Jobs in STEM industries in the United States are growing faster than the US-born workforce can address alone. For this reason, employers in these industries are hiring more and more highly skilled workers from abroad who fit the EB2 Visa classification because they hold advanced degrees beyond of US bachelor’s degree or it’s equivalent. Only 40,040 EB2 Visas are available annually and they are in high demand because holding this Visa status allows foreign nationals to work towards a Green Card. EB2 classification is also preferable to EB3 classification for candidates seeking Green Cards because the wait time for having their visas reviewed is years faster for EB2 than EB3. USCIS has had to be very careful in who they select for EB2 Visa status because there are far more petitions submitted than spaces to fill, and because many employees opt to try to fit into an EB2 classification when really their credentials qualify them for EB3 status. For this reason, EB2 Visa petitions are often met with RFEs.
While RFEs are common and can be addressed, the best course of action is always to avoid them altogether. While an RFE can be utilized as an opportunity to strengthen your case, or your employee or client’s case on your end, it is also an opportunity to CIS to take a shortcut. An RFE is a red flag, which triggers a close scrutiny of your client’s case, in which inconsistencies and missing details that would have otherwise gone unnoticed can come to light and hurt your case, or your employee or client’s case. Little inconsistencies and missing details are not what trigger RFEs in the first place, although you always want to double-check all documents for accuracy and consistency before filing. If your education or your employee or client’s education is from a country outside of the United States, their foreign credentials must be evaluated to show the US academic value equivalency. This is where many candidates run into trouble because PERM requirements for EB2 visa education are different than requirements for other visas when it comes to equivalencies. At the same time, CIS trends when it comes to academic qualifications for work visas in general have tightened in the past few years, compounding problems candidates face.
There are two main educational requirements that many petitions miss, and are common triggers for an RFE:
- The education equivalency must match the education requirements on the PERM.
- The bachelor’s degree equivalency must be a single-source degree.
The first problem EB2 candidates run into regularly that triggers and education RFE is that their education does not match the education requirements on the PERM. The PERM requires your education, or your employee or client’s education to be an exact match for their job title. This leads right into the second problem.
CIS requires an EB2 candidate’s education to have a single-source bachelor’s degree. This means that you, your employee, or your client’s education sources, or education and work experience cannot be combined to write an equivalency.
The 2006 Annual Conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association concluded, “For employment-based immigration visa purposes, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will not equate a three-year diploma plus a post-baccalaureate diploma as being the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree for either EB2 classification.”
This means if you, your employee, or your client has a two or three-year degree, the credential evaluator you work with needs to be able to write an evaluation to show equivalence to a US four-year degree without combining work experience to fill in the missing fourth year. While this method of evaluation works for the H1B visa, it will not for EB2.
What is the solution? Find a credential evaluation agency that often works with difficult cases, RFEs, and Denials because they understand what triggers them, and they understand how to address them. A knowledgeable evaluator knows the concerns and questions CIS has underlying this kind of RFE and can answer them by citing CIS decisions, memos, precedents, and other evidence that show functional equivalence, and how international trade organizations view the equivalence of your client’s degree. At TheDegreePeople, we are able to write evaluations that get our clients’ three and two-year degrees accepted regularly, but it takes a VERY detailed evaluation in which we hold CIS’s hand, guiding them through the complex terrain of the equivalency.
One way credential evaluators address this kind of RFE is by utilizing the progressive work experience conversion formula of three years of work experience in the field to one year of college credit in that field to write a Master’s degree equivalence. A credential evaluator can cite federal case law and CIS precedent decisions to write an evaluation that converts five years of progressive work experience in the field to a US Master’s degree in that field to meet PERM education requirements.
We see difficult RFEs and Denials every day at TheDegreePeople. While there are never any guarantees with CIS, we follow their educational trends closely and know what tends to work and what does not. If you, your client, or your employ has received an RFE for an education situation, visit us online at cciFree.com. We will review your case at no cost and advise you on how to best proceed.
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, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.