A Request for Evidence, or RFE is a tool that USCIS uses to gather more information on a given case when the documentation providing in the initial filing leaves open gaps and unanswered questions. RFEs, particularly RFEs regarding education when it comes to the H-1B visa, can be extremely complicated and difficult to answer. One RFE in particular, known as “The Nightmare” has become more and more common in the past few years. This RFE is virtually impossible to answer and requires specialized knowledge and a creative approach that is not spelled out in the RFE. Remember an RFE is not a roadmap for success. USCIS is NOT trying to help you. Instead of looking at your RFE for answers, focus on H-1B requirements for guidance.
If you, or your employee or client has received an RFE, here are four tips to successfully respond:
1. Read the RFE thoroughly to understand what is being asked of you.
Sit down with your team, including an evaluator with experience working with RFEs for your client’s visa, read over the RFE word for word, and gain a detailed understanding of what is being asked of you, and WHY CIS is asking for the evidence requested. You only have one shot at responding to this, so you want to make sure you provide everything CIS is asking for at once, alongside a clear explanation of what it is and what is proves.
2. Understand that sometimes the RFE materials requested cannot be provided.
Sometimes CIS requests evidence that cannot be provided in the time allotted to respond, or within the constraints of the budget, or sometimes even not at all. RFEs like the Nightmare RFE are virtually impossible to answer based on what is asked. With this in mind, it’s important to go back to the H-1B requirements and use these guidelines as the framework for your response. Work with a credential evaluation agency with experience responding to these kinds of RFEs because they understand the underlying questions CIS is seeking to answer in the evidence they are asking you or your employee client to provide. Sometimes you can’t meet the demands of the RFE. Even if providing the requested evidence is virtually impossible, answering the underlying questions is very much possible. In this case, all you have to do to respond successfully is to meet H-1B regulations, if handled properly.
3. Understand H-1B education requirements.
Every work visa has different educational requirements, and different rules surrounding what education can be combined for US equivalency. For example, an H-1B visa requires beneficiaries to hold a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its foreign equivalent in the exact specialization of the beneficiary’s job position. If you or your employee or client has a foreign degree, or a degree in a mismatched specialization, you need a credential evaluation that clearly shows the value of your education and work experience, or your employee or client’s education and work experience in terms of US academic value. On top of that, you need to do this according to CIS approval trends for this particular visa. For example, a three-year bachelor’s degree from India needs a credential evaluation that converts years of work experience into college credit to account for the missing fourth year even if your degree, or your employee or client’s degree had the same or greater amount of classroom contact hours as a US four-year bachelor’s degree. Talk to a credential evaluation agency that works with professors with the authority to make the work experience to college credit conversion. Make sure the evaluator you work with has experience working with H-1B visa beneficiaries, RFEs, and difficult cases.
4. MEET THE DEADLINE!
Make sure the RFE is answered by the deadline. Extensions are highly unlikely and filing after the deadline will likely result in the case being rejected.
About the Author
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.