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Answering an H1B RFE: Beware of Education Traps!


Some of the most common H1B RFEs are the result of your case, or your employee or clients case falling into an H1B education trap. The H1B visa is for highly skilled workers coming to the United States with a US bachelors degree or higher, or its foreign equivalent to work specialty occupations. This particular visa weighs heavily on educational requirements for approval, and these requirements get tricky in a hurry. Education systems, structures, and functional equivalencies vary from country to country. This gets even messier when degrees in different countries have the same linguistic translation but different educational values.

If you or your employee or client fell into an H1B education trap, you need to understand what happened and how you can fix it when answering the RFE. Below we will look at some common H1B traps and how to climb your way out of them.

Badly Translated Transcripts

When you submit an H1B petition, CIS requires all educational documents be translated into English and evaluated for US academic equivalence. Some degrees simply dont translate directly into English. At the same time, many degrees do translate directly into English when it comes to the wording, but the degree has an entirely different academic content. This is why degrees must be translated AND evaluated, and these are both highly specialized fields. Sometimes translation agencies overstep their scope of practice and make educational value judgments along with language translation. This is a major H1B education trap that has become more and more treacherous as some translation agencies have begun to market their services as a one-shop stop for translation and evaluation. Credential evaluation must be carried out on a case-by-case basis because every pathway through learning is unique, every institution is unique, and every country has a unique structure. An evaluator must be knowledgeable about these differences, as well as federal case law, CIS precedents, degree program admissions requirements, and international trade agreements to write an accurate evaluation of your degree, or your employee or clients degree. Translation agencies simply do not have this expertise and instead turn to conservative equivalency databases like EDGE, which is not actually a standardized equivalency database as no such database actually exists.

If you or your employee or client received an RFE as the result of a bad translation, talk to a credential evaluation agency that works regularly with H1B RFE cases. A skilled evaluator can spot a bad translation and evaluate accordingly.

The degree is not from a government-accredited institution.

The fact is, there are plenty of institutions around the world that offer rigorous education programs that fully prepare workers for highly specialized occupations that are not actually government accredited. That means that even though you or your employee or client may have a legitimate education from an institution held in high regard by your industry, or your employee or clients industry, the institution itself may not be government accredited and CIS will not approve the visa.

This is an RFE trap that you may or may not be able to wriggle free of. If you have, or if your employee or client has years of progressive work experience in the field of their specialty occupation, a credential evaluator with the authority to convert years of work experience into college credit to write a US bachelors degree equivalency CIS will accept. Its always best to find whether or not this will work BEFORE you file the petition, but even if you fell into this H1B trap for FY2017 you may still be able to answer the RFE and get the visa approved.

The Bachelors Degree is ACTUALLY just a high school diploma.

This happens more often than you may think. Mistaking a high school diploma for a Bachelors degree can happen as the result of cross-cultural misunderstandings, bad translations, and acting upon false information. H1B educational criteria require candidates to hold a US bachelors degree or higher, or its equivalent. A high school diploma or the foreign equivalent of a US high school diploma will not cut it.

If you or your employee or client fell into this H1B education trap, talk to a credential evaluator with experience working with H1B RFEs. If you have, or if your employee or client has any post-secondary education from an accredited institution, this can be counted towards a bachelors degree equivalency, along with any years of progressive work experience you have, or your employee or client has in the field of employ. This is a tough mistake to recover from, and you may even find out that you or your employee or client has been pursuing the wrong visa all along. However, there is still a chance that you can claw your way out of this H1B education trap.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of CCI,, a foreign credentials evaluation agency. For a no-charge analysis of any difficult case, RFE, Denial, or NOID, please go to or call 800.771.4723.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.