What is Progressively Responsible Work Experience?
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.