Visa Approvals

4 Common H-1B RFEs You Need to Know About

  • Degree and Job Don’t Match
  • Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree
  • Job is Not Clearly a Specialty Occupation
  • Degree Has a Difficult Equivalency
  • 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.Education-Related RFEsWhat 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.Job-Related RFEsThe 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 AuthorSheila DanzigSheila 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.  ]]>

    Avoid an EB2 RFE Before You Have to Respond to One

    Why you do NOT want that RFEAside from taking more time and money to address an RFE, an RFE is also a big red flag on the petition. When you get an RFE for a glaring error, it draws attention to the small mistakes that would have flown under the radar, and the more holes in your petition CIS finds, the more complicated your RFE will be to respond to.If you receive an RFE, don’t panic! Receiving an RFE can be transformed into an opportunity to strengthen your case, or the case of your client or employee. However, the best way to address an RFE is to avoid it in the first place.An RFE is by no means a rare occurrence. In fact, we see more and more RFEs every single year. At TheDegreePeople, we help clients with education RFEs, which are extremely common for the EB2 classification because CIS trends change with regards to educational requirements, especially from the prevalence of work visas in STEM industry companies, and also because equivalency requirements differ from other work visas.The first mistake petitioner commonly make is that the degree must be an EXACT match for the job offer on the PERM. In most cases, employers will hire employees with degrees in related fields because there is enough educational overlap that they can be sure the employee has the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the duties of their job. This is especially the case when the employee has years of work experience in the field alongside a degree in a related field. However, CIS disagrees. If the degree is not an exact match for the job offer on the PERM, you, or your employee or client will receive an RFE. To address this issue, you or your employee or client needs to have their education and work experience reviewed to write the equivalency of the necessary degree in the appropriate field, and submit that to CIS.The second mistake – which can also be made with regards to the equivalency in the first mistake – is that the petitioner’s bachelor’s degree must be a SINGLE source. This is particularly a problem when a petitioner needs a credential evaluation to write the equivalency for a degree in the exact field of employ, or if the petitioner holds a degree from a country with a three-year bachelor’s degree track. Other visas allow for work experience and different education sources to be combined to write the equivalency to the appropriate bachelor’s degree. This is not the case with EB2. The way we handle this situation is to convert years of progressive work experience into a bachelor’s degree equivalency or a master’s degree equivalency, and then cite federal case law, graduate school admissions requirements for programs in the client’s field, and provide other necessary documentation to fortify this equivalency.If you, or your employee or client receives an EB2 RFE, talk to a credential evaluation agency with extensive experience working with specific visas, and international education experts on hand. If you call and the agency does not ask about the particular job or visa, look elsewhere. While they may be able to write an accurate equivalency, they will not be able to write the accurate equivalency that you or your employee or client needs to fulfill the unique requirements of the EB2 visa.If you have yet to file, make sure your petition, or your employee or client’s petition does not fall into one of these common EB2 education traps. Don’t give CIS an excuse to issue an RFE. Get it right the first time.About the AuthorSheila DanzigSheila 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. ]]>

    Don’t Fix H-1B RFEs – Avoid Them!

    Why You Don’t Want that RFEAn RFE is a tool that CIS uses to make a decision about whether or not a candidate’s visa should be approved. While receiving an RFE is an opportunity to strengthen your case, or your client or employee’s case – a second chance at providing all of the requested evidence CIS needs to approve the visa – it is also a big red flag. A glaring omission or error on the petition triggers CIS to take a closer look at it and may very well uncover small errors and inconsistencies that would have otherwise flown under the radar that you will now need to address. With so many petitions and so few visas available, CIS needs its red flags for short cuts.While an RFE can be used to your advantage to build a stronger case for your visa, or your client or employee’s visa being approved, the roadmap to answering the RFE is not always so straightforward. In many cases, the RFE will not directly tell you how to answer it in its wording. One daunting example of this is the notorious Nightmare RFE that is virtually impossible to answer in the time allotted to answer it, and for a reasonable price. To address an RFE, sit down with your team – the lawyer, the candidate, the employer, and the evaluator – to see what is being asked and of whom, and what CIS really needs to know by the questions they are asking. If what they are asking for in the RFE is virtually impossible to provide, you may be able to answer their underlying questions with documentation and evidence that it is possible for you to provide.Of course, the best option is to avoid an RFE in the first place. We’re coming up on autumn, which means it’s time to start preparing for the FY2018 H-1B season. Here are five measure you can take from the get-go to avoid an RFE.

    1. Show very clearly that your degree, or your client or employee’s degree is a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent. If the degree was earned outside of the United States, you will need to have your education, or your client or employee’s education evaluated by an authorized credential evaluation agency. If the bachelor’s degree is a three-year degree – ESPECIALLY if it is an Indian three-year bachelor’s degree – you need to find an agency with the authority and international education expertise to convert years of work experience into college credit to account for the missing fourth year.
    1. Check the answers on every document and form to make sure they are consistent. Inconsistent answers – even so much as a misspelling or the wrong graduation date – can trigger an RFE.
    1. The degree must be specialized. This means that if you, or your client or employee has a liberal arts degree, or a generalized degree, CIS will not approve the visa. H-1B requirements state that an H-1B candidate must have specialized skills and knowledge necessary to perform the duties of the specialty occupation to meet the visa requirements. Without a specialized degree, CIS cannot clearly see that you, or your employee or client meet these requirements. If this is the situation you face, talk with a credential evaluator about the course content of you or your client or employee’s college career and work experience. An authorized evaluator can convert classroom contact hours in a specialized field into college credit, and also convert years of progressive work experience into college credit that can count towards you or your client or employee’s specialized degree.
    1. The degree must be an EXACT fit for the job offer. Employers often hire candidates with a degree in a related field and work experience in the exact field or even a related field because the specialized skills and knowledge base learned through work and education meet the requirements of the job. When these qualified candidates go to file their visas, they receive RFEs. The solution? If your degree, or your client or employee’s degree is not an exact match for the job offer, you need a credential evaluation that evaluates course content and work experience, and makes the necessary conversions to count towards the correct degree equivalency with a major in the field of the specialty occupation.
    1. Clearly show that the H-1B job is a specialty occupation that requires a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent to carry out the duties of the job. You can do this by providing the ad for the job, documentation for similar jobs for similar companies, or with an expert opinion letter.
    The best way to address an RFE is to avoid it. Don’t give CIS an excuse to pick apart your petition, or your client or employee’s petition. Tell them everything they need to know to make an informed decision about the petition the first time. We are seeing that if credential evaluations are submitted with the initial H-1B filing, a simple evaluation seems to be enough for CIS to approve the petition. However, with an RFE, a more complicated – and expensive – credential evaluation requiring more evidence, documentation, and even an expert opinion letter is almost always required.Remember, an RFE is a big red flag waving high over the petition. Don’t wait for the opportunity to overturn an RFE to build a strong, solid case.About the AuthorSheila DanzigSheila 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. ]]>

    What’s the Scariest H1-B RFE Out There? The Kitchen Sink!

  • Evaluation of Training and/or Experience by a College Official: Submit an evaluation form from an official who has authority to grant college-level credit for training and/or experience in the specialty of a Graphic Designer.  The evaluation must be from an accredited college or university that has a program for granting such credit in the field of study based on an individual’s training and/or work experience.
  •  
    • Note: College or university professors writing evaluations as consultants on behalf of private educational credentials evaluation firms with not satisfy this requirement as regulations limit the scope of their evaluation only to foreign education.
     
    • The evaluation by an official, preferably the Registrar of a college or university must be on behalf (on the letterhead) of the college or university where they are employed and have authority to grant college credit for training and/or experience.  A private educational credentials evaluation service may not evaluate an alien’s work experience or training; because these regulations limit the scope of educational credential evaluators to evaluating only foreign education.
     
    • Professors writing evaluations as consultants may, in the alternative, be considered as recognized authorities if they can clearly establish their qualifications as experts; provide specific instances where past opinions have been accepted as authoritative and by whom; clearly show how conclusions were reached; and show the basis for the conclusions with copies or citations of any research material used.
     
    • This evaluation should describe the material evaluated and establish that the areas of experience are related to the specialty.  Resumes or Curriculum Vitae alone are usually insufficient to satisfy this requirement.  Also, provide a letter from the Registrar of the institution (on the institution’s letterhead) to establish that the particular evaluating official is authorized to grant college-level credit on behalf of their institution, and that the evaluator holds a bachelor’s degree in the field of study he or she is evaluating.  Further, provide written verification or other documents or records to clearly substantiate that the evaluator is actually employed by the claimed college or university. 
     
    • Provide copies of pertinent pages from the college or university catalog to show that it has a program for granting college-level credit based on training and/or experience.  Merely stating in a letter that the school has such a program is insufficient.  The program must be clearly substantiated.  Further, CLEP and PONSI equivalency exams or special credit programs do not satisfy this requirement because the regulation requires that the beneficiary produce the results of such exams or programs in order for them to qualify.  Also, training or experience derived from internship programs may not satisfy this requirement unless you can establish that the experience or training claimed was gained through enrollment in the particular college or university’s internship program.
     
    • Moreover, provide evidence to show the total amount of college credit the Registrar or evaluator may grant for training or experience as part of the program.  The evaluator may provide copies of the evaluation made by a school official, preferably the Registrar, which clearly shows how the alien met the college or university’s program requirements and how much possible college credit the alien may be granted for his or her training and experience.
     Trembling yet?This RFE is virtually impossible. We’re not sure what triggers it, and we’re not sure that CIS even has the right to ask this of anyone. Even if it were possible to gather every last bit of evidence and documentation this RFE asks of candidates, with the number of agencies and individuals you would have to go through, there is literally no way this could be done in time to answer the RFE. Not to mention the cost would be enormous.At TheDegreePeople, we see a handful of these RFEs every year and we know of NO ONE who can actually meet all of the demands in this RFE. We DO, however, know how to respond to it.Instead of looking at this RFE in terms of the documentation it asks for, we look at what CIS is really trying to determine with the demands they make. We answer the underlying questions backed up with evidence and documentation. With a slightly different approach and a new credential evaluation, roughly 95% of all of the Kitchen Sinks that come across our desks are approved.It’s a seeing the forest through the trees approach – take a step back and look at the big picture. Since we work with difficult cases and RFEs on a regular basis, and follow CIS approval trends very closely, we know what the forest looks like.If you, or your client or employee receives the Kitchen Sink, take a deep breath and a big step back. Don’t get thrown off course by getting caught up in the wording. Keep in mind what needs to be done to meet the original H-1B requirements and make the changes to the case necessary to meet these requirements. The answer to this RFE is not in the Kitchen Sink. Consult with people who have encountered the Kitchen Sink before and know how to navigate it.About the Author Sheila DanzigSheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.]]>

    Who is at Fault for Your RFE?

    Sometimes No One is to BlameIn many cases, this is exactly the situation. CIS visa approval trends change every year and it is practically impossible for everyone to keep up on them – even CIS. The best you can do is to work with a team that follows CIS trends as closely as possible and do your best. Working with a credential evaluation agency that specializes in RFEs and difficult cases is advised because they understand what works and what does not. This will not always prevent an RFE, but you’ll know you are in good hands in any case.Sometimes it’s The Candidate’s FaultThis is a hard but true fact. Oftentimes, a candidate will make a mistake, and if this is your situation, it’s time to eat some humble pie and move forward towards a solution. Candidates, did you make a mistake about the value of your degree, certificate, license or diploma? Did you provide poorly or even fraudulently translated documents? Did you provide poorly evaluated documents? Did you receive your degree from an unaccredited institution? Educational document errors and inconsistencies, as well as mistranslations can be picked up by a skilled credential evaluator, but sometimes that’s not the first agency you work with. Be honest with yourself and your team about your credentials, and find honest, well-trained translation and evaluation agencies to work with from the beginning. At the end of the day, candidates, your petition is your responsibility.Sometimes it’s The Attorney’s FaultAttorneys, did you file the petition incorrectly? Sometimes this happens. Find out what went wrong and what you need to do to fix it. At this point, it’s probably not worth it to fire the attorney unless a horrible mistake was made. Oftentimes, when the attorney is at fault it’s for the same reason that candidates may have been at fault: they worked with the wrong translation or evaluation agency and ended up submitting inaccurate documents. These problems can be addressed by working with credible translation and evaluation agencies. Just make sure you work with TWO SEPARATE agencies – one for translation and one for credential evaluation – as these are two highly specialized services that require very different and very specific sets of skills.Sometimes it’s CIS’s FaultIt’s no secret that CIS makes mistakes. Sometimes an RFE may be factually incorrect. Your petition, or your employee or client’s petition could be absolutely spotless, filed perfectly, and filed on time, and CIS will still issue an RFE. While these RFEs are frustrating, they are also easy fixes because you already have all of the documentation and information you need at your fingertips.Sometimes Your Evaluator – or the Evaluation itself – is at faultMaybe it was your evaluator’s error that triggered the RFE. Maybe it was the evaluation that your evaluator wrote but not your evaluator. This may sound confusing, but it’s actually a fairly simple differentiation. The candidate’s visa requires a very specific evaluation to write the equivalency to the US degree that you, your employee, or your client needs to meet H-1B visa requirements, and in the field that matches the H-1B job. If your degree, or your client or employee’s degree was earned outside of the United States, or with a major that is not an exact match to the job, you need an evaluation written that converts years of progressive work experience into college credit to fill in the gaps between the degree and the job, or the degree and the degree CIS requires you, or your client or employee to have.Not every evaluation agency can provide this. Some do not specialize in immigration and visa evaluations, and some don’t have the authority or cannot provide the evidence needed to back up a work experience conversion. Talk to potential credential evaluation agencies. They may be able to write an accurate evaluation, but it may be the wrong evaluation for the H-1B petition. If an agency does not ask about the job or the visa, look elsewhere. The agency you want is one that specializes in immigration and visa evaluations, and specializes in RFEs and difficult cases.An RFE is a chance to strengthen your case, or the case of your client or employee. Sit down with your team to find out who – if anyone – dropped the ball, who can solve the problem, and how to best proceed.About the AuthorSheila DanzigSheila 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. ]]>

    H1B RFE Season: How to Get Through Approved!

  • Easy to communicate with. They should answer when you call, respond to your texts and emails, and answer your questions with confidence.
    1. Follows CIS approval trends. The person you want writing your evaluation knows what CIS is looking for. CIS trends change, and an evaluation that worked last year may not work again this year. As in any job, the best professionals are the ones who keep on learning and changing with the industry.
    1. Works with RFEs and Difficult Cases regularly. You got an RFE. You want to work with someone who works with people in your situation and consistently achieves the outcome for others that you want for yourself.
    Don’t let RFE season get you down. You are not alone in this, and there are plenty of helpful professionals who are happy to consult with you on your case. Good luck!!About the AuthorSheila DanzigSheila 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. ]]>

    H-1B Lottery Brought Under the Freedom of Information Act

  • How does the electronic selection process work?
  • How does the process for rejecting or accepting a petition function?
  • How does CIS determine how many petitions to select for the lottery, and how does CIS determine when they have reached the limit for petition approval?
  • How does CIS track visa numbers?
  • Does CIS actually allocate all of the visa numbers available?
  • Unless major immigration reform happens to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas available annually, the lottery is here to stay. That means it needs to be made public record how it works. Candidates and their employers and lawyers have no control over whether or not any given petition is selected, but checking the process to ensure that it is up to statutory standards, and as impartial as it claims to be is necessary for accountability.If your petition, or your employee or client’s petition is selected, it must be impeccable. CIS selects more petitions than there are H-1B visas available in the lottery process, then reviews the petitions they receive. That means they are looking for red flags, and many petitions must be rejected as part of the process. It is imperative that you get it right the first time. While RFEs can be answered, it is always best to prevent getting one in the first place.If your education, or your employee or client’s education is from outside of the United States, never file without a thorough credential evaluation that clearly spells out the US equivalent of your client’s degree, with a specialization that matches their job offer. We see so many RFEs every year that could have been prevented simply by taking this step before CIS has to ask you, or your employee or client to do so.About the Author Sheila DanzigSheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723. ]]>

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