid the prevailing wage for the specialty occupation, or the job did not meet specialty occupation requirements.

This year, USCIS adjudicators have the authority to deny petitions outright without first issuing an RFE to give beneficiaries the chance to strengthen their case.  That means you have to get it right the first time. 

Here’s how:

When the petition is filed, be sure to include a detailed job description that clearly shows the complex nature of the job, including examples of duties in which theoretical or practical application of specialized knowledge must be applied.  You need to provide sufficient documentation that the job is complex in nature, and that the position requires a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent to perform. This can be done by providing the ad for the job along with ads for the same position in different companies within the industry, documentation of past employer hiring practices to show that the position always requires this educational minimum qualification, and an expert opinion letter from a professional with extensive experience WORKING IN THE FIELD of the H-1B job that explains why this position meet specialty occupation requirements, and why the wage level is appropriate.

Petitions are rejected when there is not sufficient evidence to show that the job, the employer, the beneficiary, and the contract all meet H-1B requirements.

USCIS has assured H-1B hopefuls and their sponsors that a petition will not be denied simply because the wages are set at level one.  Don’t take chances.  Make sure to give USCIS a detailed breakdown of all of the factors that went into setting the wage level backed up with an expert opinion letter.

Remember, the right expert to write the opinion letter USCIS will accept – because expert opinion letters are often rejected – is someone who has extensive experience working in the field.  A professor in the field is not sufficient; the expert must have actual working experience in the field rather than just teaching it for the opinion to have weight.  At CCI TheDegreePeople.com we vet our experts to make sure they have the right credentials and work experience.  We have an over 90% approval rate for specialty occupation and wage level RFEs.  The more information you can provide your expert about the H-1B job the better the letter will be and the higher chance that you, or your employee or client will have of H-1B visa approval.

For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less and have rush delivery options for the last minute.

]]>

What is Different about the FY2020 H-1B Lottery Beginning April 1st?

This year, there have been some changes made to the H-1B lottery process and to approval adjudication. 

As in years previous, 65,000 H-1B visas are available for beneficiaries with US Bachelor degrees or higher or their equivalent, and 20,000 H-1B visas are allotted for beneficiaries with advanced degrees of US Master degree or higher.  What is different about this year is that in previous years the 20,000 advanced degree visas are selected in the first lottery, and then the visas left over are thrown in with the second general lottery for the remaining 65,000 visas.  This year, the general lottery will happen first.  Then, the remaining petitions for beneficiaries with advanced degrees will enter into the lottery for the additional 20,000 visas.  This is good news for advanced degree holders.

The second difference is that this year USCIS adjudicators have the authority to deny H-1B visas outright without first issuing an RFE to give petitioners a chance to defend and strengthen their cases. 

It is estimated that there will be about 150,000 H-1B visa petitions submitted the first week of April for cap-subject H-1B visas for FY2020.  Last year, the approval rate for H-1B candidates selected in the lottery was 60%, a rate that has been declining since 2016.  Along with this, the approval rate for cases that received an RFE dropped from 83.2% in 2015 to just 62.3% in 2018 with a massive spike in the overall rate of RFE responses from USCIS.

At CCI TheDegreePeople.com, over 90% of our clients who came to us with H-1B RFEs succeeded in getting their RFEs overturned and their visas approved.  We work with difficult cases every year, and this year we urge you to anticipate any RFEs you, or your client or employee’s case is likely to run into BEFORE you file.  This means additional documentation, expert opinion letters from the RIGHT kind of expert, and credential evaluations must be submitted with the initial filing. 

For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com/.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.

]]>

H1B 2019 Post-Memorandum: Who Caused that RFE?

Sometimes it’s no one’s fault, and sometimes it’s fault of USCIS.When working with any bureaucratic process, there is the possibility of error.  When working with USCIS, there is the understanding that processing errors occur, and that their approval trends are volatile and can be unpredictable.  It can be difficult to anticipate which parts of the law they will interpret which way from year to year.  If approval issues arise due to bureaucratic or human error, there will likely be a way to address it.  A Denial is not the end of the road, it is just harder to overturn than an RFE.  If it is no one’s fault, or if USCIS pulls a fast one on us again, we can find a way to work around it.Sometimes the lawyer caused the RFE.Occasionally, an immigration attorney will file the wrong document, or file the petition wrong.  While this is rare, it can cost an outright approval.  To prevent this, legal assistants are encouraged to check in with TheDegreePeople.com to make sure that they have all of the necessary immigration forms, labor forms, and documentation necessary to file everything on time, in the right order, and filled out appropriately.Sometimes the beneficiary caused the RFE.It is not uncommon for a beneficiary to misunderstand the US academic equivalency of their education.  Sometimes a bachelor’s degree in one country is not a bachelor’s degree in the United States because even though the words translate the educational value does not.  Some certifications and professional licenses in some countries are the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in that field, while the US license or certification is not.  Sometimes a beneficiary will have a degree from an unaccredited academic institution, or even from a degree mill.  It is important for beneficiaries to understand their education, and what it means in terms of US value, and to make sure that their school is accredited.  If the beneficiary does not have the necessary education, it is their responsibility to make sure they have enough education and work experience to make up the equivalency.Sometimes it’s the employer or the job that caused the RFE.If the Labor Condition Application (LCA) is filled out incorrectly or misfiled, if there are discrepancies between the job description and the entry on the LCA, if USCIS feels that the wage level was set incorrectly or that the job does not meet specialty occupation requirements, issues will likely arise in the approval process.  It is recommended that all petitions now include an expert opinion letter clarifying that the job meets H1B specialty occupation requirements and explaining why the wage level is set as it is to meet H1B requirements.Before you file, let us review your case to make sure all your bases are covered.  It is more important this year than ever before to get it right the first time, because you may not get a second chance.  For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/.  We will get back to you in 48 hours or less. ]]>

Scroll to Top