A Request for Information (RFE) is a tool CIS uses to make a clear decision on whether or not to approve your client’s visa. If they don’t feel enough evidence was provided in the initial petition to make a decision, they will issue an RFE indicating what further evidence they need. When they request this evidence, there are specific questions they are looking for documentation to answer. These questions aren’t typically indicated outright, so lawyers, employers, and evaluators must read between the lines. Some RFE’s – such as the dreaded Nightmare RFE – are technically impossible to answer. The fact of the matter is, sometimes CIS issues RFE’s that are literally impossible to answer. When this occurs, you must find a way to answer the questions they seek to answer with the evidence requested, even if you can’t provide the precise evidence they request. A skilled credential evaluator with insight into CIS trends, H1B visa requirements, and international education can help you answer these RFE’s. At TheDegreePeople, our international education experts have been able to answer around 95% of all of the Nightmare RFE’s that come across our desks.
However, the best trick to answer such an RFE is to avoid it in the first place. There’s no need to suffer the stress of an RFE – even if it is possible to answer it. An RFE is a red flag on your client’s petition that will instigate a close look at the petition that can uncover missed details that would otherwise go unnoticed. This will make the RFE more complex and harder to answer. CIS has only 65,000 H1B visas available annually, plus an additional 20,000 H1B visas for candidates with advanced degrees. While this may seem like a lot of visas, with over 200,000 petitions estimated to be submitted in the first five days of CIS accepting petitions, CIS is looking for any excuse to make their decisions easier. Make their job easier by submitting an impeccable petition the first time.
Here are five things to keep in mind to avoid an RFE:
Don’t ever submit an H1B petition without double-checking every form and document for consistency and accuracy. This means spelling of names, dates of jobs and education, names of employers and schools, and locations of these jobs and schools. Everything must be consistent. CIS is on the lookout for visa fraud. Inaccurate or inconsistent answers are big red flags that can arouse suspicion even though your client and his or her employer is legitimate.
This means your client’s job must require a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent. To show this, you need to prove that not only does your client’s particular job require a degree to perform, but that similar jobs in similar companies in the same industry also require an advanced degree. This shows that the skills and knowledge needed to successfully carry out the duties of your client’s job requires an advanced degree.
Unless your client has a very straightforward bachelor’s degree or higher from a US college or university, you will need to get your client’s credentials evaluated by an authorized foreign credentials evaluator. Some degrees are more complex than others because many countries have certifications and licenses that are actually degrees, even though the word degree is not in the title. Professional licenses like the Indian Chartered Accountancy license require the equivalence of the same post-secondary education required for a bachelor’s degree. However, Canadian Chartered Accountancy does not require education that equates to post-secondary education. Another example of a difficult education situation is the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree. While it has the same – if not greater – amount of classroom contact hours as the US four-year bachelor’s degree, you need to account for the extra year of education for CIS to consider the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree as equivalent to the US four-year degree. To do this, a credential evaluator with the authority to convert years of progressive work experience in your client’s field of employ into years of college credit must write an evaluation with the equivalency of three years of work experience to one year of college credit documented and accounted for to account for the missing fourth year.
Until less than a decade ago, an H1B candidate with a degree in a field related to their job title would get their visa approved without an RFE. Now we are seeing RFE’s for degrees that are not an exact match for the job offer. While employers will hire employees with degrees in related fields, CIS will not approve their visas. CIS requires your candidate have the specialized skills and knowledge required for their H1B job. While candidates with related degrees may possess these skills – particularly if they are hired for the job – your client needs to prove this to CIS with a degree match. If your client’s degree is not an exact match for his or her job offer, have a credential evaluator review your client’s education and employment history. An evaluation can be written converting years of progressive work experience into college credit in the major that matches your client’s job. Classroom contact hours in coursework in the matching field can also be evaluated and counted towards a major in that field.
Since the H1B visa is for specialized occupations, your candidate must have a degree that reflects having learned and mastered specialized skills and knowledge. A generalized degree – such as a liberal arts degree with no specific field of specialization – is not adequate to show a candidate possesses such knowledge. If your client has a generalized degree but was still hired for an H1B occupation, clearly his or her employer can see that your client has the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to excel at the job. Now you have to provide CIS with evidence that this is the case. Have a credential evaluator review your client’s transcripts and resume to see what conversions can be made to write an equivalency to a specialized degree that matches the H1B job offer.
The H1B visa requirements are very detailed and specific, especially when it comes to your client’s education. H1B trends change as this visa becomes more and more sought after with higher demand for highly skilled workers in STEM industries that the US workforce can supply. Before you submit, have a credential evaluator look over your client’s transcripts, educational documents, and work experience to see if an evaluation is needed, and if so, what must be done.
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