Turning Work Experience into College Credit: How does THAT work?

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Highly skilled workers with advanced degrees are running into immigration troubles when applying for H1b visas. H1b visa status requires visa holders to have a US bachelor’s degree or higher, or its equivalent. While the USCIS accepts three-year bachelor’s degrees from Oxford and Cambridge as the equivalent for a US four-year degree, the Indian three-year degree mysteriously has them stumped.

If your client has an Indian three-year degree, you need to anticipate this problem before the H1b petition is submitted. Even though it has been proven time and again that the academic content of the Indian three-year degree actually far surpasses the US four-year degree in terms of classroom contact hours and Carnegie units, it is on your client to account for that final fourth year to the USCIS. You have two options.

First, your credential evaluator can write a detailed evaluation of the academic content of your client’s degree.   That means breaking down classroom contact hours and converting them into US measurements of college credits, then comparing the number of credits needed to graduate with a US bachelor’s degree to the amount of credits your client has accumulated. This is a good option if your client has a degree in their field of employ. However, if their degree fails to exactly match their field of employ the USCIS still will not accept their qualification for the visa.

USCIS standards of educational requirements are more stringent than those of employers. While many employers understand that employees with degrees in fields related to their work usually possess the specialized skills and knowledge required to carry out their jobs. The USCIS, on the other hand, requires employees education EXACTLY meet their field of employment. That means, your client needs to not only bridge the gap in the years of education, but also the gap in specialization.

To do this, an authorized credential evaluator can convert years of work experience into college credit. Work experience must be in the exact field of employ to count these towards years of academic specialization, and it must also be progressive work experience. This means the nature of the work required your client to take on more and more work and responsibilities representative of their progressively specialized skills and knowledge in the field. A credential evaluation agency with the authority to convert work experience into college credit can do this. Typically, three years of progressive work experience in a field can be evaluated as equivalent to one year of college credit in that field.

Before we delve into this any further, this is NOT a DIY manual. You cannot make these work experience conversions on your own and expect the USCIS to just accept it. You must work with an experienced credential evaluator with the authority to make these conversions, as well as a track record of being able to successfully make these conversions.

Sheila Danzig is the director of Career Consulting International at www.TheDegreePeople.com, a foreign credential evaluation agency. They specialize in difficult cases and RFEs, Denials, NOIDs, 3-year degrees, etc. and offer a free review of all H1B, E2, and I140 education at http://www.ccifree.com/.

This article was written by Rebecca Little