answering an rfe

Four Tips to Successfully Answering an H-1B RFE

an RFE is not a roadmap for success. USCIS is NOT trying to help you. Instead of looking at your RFE for answers, focus on H-1B requirements for guidance.If you, or your employee or client has received an RFE, here are four tips to successfully respond:

  1. Read the RFE thoroughly to understand what is being asked of you.
Sit down with your team, including an evaluator with experience working with RFEs for your client’s visa, read over the RFE word for word, and gain a detailed understanding of what is being asked of you, and WHY CIS is asking for the evidence requested. You only have one shot at responding to this, so you want to make sure you provide everything CIS is asking for at once, alongside a clear explanation of what it is and what is proves.
  1. Understand that sometimes the RFE materials requested cannot be provided.
Sometimes CIS requests evidence that cannot be provided in the time allotted to respond, or within the constraints of the budget, or sometimes even not at all. RFEs like the Nightmare RFE are virtually impossible to answer based on what is asked. With this in mind, it’s important to go back to the H-1B requirements and use these guidelines as the framework for your response. Work with a credential evaluation agency with experience responding to these kinds of RFEs because they understand the underlying questions CIS is seeking to answer in the evidence they are asking you or your employee client to provide. Sometimes you can’t meet the demands of the RFE. Even if providing the requested evidence is virtually impossible, answering the underlying questions is very much possible. In this case, all you have to do to respond successfully is to meet H-1B regulations, if handled properly.
  1. Understand H-1B education requirements.
Every work visa has different educational requirements, and different rules surrounding what education can be combined for US equivalency. For example, an H-1B visa requires beneficiaries to hold a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent in the exact specialization of the beneficiary’s job position. If you or your employee or client has a foreign degree, or a degree in a mismatched specialization, you need a credential evaluation that clearly shows the value of your education and work experience, or your employee or client’s education and work experience in terms of US academic value. On top of that, you need to do this according to CIS approval trends for this particular visa. For example, a three-year bachelor’s degree from India needs a credential evaluation that converts years of work experience into college credit to account for the missing fourth year even if your degree, or your employee or client’s degree had the same or greater amount of classroom contact hours as a US four-year bachelor’s degree. Talk to a credential evaluation agency that works with professors with the authority to make the work experience to college credit conversion. Make sure the evaluator you work with has experience working with H-1B visa beneficiaries, RFEs, and difficult cases.
  1. MEET THE DEADLINE!
Make sure the RFE is answered by the deadline. Extensions are highly unlikely and filing after the deadline will likely result in the case being rejected.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.  ]]>

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.  ]]>

    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. ]]>

    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. ]]>

    Case Studies of Difficult EB2 Education RFEs Answered

  • Client holds an Indian Three-Year Bachelor’s degree.
  • The client in the previous case study held a four-year engineering degree from India. Most Indian bachelor’s degrees, however, are three-year programs. One of the biggest RFE triggers is having a three-year bachelor’s degree instead of a US four-year bachelor’s degree. CIS sees the missing fourth year and issues an RFE because the missing year is misunderstood as missing academic content. This is what happened to our client.To address the missing fourth year, we wrote a detailed credential evaluation that examined the academic content of his three-year degree. This was done by breaking down the number of classroom contact hours required for our client to earn his degree, then use the internationally recognized Carnegie unit conversion that measures college credit hours. Fifteen hours in the classroom is converted into one hour of college credit. The US Department of Education defines a credit hour as “an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement.”A US four-year bachelor’s degree program requires a minimum of 120 college credit hours to graduate. Our client’s degree required FAR MORE than 120 college credit hours to graduate. We were able to show CIS that the actual academic content of our client’s degree was the equivalency of a US four-year bachelor’s degree and his visa was approved. This is important, because EB2 education requirements insist that the bachelor’s degree be a single source. That means we could not convert years of work experience into college credit to account for the missing year.
    1. Education does not match PERM requirements.
    One of the biggest educational triggers for RFEs is that the candidate’s education does not match the job title. Just under a decade ago, a candidate could have a degree in a field related to the job title and the visa would be approved. Today, employers hire employees with related degrees all the time because they understand that with a related degree and the proper work experience the candidate has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job. However, in the past six or seven years, CIS has been issuing RFEs for candidates with education that does not exactly match their job title. This was the case with a client who came to us with a difficult RFE.He had an Indian four-year bachelor’s degree in engineering, and his job was in the field of computer sciences. To address this RFE, we had to show that his bachelor’s degree in engineering was the functional equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences. To do this, we had to show that someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering could be accepted into the same Master’s program in computer sciences, same as someone with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences to show that the skills and knowledge necessary to learn to earn an engineering degree equipped the candidate to perform the same functions as someone with a degree in computer sciences. We did this by documenting a host of examples of how our client’s bachelor’s degree in engineering would be accepted for admission into Master’s degree programs in computer sciences, and this proved clearly that the skills and knowledge our client learned in order to have earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering enabled him to be successful in a Master’s degree program in computer sciences. This is a functional equivalency – the bachelor’s degree he held in engineering functioned the same as the degree CIS required him to hold. CIS accepted this evaluation and approved his EB2 visa.At TheDegreePeople, we see difficult EB2 RFEs day in and day out. While there are never any guarantees with CIS, we have found several strategies that work with consistency. For a review of your case, your employee’s case, or your client’s case at no charge or obligation, please go to www.cciFree.com and fill out the form on the website. Send in the requested documents. I will personally get back to you within 24 hours.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. ]]>

    How to Avoid that H1B RFE

  • Make sure the information is consistent across all of the documents and forms.
  • 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.
    1. Your client’s job must be a specialty occupation.
    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.
    1. Your client must possess a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent.
    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.
    1. Your client’s degree must be an exact match for the job offer.
    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.
    1. Your client’s degree must be specialized.
    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 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.]]>

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