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H1B Visas – Clarification of USCIS’s policy regarding evaluations on the equivalency of degrees

To qualify for an H-1B visa foreign nationals must have the a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent in their specialty and, in fields that require licensing, such as teaching or pharmacy, a full unrestricted license to practice in the U.S. You must also have a U.S. employer to sponsor you; you cannot be self-employed or self-petitioned.

Thus, if you wish to come to the U.S. on an H-1B specialty occupation visa, and all your degrees are foreign degrees, you will need your educational credentials evaluated and submit that evaluation with the H-1B petition.

At a recent meeting between AILA and USCIS officials, the following issue came up: We request that Service Center Operations Director advise on how the Service treats foreign degrees, for equivalency purposes, if the programs were structured differently at the time
the degree was obtained than what is reflected today in the ACCRO-EDGE database.

For example a degree that may have taken 4 years in the past now takes 3 years and the individual who holds the degree completed it under the 4 year standard. How can we be sure the beneficiary is given credit for having a 4 year degree? A member at the Annual Conference reported a denied I-140 under these conditions even when the member provided a course by course evaluation, a letter from the foreign university explaining the change and documents from the government showing when the change occurred.

USCIS Response: USCIS reviews each educational evaluation independently. If USCIS determines that the beneficiary’s educational background is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree then USCIS will adjudicate accordingly. Petitioners should provide whatever information they feel will best establish that the beneficiary’s educational background is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.

As a reminder, USCIS’s policy regarding evaluations on the equivalency of degrees is that the
evaluations are advisory in nature and the final determination continues to rest with USCIS (See
Matter of Caron International, 19 I&N Dec. 791 (Comm. 1988), Matter of Sea, Inc. 19 I&N
Dec. 817 (Comm 1988), and Matter of Ho, 19 I&N Dec. 582 (BIA 1988).)
8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(D) provides that for purposes of paragraph (h)(4)(iii)(C)(4) equivalence to completion of a United States baccalaureate or higher degree shall mean achievement of a level of knowledge, competence, and practice in the specialty occupation that has been determined to be equal to that of an individual who has a baccalaureate or higher degree in the specialty and shall be determined by one or more of the following:
An evaluation from an official who has authority to grant college-level credit for training and or/experience in the specialty at an accredited college or university which has a program for granting such credit based on an individual’s training and or work experience.

We strongly advice our clients to provide as much documentation and information about foreign education as possible. We also suggest to only use expert professors in line with the above referenced guidelines. Email us for more info.