The H1B visa is one of the most sought-after non-immigrant work visas and offers a wide range of employment possibilities in USA.
The H1B visa allows foreign nationals in “specialty occupations” to enter the U.S. to work in a variety of fields including accounting, architecture, engineering, modeling, and medicine and health.
To Qualify For An H1B Visa, Foreign Nationals Must Have:
- A U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in their specialty.
- A full unrestricted license to practice in the U.S., in fields that require state licensing, such as teaching or pharmacy.
- A U.S. employer to sponsor the H1B visa.
NOTE: The foreign national cannot be self-employed.
U.S. Bachelor’s Degree Requirement For H1B
U.S. immigration law states that a specialty occupation must require:
- a bachelor’s degree as the minimum for entry into the occupation, and
- that the applicant has a bachelor’s degree that is related to the occupation.
DID YOU KNOW?
The H1B visa supports dual intent, which means you can apply for the Green Card while in H1B status.
I Don’t Have A U.S. Bachelor’s Degree, I Have A Foreign Degree – What Do I Do?
The regulations allow for applicants to have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
A 4-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited or recognized foreign university or college will generally be considered equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
In most cases, unless your education was completed in the U.S., a Credentials Evaluation showing an equivalency to a U.S. bachelor’s degree is required to obtain the H1B visa.
Thus, if you wish to come to the U.S. on an H1B specialty occupation visa, and all your degrees are foreign degrees, you will need your education credentials evaluated and submit that evaluation with the H1B petition.
If you have less than a 4-year degree, USCIS allows you to ‘combine’ your degrees if you have multiple degrees.
The regulations also allow you to combine progressive work experience in the field with university study, or in some cases, use work experience alone to meet the equivalency requirement.
The regulations specifically state that, for H1B purposes, three (3) years of progressive work experience in the field will be considered the equivalent of one year of U.S. university study.
But What Is An H1B Credential Evaluation? How Do I Secure one?
This article will answer these important questions.
1. What Is Foreign Credential Evaluation?
A ‘Credential Evaluation’ for an H1B visa is the procedure that seeks to determine the equivalency of foreign degrees and/or experience with education in the U.S.
If you are seeking a foreign degree evaluation for H1B visa purposes, USCIS requires that the report include an equivalency statement of the diplomas/degrees along with brief information on the institution where the studies were completed.
2. What Does A Credential Evaluation Contain?
A credential evaluation usually contains a description of the education credentials, including degree awarded, the year it was awarded, the name of the institution attended, and your major field of study, together with the opinion of the evaluator as to whether the foreign degree or education is the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
DID YOU KNOW?
1. A credential evaluation is typically an evaluation of the education credentials of the foreign national.
2. It will not comment on or evaluate a foreign national’s work experience or other training, unless the individual seeking the evaluation is taking advantage of the 3-for-1 rule (three years of work experience for one year of education).
3. Evaluations that include experience must generally be from a qualified evaluator associated with a college or university.
3. Why Is Education Evaluation Required For H1B Visa?
Because the H1B visa requires that applicants have a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, USCIS must have evidence that you either possess a U.S. bachelor’s degree or that your foreign degree is ‘equivalent’ to a particular U.S. degree.
My Case Scenario
Harry, a British national is seeking a job in the US as an electrical engineer. He completed an apprenticeship as an electrician 18 years ago. The apprenticeship was extensive with approximately 2 years of classroom work together with on-the-job training. The classroom work covered the theory and physics of electricity as well as the technical aspects of the job.
With Harry’s apprenticeship and 18 years of progressive experience leading to his current job in South Africa as an electrical engineer, education credential evaluators and the USCIS found that he had the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He got his H1B petition approved and is happily working in the US.
4. How To Obtain Credential Evaluation For H1B Visa?
The equivalency to a United States bachelor’s or advanced degree can be determined by one or more of the following routes:
- An assessment from an official university employee who has the power to grant college-level credit for training and/or experience in the specialty at a recognized college or university which has a program for granting such credit based on an individual’s training and/or work experience.
- The recognized college-level equivalency examination results or special credit programs, such as the Program on Non collegiate Sponsored Instruction (PONSI); or College Level Examination Program (CLEP).
- An assessment of education by a trustworthy credential evaluation service that specializes in assessing foreign education evaluation for H1B.
- Proof of certification or registration from a nationally accredited professional association or society for the specialty that is well-known to grant certification or registration to people in the occupational specialty that have attained a certain level of proficiency in the specialty.
- A determination by the USCIS that the degree required by the specialty occupation is equivalent and has been acquired through a combination of education, focused training, and/or work experience in areas related to the specialty and that the foreign national has achieved recognition of proficiency in the specialty occupation as a result of such experience and training.
My Case Scenario
Michael graduated from what he thought was a well-known university in Sweden with a degree in computer science. He was seeking a job in the IT industry in the US as a software engineer. He did not want to spend the money on an evaluation and did not believe that he needed a credential evaluation because his degree was in computer science (and everybody knows what that is) and it was from a ‘reputable’ university.
Unfortunately for Michael, the USCIS officer reviewing his case disagreed and asked for a credentials evaluation in a Request for Evidence. When Michael sought out the credential evaluation, he found out that his degree program was not ‘accredited’ by his own country’ education system and would not be deemed equivalent to a U.S. degree. Michael’s employer had to withdraw the application. Michael’s reluctance to spend the money for the evaluation up-front cost him and his employer a lot of time, money and aggravation.
US immigration regulations limit the scope of foreign credential evaluators to evaluating only foreign education, and not experience.
Evaluations based on experience requires the submission of documents from qualified college officials who has authority to grant college-level credits, professional associations, former employers, or recognized experts.
Obtaining the most appropriate foreign degree evaluation from a qualified source before filing H1B petitions will help avoid RFEs and potential denials.
Contact VisaPro Law Firm today for a FREE H1B Visa Consultation. We’ll talk through your priorities and recommend strategies for filing H1B visas based on our attorneys’ near 100% success rates.
VisaPro attorneys have handled complex foreign credential evaluations for H1B visas involving degrees from around the world, and can assist you with procuring the most suitable evidence by analyzing the specialty occupation position and the foreign national’s background. Schedule A Free Consultation Today >>
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