Your Guide to 2017 H1B Education Requirements and Approval Trends

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Filing season is on its way, which means its time to start preparing H1B petitions for fiscal year 2018. This visa is for highly skilled workers coming to the United States to work jobs that require an advanced and specific skill set. Education is a central aspect of H1B eligibility. Before you file, make sure the candidate’s education and job meet the H1B educational requirements.

H1B eligibility has two main requirements:

  1. The candidate’s job must be a specialty occupation.

To meet H1B eligibility requirements, you or your employee or client must have a specialty occupation. That means the job requires a minimum of a US Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent to perform. This is because the job requires advanced skills and knowledge specific to the industry and position, requiring a highly skilled worker to perform. To meet this requirement, you need to show the ad for the job that indicates its minimum requirements, as well as ads for similar positions in the same industry. That will prove that it is an industry requirement to possess an advanced degree as a minimum requirement for this job. If the job is particularly complex, include an expert opinion letter stating why.

  1. The candidate must hold an advanced degree.

Once you’ve proven the job meets H1B educational requirements, you must show that the candidate meets these requirements as well. You or your employee or client must hold a US Bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent. This means that if you have, or your employee or client has a degree from outside of the United States, it must be evaluated for its US academic value because education systems vary greatly from country to country. Some degrees call themselves by the same name when translated, but have completely different academic content. Others have different names when translated but equivalent academic value. CIS will not know without a clear, detailed credential evaluation that explains the US academic value of the foreign degree.

Working with a foreign credential evaluation agency that understands H1B requirements and approval trends is key to getting the evaluation needed for the petition.

Even if you meet, or your employee or client meets H1B requirements, approval trends have changed. The prevalence of RFEs in response to petitions that make the H1B lottery have spiked in recent years. This is due in part to the massive influx of petitions in recent years that far surpass the annual H1B visa cap, and also as an attempt by CIS to crack down on visa fraud. When preparing the petition, ALWAYS keep CIS educational trends in mind.

Below are the two main trends we’ve seen regularly trigger RFEs in the past five years:

  1. The candidate’s degree specialization must be an exact match for the job offer.

In recent years, CIS has tightened its approval trends when it comes to the degree matching the job offer. Even if the candidate was hired with a degree in a field related to the industry, CIS requires an EXACT match to prove that the candidate has the specific skills necessary for the industry. If you have, or your employee or client has a degree in a related or generalized field, you need a credential evaluation for an equivalency to a degree in the exact field. For example, if the job is in chemistry and the degree in biology, what is needed is a credential evaluation to show the candidate has the skills and knowledge specific to chemistry. This can be done by taking a close look at the academic content of the degree, specifically courses taken in the candidate’s field of employ, as well as the candidate’s work experience in the field. Consult with a credential evaluation agency that works with professors authorized to convert work experience into college credit to find out if you or your employee or client has the education and work experience necessary to fill in the gaps between the degree and the job offer. Three years of work experience in the field in which you or your employee or client took on more responsibility and complexity in the work can be converted into one year of college credit in the field.

  1. Three-year Bachelor’s degrees require a work experience conversion.

If you have, or if your employee or client has a three-year bachelor’s degree, CIS requires a work experience conversion to account for the missing fourth year for the US four-year Bachelor’s degree equivalency. This is a new trend. In years past, we saw success in breaking down the number of classroom contact hours in a three-year degree and converting classroom contact hours into college credit hours. This typically worked because many three-year bachelor’s degrees have the same number of credit hours as a US four-year bachelor’s degree, just in condensed duration. However, in recent years, CIS has ONLY approved degrees with a work experience conversion. That missing fourth year matters to CIS, so it matters to you. You can use the three years of work experience to one year of college credit in the field conversion as discussed above.

The sooner you can find out if you, or your employee or client has the education and work experience necessary to meet CIS approval trends the better. Talk to a foreign credential evaluation agency with experience working with H1B visas and H1B RFEs. They understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting the H1B visa approved, and after a consult, so will you.

About the Author

Sheila Danzig

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

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