H1B season is over. Guess what’s next. RFE season. If USCIS continues the pattern of the past few years, we will soon be inundated with RFEs. In recent years, over one in every four H1B petitions are met with an RFE.
In the common case that you, your employee, or your client receives an RFE, don’t panic. This is not desirable, but it’s not the end of the world. Take this as an opportunity to build the case and clear up any questions CIS may have. The first step to answering these questions is to identify what the missing information is, and then figure out how to provide it. Understanding who is at fault for the RFE is an important part of this process NOT because anyone needs to be punished, but rather to understand where the case can be strengthened to meet the standards of CIS and how this can be done.
Sometimes the credential evaluator is at fault. Not every credential evaluator has the specialized understanding of international education, H1b visa requirements, and CIS trends needed to write yours, your employee, or your client’s H1b credential evaluation. Some document translation agencies are now offering evaluation services as well as a one-stop shop. This is dangerous because credential evaluation is highly nuanced and translation agencies are not qualified to do this in the same way you would never go to a credential evaluation agency for a translation. The evaluator you need has in-depth knowledge of international education, and asks you right away what kind of visa the evaluation is for, and what yours, your employee, or your client’s job is. The right evaluator will review yours, your employee, or your client’s education for free and consult with your team on how to best proceed.
Sometimes it’s the candidate’s fault. H1b candidates make mistakes. It is not uncommon for a beneficiary to insist that their high school documents are college level documents, or that their college or university is accredited when – while the education is rigorous and legitimate – their school is not actually accredited. Regardless of what the candidate says – or what you believe - about their education – even if they are right – have the education reviewed by a credential evaluator to make sure no glaring mistakes are made when you respond to the RFE.
Sometimes it’s that attorney’s fault. While it is a rare occurrence, attorneys sometimes do file the H1b petition incorrectly. If this is the case, it is important to recognize this mistake, carefully read over the RFE to discern what must be done, and work with your team to do what you can to rectify the situation.
Sometimes CIS is at fault. CIS is a massive government bureaucracy with hundreds of thousands of H1b petitions to deal with. The fact of the matter is, everything in yours, your employee, or your client’s H1b petition could be correct, accounted for, and filed properly, and could still be met with an RFE. The other fact of the matter is, even if this is the case, you still need to respond to the RFE. This is a frustrating situation, but fortunately, when it is CIS’ fault it is typically an easy fix. Work together as a team – including the candidate, the employer, the attorney, and the credential evaluator – to identify what evidence needs to be provided to address the RFE. Even though the situation is frustrating because someone at CIS did not do their job correctly, be polite. The petition depends on it.
Sometimes it’s no one’s fault. CIS trends change, and in the past seven or so years, we have seen these trends change very quickly especially with regards to education. When it comes to petitions with generalized degrees or a degree in a related but not exactly matching field as the H1b job, what would have been approved in the not-too-distant past now triggers an RFE. The best way to mitigate the wildcard of changing CIS trends is to work with a credential evaluation agency that follows CIS trends, knows what has worked in the past, and understands how CIS trends tend to change. If you, your employee, or your client receives an RFE anyway, read it carefully with your team, understand what is being asked of whom and why, and provide the required evidence to answer CIS’ underlying questions and concerns.
Understand where the ball was dropped – if at all – and then devise a plan of action. Working with a credential evaluator who works with a lot of clients with RFEs, NOIDs, Denials, and difficult cases is a great way to get a sense of what exactly CIS is asking in their RFE, and how to answer their questions even if you cannot provide the exact documentation requested. Difficult RFEs – for example, the Nightmare RFE which is technically impossible to answer – are trying to answer very specific questions that are not always obvious by what the RFE asks you to provide in terms of evidence. An evaluator with experience answering these kinds of RFEs understands the underlying questions and how to answer them in ways that are possible for you, and acceptable to CIS.
About the Author
Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of 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.