When it comes to responding to RFEs having an Expert Opinion Letter to augment the case has become an essential component of any filing. An Expert Opinion Letter can take many forms, such as an evaluation of the candidate’s credentials, an evaluation of the position as a specialty occupation, a combination of the two, or something else entirely. The purpose of these letters is to demonstrate how the subject of the letter meets the criteria set forth by USCIS.
At Park Evaluations, we work with professors from various universities in a multitude of fields of study. We collaborate most frequently with Experts in the fields of Computer Science, Information Technology, Business, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Marketing, Finance, Economics, Data Science, and Mathematics. When recruiting an Expert, we look for several qualifications:
- That the professor meets one (or more!) of the following definitions for Expert:
- Someone who has prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field.
- Someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.
- Someone with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation in a particular area of study.
- That the professor has an Authority Letter granted by the Dean, Provost, or Registrar of their university.
- That the professor has a number of years teaching at an accredited institution of higher learning.
- That the professor holds advanced degrees in their field.
- That the professor has outside industry or consulting experience within their field.
- That the professor has published articles, research, or books.
Our Experts have expansive CVs; they have submitted to numerous peer-reviewed publications, their work has been cited in different publications, they have obtained grants from prestigious organizations like the NSA or the National Science Foundation, they have consulting work for big players in their respective industries, and more. Many of our professors have more than ten years of experience evaluating immigration casework. In addition, each one of our Experts is hand-selected and vetted by our Evaluator and Writing Team.
Better yet, because our Experts have Authority Letters (a letter that enables them to grant credit on behalf of their universities), their ability to evaluate a candidate’s academic credentials or provide work-experience equivalencies are less likely to be challenged by USCIS! With all of the challenges USCIS makes, having a recognized Expert proves to be one less concern when filing.
Park Evaluations will make sure to provide you with a high-quality Expert Opinion Letter from one of our cutting-edge Experts to ensure a positive response from USCIS.
It’s a term that gets thrown around often in the realm of H-1B Visa filings. Maybe you’ve come across it in an RFE or have seen it used glowingly in a former employer’s work letter. Whatever your familiarity with the term, there’s no doubt that one’s chances for H-1B Visa success increase significantly if they can demonstrate that the course of their professional work history has been on a “progressively responsible” trajectory. Below is a dive into what exactly comprises progressive responsibility and why that distinction is so valuable when it comes to making a strong case for your work visa.
Work History Vs. Academic Studies
Many believe that life’s knowledge is best amassed through a combination of education and experience. Securing an H-1B Visa is no exception to this rule, particularly when the candidate’s academics are largely unrelated to the job duties of the position they are seeking. This is where work history takes precedent over all else—it’s through analyzing the candidate’s previous jobs, responsibilities, and acquired skills that an expert evaluator is able to determine that the candidate has obtained theoretical and practical knowledge that would normally come from earning a specific degree. Simply put, someone who holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (or its equivalence) may not seem like a strong candidate for a Computer Science job, but if that person has ten years of work experience in Computer Science or a similar field, then it stands to reason that they’ve learned a substantial amount about that field—comparable to that of a Computer Science graduate, in fact.
Why “Progress” Matters
In some ways, equating work experience to academic studies is a straightforward science; three years of work experience is generally accepted as being equivalent to one year of academic coursework towards a degree (for more on this concept, check out Park Evaluations’ Three-To-One Rule article). However, for this ratio to really hold weight in the minds of USCIS, it’s important to establish a pattern of growth and increasing responsibility in the candidate’s professional history.
Recognition of Expertise
Think of outlining a person’s work experience as akin to telling the story of that person’s work life. They start out as a novice in their field and, over time, gain the knowledge necessary to complete their day-to-day tasks—knowledge that, as previously discussed, they would have learned in introductory-level academic coursework. Then, having become a self-sufficient member of their team, they move up to a higher position, one with more complex and detailed job duties, the successful completion of which would grant them knowledge and skills similar to those extracted from more in-depth and challenging academic coursework. Eventually, the candidate in question may reach a senior position in their field, now expected to perform tasks of increased sophistication, and perhaps even supervising less experienced colleagues. Performance of those types of tasks would signify that the employee in question has obtained a considerable amount of expertise in their field.
Proving that a working professional in a specialized field has been constantly learning and progressing (just as one is expected to in a classroom) puts to rest any notions of stagnation in their professional development, making it harder to dispute their qualifications for their desired job.
What to Submit to an Evaluator
When trying to highlight progressively responsible work experience, a simple list of positions the candidate has held will not be enough. Whenever possible, it’s important to provide a breakdown of the job duties associated with each position, as well as a clear timeline indicating when each job was held. That way, an expert evaluator can understand exactly what the candidate was doing at a given point in their work history and can establish that the candidate took on more complex tasks with each subsequent job.
If a candidate has only held one position in their field, don’t lose hope—detailing projects the candidate worked on and the job duties associated with each will indicate that even if the job title in question never changed, the nature of that position continued to evolve over time, parallel to the candidate’s own progress. Always remember when building your case for a work experience evaluation: progressive responsibility matters.
The H1-B visa is a visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. When applying for the H-1B visa, one of the requirements is that the applicant has an equivalent of a United States Bachelor’s degree. Many times the applicant meets this requirement without too much of a problem. However, issues arise when an applicant has a foreign Bachelor’s degree that is only three years in duration. Most, but not all, foreign three-year Bachelor degrees are only equivalent to three years of undergraduate study in the United States. So what is one to do when their foreign degrees lacks the right level of equivalence needed for a H-1B visa?
Fortunately, USCIS has the rule 8 C.F.R. §214.2 (h)(4)(iii)(D)(5), otherwise known as the 3-for-1 rule. The rule states: “For purposes of determining equivalency to a Baccalaureate degree in the specialty, 3 years of specialized training and/or work experience must be demonstrated for each year of college-level training the alien lacks.” In laymen’s terms, the 3-for-1 rule allows for three (3) years of work experience to be counted as one (1) year of academic study in a related field.
Understanding the Rule
Let’s say an H1-B applicant from India only has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Well, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from India is a three-year program, which means it’s only equivalent to three years of undergraduate study in the United States, thus falling short of the required equivalence of a US Bachelor’s degree. But suppose that same applicant has three or more years of IT-related work experience. This is where the 3-for-1 rule would come into play.
The applicant would need to request an expert opinion letter, which is typically defined as any evaluation that is a combination of academic/experiential credentials performed by an independent expert/professor evaluation. It would be up to the expert/professor evaluation to review the applicant’s Computer Science degree, then judge their work experience and see that it is in line with their field of study. If the expert/professor evaluator deems that the work experience is in fact related, they would be able to go on and say that the applicant has the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science based on their combined academic and work experience. With this conclusion reached, the applicant would be able to apply for the H-1B Visa having met their Bachelor’s degree requirement.
However, that’s not the only application of the 3 – for – 1 rule; it can also be of help when an applicant has no education past high school but has more than twelve (12) years of work experience in a related field. An expert/professor evaluator would be able to say that the applicant has the equivalence of a bachelor’s degree based on their twelve years of work experience. So if an applicant has fourteen (14) years of work experience in IT, an expert/professor evaluator would be able to say that the applicant has the equivalence of a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science here in the US, in spite of having never completed a degree program at a university-level. However, it should be noted that this particular type of expert opinion letter is heavily scrutinized by USCIS.
Additional Uses For The 3:1 Rule
The 3-for-1 rule can also be applied to give dual degrees to an applicant. The first step towards this is that the applicant already has a foreign Bachelor’s degree that is the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree. The applicant would then need at least six (6) years of related work experience in a field that is not the same as the field in which they earned their degree. For example, if an applicant has the equivalence of a Bachelor of Fine Arts here in the US, but seven (7) years of work experience in IT, an expert/professor evaluator would be able to say that the candidate also has the equivalence of a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science here in the US.
With the proper combination of academics and work experience, it is even possible to be granted a US Master’s degree equivalence through the 3-for-1 rule. As with obtaining a dual degree equivalence, the first step is that the applicant already has a foreign Bachelor’s degree that is the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree. An expert/professor evaluator would then look for at least five (5) years of work experience in a field related to the field of study that the applicant earned their degree in. In this case, if an applicant has the equivalence of a US Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, plus six (6) years of work experience in IT, an expert/professor evaluator would be able to say that the applicant has the equivalence of a Master of Science in Computer Science here in the US.
The 3-for-1 rule is a great way to help any applicant who may need that extra boost to meet the academic equivalence needed, provided they have all the right work experience.
From Satya Nadella (Microsoft) to Sundar Pichai (Google) to Shantanu Narayen (Adobe), the demand for IT experts from India has definitely boomed in recent years. With the increase in demand for IT talent coming from India in recent years, the need to evaluate candidate credentials has become a bit tedious. Luckily, our associate director of evaluations – Howard Borenstein has created this nifty cheat sheet when it comes to evaluating the credentials of your clients’ potential hires from India.
You can download the cheat sheet using this link.
Throw a dart. Roll the dice. Get on your knees and pray. Nowadays it seems like these are your only options when petitioning for an H-1B visa on behalf of your client. Immigration processing appears chaotic and random, almost designed to exasperate you to the point where you want to throw up your hands and quit.
And who could blame you? Visa applicants with sterling and highly specialized professional records are receiving RFEs at an alarming rate. The stories would make you laugh if the real-life consequences weren’t so painful.
The problem: who knows what a “specialty occupation” is anymore?
Take the ongoing case of Anubhav Shandilya, an Indian immigrant who came to the United States under H-1B status to work as an Equipment Logistics Engineer for a construction company. He did such great work for the firm that they promoted him to Assistant Project Manager, a position requiring specialized knowledge of construction-related finance, procurement, contracts, and scheduling.
The firm, Balfour Beatty Construction LLC, filed a 2017 H-1B Extension Petition to retain Anubhav. In their letter, the company made a clear and compelling case for his eligibility. They emphasized the complexity of the Assistant Project Manager position. They noted that a bachelor’s degree in construction management was a minimum requirement for the position (and Anubhav had a master’s). And they highlighted Anubhav’s extensive professional experience in the construction management sector.
And then came the cat and mouse game. The USCIS issued an RFE, claiming that the Assistant Project Manager role wasn’t a specialty occupation. The firm filed an RFE response letter containing a dizzying amount of additional detail and evidence. And, in its final ruling, the USCIS denied the petition.
Anubhav, his wife, and his two (US citizen) children are facing deportation and the dreadful possibility of having to uproot the lives they’ve made in America.
How to Deal with H-1B Uncertainty
The case of Anubhav Shandilya, which was recently filed in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, is becoming more and more representative of the Kafkaesque nature of immigration processing, where the ambiguous and subjective de facto rules of the game seem to be overriding the de jure.
So what can you do when you feel like you’re sending your visa applications, supporting documents, and follow-up letters into a randomizer?
Well, the first thing to do is recalibrate your expectations.
Over the last few years, the rules of the game have undoubtedly changed when it comes to immigration processing, and it’s important to recognize that you might have to put in more legwork to prove your client’s specialty occupation. You should go in to the process expecting to receive a detailed RFE that asks for
- Answers to questions you may have already answered in your initial filing.
- Minutia about the position in question.
- Explanations of previous documentation that may seem obvious.
Which Jobs Qualify as a Specialty Occupation?
What happens after you’ve reset your expectations? The next step should be to understand—as best you can—how the new, de facto rules regarding specialty occupations operate. Though it’s not entirely clear what the new standards are (after all, they are not encoded in the statutes regarding nonimmigrant workers), we can do our best to anticipate what should count as a specialty occupation.
While the USCIS receives H-1B visa applications in a vast number of professional areas, from dentists to market research analysts, we thought we’d use some hypotheticals from the legal field as an example.
So let’s take a look at three different worker types in the legal field and determine if, based on the tighter H-1B standards, you would be eligible for H-1B status.
As you know, the general criteria for a job to qualify as a specialty occupation (per the USCIS website) are:
- Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position.
- The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry, or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
- The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
And per the USCIS’s own guidelines, only one of these requirements must be met for a job to qualify. Let’s see how your jobs stack up.
Attorney at a Private Law Firm
Well, this one is easy. In order to become a practicing attorney in the United States, you need to obtain a bachelor’s degree, a law degree from an accredited institution, AND pass a bar exam. Unless you’re Mike Ross from the TV show Suits, no law firm would give you a snowball’s chance in hell of practicing law without the above credentials. In fact, your job is so specialized that it meets all four of the specialty occupation criteria.
Paralegals are essential to the proper functioning of law offices, and we know that paralegals require highly specialized skills in research, writing, and organization. This would seem to comport with the fourth criterion listed above—”The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.”
Here’s where it gets a little trickier. The career trajectory of a paralegal is not nearly as established as that of an attorney. Although many career paralegals do obtain master’s degrees in paralegal studies, it is not the norm, nor is it required for the position. The most common path to becoming a paralegal involves a two-year associate’s degree, which would fall beneath the minimum threshold of a bachelor’s degree to qualify as a specialty occupation.
That said, we still think that a paralegal would qualify as a specialty occupation based on the high degree of complexity the job entails. Even with a two-year degree, if you can prove that you have the specialized training or work experience to supplement your other two years of college, you should qualify.
Adjudicators play an important role in the legal profession, guiding alternative dispute resolution and helping to resolve conflicts between disputing parties before they go to court. They are also the perfect theoretical case study when it comes to the confusion surrounding the definition of a specialty occupation.
Adjudicators typically have a high degree of specialized knowledge in the field in which they mediate, and they also have special communication, problem-solving, analytical, and conflict-resolution skills. The nature of this knowledge is such that it would seem to satisfy the fourth criterion above. In fact, many adjudicators are lawyers or former judges, which speaks to the degree of complexity the job entails.
It’s becoming increasingly common for non-lawyers to serve as adjudicators, which throws a wrench into its status as a specialty occupation. That’s because the USCIS has taken to including an unwritten fifth criterion—that the degree required must be specifically related to the occupation in question. If an adjudicator can be a non-lawyer with a background in, say, environmental sciences, then it may not qualify in spite of the high degree of complexity and skill the job entails.
We know that the immigration process has become increasingly frustrating. The paperwork, the secrecy, and the apparent randomness of H-1B approvals and denials are all contributing to the vexation. Cases like Anubhav Shandilya’s are becoming more and more common, and the hypothetical case of the legal adjudicator will continue to be a major gray area in the application process.
But that’s no reason to start pulling out your hair. Recalibrating your expectations and understanding the new, de facto criteria for what qualifies as a specialty occupation are crucial to doing right by your clients and ensuring that their rights as voluntarily contracting parties are respected.
Park Evaluations has a network of consulting experts that can provide unbiased letters for H-1B visa applicants. We support a variety of fields, including—but not limited to—construction management and law. Contact Park Evaluations for a free assessment of your case today.
In the context of immigration, foreign academic credential evaluators are critical in evaluating higher education degrees obtained abroad. Some of the most popular work-based visas require educational degrees. A bachelor’s degree obtained in one country may not always equate to a bachelor’s degree obtained in the U.S.
Today, we demystify the evaluation process by looking at the tools evaluators use to assess academic equivalency to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
United States Benchmark
In the U.S., primary and secondary school education starts with Kindergarten and lasts through 12 levels (or grades). The final four years (9 th -12 th grades) are called “high school.” Beyond that, students pursue secondary education at a two-year college, or four-year college or university. The standard undergraduate bachelor’s degree usually requires four years of undergraduate study. Therefore, most foreign credentials are based on the four-year standard bachelor’s degree in the U.S.
Foreign bachelor’s degrees that are a three-year program are usually not sufficient to be evaluated as the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. This is the common problem encountered with Indian bachelor’s degrees. However, some three-year academic programs may equate to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. For instance, a three-year degree from the United Kingdom, or Israel, can equate to a U.S. bachelor’s degree if you factor in the total requisite years of study for entry into the three-year program. As foreign academic credential evaluators, we have precisely some of those tools at our disposal.
AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) developed the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE). This database collects and analyzes data for degrees from around the world. It categorizes the educational certificates and degrees from various countries around the world. Because USCIS has adopted the EDGE database, this tool has become indispensable to evaluators.
Case Study: Australia
In the U.S., the standard prerequisite for entrance to a college or university are entrance exams and/or completion of high school requirements. In other countries, the requirements for entering university are different.
For example, Australian students receive Technical and Further Education certificates (TAFEs). These certificates are designated by their levels: TAFE I, TAFE II, TAFE III, and TAFE IV and are the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma. However, because the certificates denote “further education” in its titling, it can lead to an erroneous conclusion by some that the certificates are the equivalent of a university-level degree.
While some of the certificates may reflect completion of undergraduate coursework, that alone would not normally equate to the equivalent of an undergraduate U.S. degree.
In Australia, the length of a bachelor degree program can vary from three years to seven years of coursework.
Some Australian bachelor’s degrees may even equate to a U.S. master’s degree, while other bachelor’s degree programs equate to a few years of college coursework in the U.S. It all depends on the length and robustness of the degree program.
General Tip For Employers And Foreign Candidates
A common rule of thumb is that a bachelor’s degree with at least four years of continuous undergraduate study is usually considered equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. If the degree program doesn’t meet this test, then accruing relevant work experience can also be helpful towards establishing the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree based on combined work and academic experience.
H-1B visas are a hot topic right now in the United States Congress, and there are several groups of senators striving to reform the program in order to fight fraud while at the same time increasing opportunity for the highest skilled foreign nationals in the field of tech.
Currently, the H-1B visa program is stressed to its limits. The demand for H-1B was threefold above the current government limit of 85,000. This limitation hits certain countries more than others, especially tech workers in India who file for H-1B. There are large backlogs for visas, which end up stopping Indian and Chinese nationals who must stay with one employer.
Zoe Lofgren (D), the representative serving the Silicon Valley area proposed a bill that will stop firms that will exploit the program in order to hire low-wage foreign workers. The bill proposes that H-1B candidates have priority if their employer offers them 200% of the prevailing wage for their job, but this varies depending on the job and skill level necessary.
Representative Lofgren aims to limit H-1B visas so that the highest qualified and paid foreign employees are hired without undercutting the wages of the American workforce. In addition, the bill eliminates limits by country.
Another bill that has been introduced recently is one by Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz (R). He believes that the current cap based on country should be eliminated and that there should be a first-come-first-served system put into place.
More bills regarding H-1B visas are expected to be introduced by multiple senators and representatives in the coming weeks, and President Trump also has ideas pertaining the continuation about the H-1B program.
Nonprofits and universities around the country use the H-1B program to find qualified foreign workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, as sometimes it is scarce to find qualified United States workers. Under the current system, only 65,000 h-1b visas are allowed each year, plus another 20,000 for advanced degree exemptions.
However, President Donald Trump has publicly announced that he does not like the h-1b program and wants to see to its removal. He has stated that he feels that it is against the interest of American workers to support this program, as qualified Americans could be hired to these positions. This contrasts with the opinion of many non-profit and large for-profit tech companies who see the h-1b visa program as a way to find highly qualified tech employees. The expense is often greater than finding a qualified American worker, but the there are simply not enough candidates in the United States to fill these positions.
Furthermore, President Trump has several opponents to the h-1b on his team of advisors. Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has ties to Breitbart News, a website that has strongly criticized the h-1b program. This post says that the h-1b desires to outsource experienced American workers with foreign ones.
The real estate mogul turned politician has also selected Jeff Sessions, the republican senator from Alabama, to become the new U.S. Attorney General. Senator Sessions has decried the h-1b program and wishes to remove it entirely.
Another critic of immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is one of Donald Trump’s advisors. Mr. Kobach is the mind behind the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall, as well as the controversial state of Arizona immigration law.
With several close advisors in the chief executives administration, is the h-1b in jeopardy?
Source: The Nonprofit Times
H1B Visas are a form of non-immigrant visas in the United States that allow US employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations in order to fill any gaps in the labor market. Each year the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive an overwhelming amount of applications for H1B visas from various parts of the country. However, different states contribute to this massive amount of filed cases.
According to the myvisajobs 2017 report, here are the top states where the most H1B applications are filed:
California is on the top of the list when it comes to H1B petitions, and it’s quite obvious since the state houses the industry that files the most petitions: information technology. Tech companies in the state of California, including Google, InfoSys, Apple and IBM petition the most foreign nationals in the market to work as software engineers, test engineers and software developers.
Texas comes in second with the most number of cases filed. Next to Silicon Valley, the city of Houston employs the most foreign nationals in the field of IT. Companies that filed the most cases in the state of Texas include Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM, Tech Mahindra and Accenture.
Third on the list is the Big Apple. As the country’s financial district, the city of New York employs the most foreign nationals on H1B visas in the field of finance. Companies who made the most petitions in the state of New York include Ernst & Young, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Goldman Sachs.
Illinois and New Jersey
Although the number of H1B visas filed in the state of New Jersey and Illinois individually are considerably smaller than that of California, the combined cases filed in the two states comes close to that of Silicon Valley. Last year, companies with offices based in New Jersey and Illinois, such as IBM, Wipro and Larsen & Toubro Infotech, raked in over 79,000 applications.
The H1B system has long been a hot topic in the tech industry. For some, the system helps fill-in gaps in the job market to keep it in motion and keep it productive, while for others, the H1B system is a way for companies who concentrate on outsourcing to aid foreign nationals with acquiring jobs in American companies at a lower price and thereby undercutting the American worker.
Now that the United States has elected a new president, one who promises an “America first policy,” there are talks about overhauling the H1B system in a way that prevents companies who specialize in outsourcing from employing cheap foreign labor. The latest bill submitted by senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin is one such example.
The bill was proposed to help improve the HB1 visa issuing system by creating a “preference policy” that will favor foreign nationals with advanced degrees. This will limit HB1 visa candidates to those with advanced skilled, which tend to earn higher pay. If this bill passes, the Unites States will become more discerning about who they offer H1B visas to.
The bill, which was first introduced in 2007 as “The H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007” by Senators Grassley and Durbin, has seen several revisions throughout the years. The main components of the bill are geared toward the crack down on outsourcing companies who abuse the system by hiring foreign nationals for temporary training purposes, only to send the workers back to their home countries to do the same job at a severely reduced rate. This bill will concentrate on companies with less than 50 employees whose staff is 50% H-1B or L1 visa holders.
This bill will also give the U.S. Department of Labor the power to review, investigate, and audit any outsourcing firm for compliance with program requirements and penalize those who partake in fraudulent or abusive conduct.
Whether or not the reintroduction of this bill will have an effect on the number of H-1B visa applications being submitted remains to be seen. For the 2016 fiscal year, close to 236,000 applications were filed in the United States, which shows steady growth since the HB1 Visa was introduced.