Education RFEs are on the rise because a Bachelor’s degree equivalence must be a single source, and qualified candidates with three-year degrees and degrees that do not actually have the word “degree” in them are running into trouble. Complex education requirements for EB2 Visa candidates have left many lawyers wondering if it’s even worth the time to take on clients with difficult degrees.
The answer is not to turn away candidates with difficult degrees. Many countries have three-year bachelor degree structures and degrees without the word “degree” in the title, and more and more skilled workers are coming from these countries with these difficult degrees to work the jobs the US economy needs for a prosperous and competitive economy. The answer is for lawyers to work with credential evaluators to find creative solutions to USCIS education hang-ups.
A credential evaluator on your team can make the difference between a Denial and an Approval. Because we specialize in RFEs and Denials at TheDegreePeople.com, we see more of them than anyone else in the field. As a result, we are in the best position to analyze CIS, understand what they are looking for, and spot trends when they emerge. Have an evaluator review your client’s education and work experience to see if they can meet CIS educational equivalency requirements within their specific equivalency parameters.
There are three main ways in which an evaluator can be helpful to you as a lawyer. First, a skilled credential evaluator has a complex understanding of international education and the academic content and educational stages of different degrees from different countries. With this understanding, an evaluator can look at your client’s education and already know its academic value in the United States. Second, they have access to equivalence references beyond the standard equivalency database that translation agencies and other agencies that are not actually credential evaluation agencies use. The standard equivalence database actually uses the most conservative equivalencies, so working with a credential evaluator will give you and your client more options and flexibility. Third, skilled credential evaluators know CIS trends, federal case law, and international trade organization agreements that can support your client’s case. In these three ways, a credential evaluator can help you and your client find creative solutions in dealing with difficult degrees.
With more RFEs issued every year, we have noticed some trends. There are three main education problems that get overlooked when filing the initial Visa petition that trigger RFEs. All of these problems can be rectified or avoided in the first place by working with a credential evaluator who understands CIS trends and federal case law.
The first problem is combining education and work experience to draw a US Bachelor’s degree equivalency. When an evaluation combines work experience and college credit for an EB2 petition, best-case scenario is it will trigger an RFE. This is because in this particular Visa, CIS requires the Bachelor’s degree be a single source. There are two ways credential evaluators have been able to address this issue. The first option is to combine a three-year Bachelor’s degree with a one-year PGD or a two-year Master’s Degree, accompanied by an expert opinion letter. Since the Bachelor’s degree is the Master’s or PGD prerequisite, it is still a single source. The second option is to convert five years of post-education work experience into the equivalence of a US Master’s degree by citing federal case law. We have seen success with this second method even if the education major does not match PERM requirements, or the PERM states combining a Bachelor’s degree and plus five years of work experience is unacceptable. There are never any guarantees with CIS, but at TheDegreePeople, we have experienced a 95% success rate with these methods.
The second big RFE trigger for both EB2 and other Visas requiring a US bachelor’s degree or higher is the Indian three-year degree. With other Visas, an evaluator can combine three years of progressive work experience to account for the fourth year of college education, but this will not work for the EB2. If your client has an Indian three-year degree, an evaluator can help you account for that final year without combining work experience. The way this works is we look at the number of classroom contact hours in your client’s major and use the internationally recognized Carnegie Unit conversion to convert classroom hours into college credit hours. Fifteen classroom contact hours equates to one college credit hour. A US four-year Bachelor’s degree is comprised of at least 120 credit hours. The Indian three-year degree has even more classroom contact hours – and therefore, even more college credit hours – than the US four-year Bachelor’s degree. Working with a credential evaluator with the authority to make these conversions solves the three-year degree problem.
The third major trigger of education RFEs is degrees that do not call themselves degrees. In many countries, professional certifications and degrees that actually are post-secondary degrees do not have the word “degree” in the title. This triggers an RFE. The degree of this variety we see the most RFEs for is the Indian Chartered Accountancy certification. At the same time, there are certifications and licensures that do not have the word “degree” in them that actually are NOT degrees. CIS does not know the difference, but your evaluator does, and your evaluator can help you. An evaluator can draw an equivalence to a US bachelor’s degree by evaluating the educational steps necessary to achieve this professional title to show that it does require the amount of post-secondary education necessary for a Bachelor’s degree. For example, Chartered Accountancy is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in India because in order to take the certification exam, the same post-secondary education required for a Bachelor’s degree is required to qualify to take this exam. An evaluator would also cite the legally binding UNESCO instrument that validates Chartered Accountancy as the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
The purpose of complex CIS educational requirements is really to ask very specific questions about your client’s education. An experienced credential evaluator knows how to answer these questions in correspondence with international education and trade precedents. There is no need for a lawyer to be afraid of difficult cases. Work with an experienced evaluator instead of turning away clients with difficult degrees.
This article was written by Rebecca Little