H1B Educational Requirements Your Client Needs to Know About to Avoid an RFE


The H1B visa requires qualified candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher to work their H1B qualified specialty occupation. This means that your client needs to hold a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent or higher to qualify for H1B visa status. Seems straightforward enough, right?


And getting more and more wrong as CIS trends grow increasingly complex with regards to candidates’ education. As the IT industry grows, requiring more highly skilled workers to fill the increasing number of jobs that US citizens cannot fill, IT companies that can afford to hire H1B workers are doing so. While the number of H1B jobs in the United States has skyrocketed, the number of annual visas available has not. At the same time, tightened educational requirements are part of CIS’s attempt to mitigate visa fraud. CIS trends fluctuate from year to year, and even a perfectly filed petition for an over-qualified candidate can receive an RFE. Understanding these educational requirements and how to meet them – and sometimes how to meet them in creative ways – will help your client get their visa approved without CIS ever issuing an RFE.

Candidate’s Degree Must be a US Bachelor’s Degree or Its Equivalent

This requirement is not as straightforward as it sounds. If your client has a four-year Bachelor’s degree from a US college or university, go ahead and file. All other degrees need to be reviewed by a credential evaluator. Foreign degrees need a credential evaluation because educational systems vary from country to country, and the academic value of a bachelor’s degree from one place does not necessarily equate because it’s called a bachelor’s degree. In the same way, a foreign certification or licensure may actually be the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree even though it doesn’t call itself a degree. For example, one situation that triggers a lot of RFE’s is when a candidate has an Indian Chartered Accountancy certification. This is actually the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree in accounting, but the same certification in Canada is not. The Canadian Chartered Accountancy certification is a professional license, but not post-secondary education. See how this gets confusing? A credential evaluator can make the necessary equivalency determinations about your client’s education, explain how the equivalency works, and back up with equivalency with evidence.

Four Years of Post-Secondary Education Matter

If your client has a three-year bachelor’s degree – ESPECIALLY if it’s an Indian three-year degree – their education is likely to trigger an RFE if it is not handled correctly. CIS trends require focus on longevity rather than academic content when it comes to years of college or university, so it is you and your client’s responsibility to show that academic content and progressive work experience comprise a fourth year of college credit. How can you do this? There are two options that we have seen work almost every time when it comes to the H1B visa. An evaluator can convert years of progressive work experience into college credit. Progressive experience means that your client’s job required them to expand their knowledgebase and skillset, and take on increasing amounts of work and responsibility. Three years of this nature of work can be converted into one year of college credit. Never submit an H1B petition without an evaluation that accounts for the missing fourth year.

Degree Must Be Specialized and Exactly Matching Candidate’s Job

This is a relatively new requirement that takes many H1B candidates, their employers, and their lawyers by surprise. While it’s common for an employer to hire a candidate with a degree in a field related to the job, CIS will not approve their visa. In the past six or seven years, CIS trends have changed regarding this requirement. In the past, a candidate with a degree in a related field would have the petition approved, now instead they receive an RFE. Your client’s degree major must be an exact match for their field of employ. At the same time, because H1B requirements indicate the job must require specialized knowledge and skills to carry out its duties, candidates with generalized degrees are also running into this problem. If your client is in a mismatched degree situation, your client needs to prove that she does possess the specialized skills and knowledge required to be successful at her job even if it is not directly reflected in her college major.

The way to do this is to prove equivalence to a US bachelor’s degree in her field of employ with a credential evaluation. The way this works is an evaluator can convert years of progressive work experience in her field of employ into college credit hours in that major track with the three years of work to one year of college credit conversion. The evaluation must show that your client has the equivalent of a US four-year bachelor’s degree with the bulk to the equated credit hours in their field. This requires a detailed evaluation with a credential evaluator familiar with CIS educational requirements, as well as precedents of what they will accept and what they will not accept.

If your client as anything but a straightforward US four-year bachelor’s degree, have their education reviewed by a credential evaluator to see what you need to do to avoid an RFE.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of CCI, TheDegreePeople.com, a foreign credentials evaluation agency. For a no-charge analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.