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Sheila Danzig

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  1. Over the past two years, lawyers, employers, and H-1B beneficiaries have suspected USCIS raised its standard of proof for H-1B visa approval without any new law, regulation, or notice to the public. This was evidenced anecdotally with jobs that had never before been called into question for meeting H-1B specialty occupation requirements suddenly being hit with an unprecedented rate of RFEs instead of approvals, like computer programmer and engineer. When USCIS released its H-1B Employer Data Hub, it became clear these suspicions were correct. The National Foundation for American Policy analyzed the report and found that, “Between FY 2015 and FY 2018 the denial rate for new H-1B petitions quadrupled from 6% to 24%. To put this in perspective, between FY 2010 and FY 2015, the denial rate for initial H-1B petitions never exceeded 8%, while today the rate is 3 to 4 times higher.” Following the notorious April 2017 executive order, “Buy American, Hire American,” denial rates for initial H-1B petitions nearly doubled from 13% in FY 2017 to 24% in FY 2018, and then climbing to 32% in the first quarter of 2019. H-1B extensions and transfers saw similar spikes even though these petitions are for workers who had previously been approved and for jobs that had previously been approved. The same workers and the same jobs that qualified just a few years ago are now being denied at unprecedented rates. In FY 2017 the denial rate for these petitions was 5%. The rate more than doubled in FY 2018 to 13%. Along with this statistic, the top 27 employers of workers holding H-1B visas all experienced denial increases between FY 2015 and the first quarter of FY 2019 for H-1B extension petitions. These are petitions for the same job and worker that were previously approved. This shows that the standard of proof has changed without any new law, regulation, or notice to the public. The same workers and jobs that met H-1B requirements just a few years ago suddenly do not. USCIS is restricting H-1B visas, as evidenced by their denial trends. This is beginning to have what may turn into catastrophic effects for STEM industries in the United States. Already, STEM businesses that are expanding internationally are choosing to open branches elsewhere. International students are choosing to go to other countries for undergraduate and grad school because job prospects following their education in the US rely on the H-1B program. At this time, only 20% of all graduate students in US schools studying computer sciences and electrical engineering – fields the STEM industries depend on – are US citizens. It has been known for a long time that STEM industries in the US depend on the H-1B program to remain globally viable. If you, or if your employee or client receives an RFE or Denial this H-1B season, it is imperative that it be fought. The burden of proof is higher now than it has ever been before, and that means we need stronger petitions, and strong RFE responses. For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  2. The numbers show that the same specialty occupations approved for H-1B visas just a few years ago are now being called into question. According to Forbes, in FY2017 only 3% of H-1B extension petitions were denied. These petitions are for beneficiaries whose H-1B visas were previously approved. Then, in FY2018, the denial rate more than doubled, jumping to 12%, and then to 18% in the first quarter of FY2019. All of the top 27 employers of H-1B beneficiaries experienced this spike in denials for the same jobs they had been approved for. Meeting specialty occupation requirements for H-1B visa approval has become much more difficult. Jobs that had never before been called into question are now met with RFEs. One of these is the job of engineer. Last year we had dozens of clients come to use with specialty occupation RFEs for engineer. They were caught off guard because they did not expect they would have to defend the complexity of their job. These are different times, and it is essential to submit the initial petition in anticipation of a specialty occupation RFE. Last year, these RFEs were successfully answered with detailed documentation of the duties, responsibilities, and day-to-day tasks of the job that show practical and theoretical application of a highly specialized body of knowledge and skill. Petitioners also had to include the ad for the job, ads for the same job for different companies in the industry, and the employer’s past hiring practices to prove that requiring a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent is the standard for the position in question. All of this documentation was shared with an expert in the field with extensive field experience. At TheDegreePeople.com we work with experts in all H-1B fields. Our engineering experts used the information provided by petitioners to write the expert opinion letters needed to overturn specialty occupation RFEs. When all of this is submitted with the initial petition, it greatly cuts a beneficiary’s chance of receiving a specialty occupation RFE. While there are no guarantees with USCIS, we always keep an eye on their approval trends, and meet each year’s new challenges with expertise and tact. If you, or if your employee or client received a specialty occupation RFE, we can help. Visit ccifree.com/ for a free review of your case. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  3. When USCIS takes issue with one aspect of an H-1B petition, they rarely stop there. One common example is the Double Nightmare RFE, which is a specialty occupation RFE and a wage level RFE rolled into one. Complicated RFEs are answered by going back to the basic approval requirements. Getting wrapped up in the wording and specific demands of an RFE is a trap. Read it over with your team, then put it down and go back to the basics. For H-1B eligibility, a job must meet specialty occupation requirements, the beneficiary must hold the necessary advanced degree in the field of the H-1B job, there must be an employer-employee relationship, and the beneficiary must make the prevailing wage for the job in that industry, in that geographical location, for companies of that size. The Double Nightmare RFE calls two of these requirements into question. Beneficiaries making level one wages are especially vulnerable to this RFE because USCIS claims they either are not making the prevailing wage for the job, or the job is not a specialty occupation as evidenced by the low wage. This RFE can be answered with just one expert opinion letter that addresses both issues as they correlate. Your job is to provide the expert with as much detail and documentation about the job, its duties and responsibilities, past hiring practices, ads for that job and similar jobs as possible. The goal is to paint a detailed picture of why this particular position requires a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher in the field to perform. You must also provide a breakdown of the factors that went into setting the wage level as it is, including the level of training and supervision the employee will need to start, and why this is the case. Again, providing documentation of past hiring practices and the starting wage for the job is essential. All of this is needed to provide the expert with the information needed to write the opinion letter your client needs to get that RFE overturned. The expert must be a professional in the field of the H-1B job with extensive field experience beyond just being an instructor or professor. USCIS routinely rejects expert opinion letters from experts who only teach the field rather than work in it. At TheDegreePeople.com we only work with experts with direct field experience to write expert opinion letters, and it works. If you, or if your employee or client has received a Double Nightmare H-1B RFE, we can help. Visit ccifree.com/ for a free consultation. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  4. Keeping in pace with the past two years, specialty occupation RFEs are common this RFE season, and computer programmers have been hit especially hard yet again. Computer programmers – especially those making level one wages – are especially vulnerable to specialty occupation RFEs because entry level computer programmers can sometimes be hired with only a US associate’s degree. H-1B specialty occupation requirements state that an occupation must require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher to enter the position. For this reason, computer programmers have been running into trouble. There are two main problems with USCIS’ rationalization for this RFE: 1. When an occupation SOMETIMES only requires an associate’s degree but USUALLY requires a bachelor’s degree, the USUAL should mark the industry standard, not the exception. 2. USCIS wrongly assumers that when a job is set at level one wages it is an entry level position or the wage level is set incorrectly. H-1B requirements also state that the employee must be paid the prevailing wage for the job. That is why this RFE so often arrives a double RFE calling both the job specialization and the wage level into question. However, there are many factors that go into determining a job’s wage level and just because a job is set at level one wages does NOT mean that it is an entry-level position. We recommend including an expert opinion letter in your initial petition in which an expert in the field of computer sciences with extensive FIELD EXPERIENCE beyond just instructing explains why the job is a specialty occupation requiring application of advanced skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, not every expert opinion letter is accepted by USCIS. Sometimes it’s the wrong expert. USCIS will only accept expert opinion letters from professionals with extensive field experience and prestige in the field of computer sciences. Letters from instructors and professors who do not also work directly in the field don’t cut it. Sometimes it’s your fault. It is up to the H-1B employee and employer to provide the expert with enough details about the job for the expert to write a letter USCIS will accept. That means providing the ad for the job, proof of past hiring practices that show an advanced degree is normally a required minimum, a detailed breakdown of the duties and responsibilities of the job, and the factors that went into setting the wage level. Many employees fresh out of college require a higher level of training and supervision when they first start, which significantly contributes to a lower starting wage even though an advanced degree is required. At TheDegreePeople.com, we have experts on hand with field experience to write the evaluation you or your employee or client needs to get that RFE overturned. We will advise you on what information to provide to make sure your expert gets everything they need for success. For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  5. Every year, a higher percentage of H-1B beneficiaries selected in the lottery receive an RFE this time of year instead of outright visa approval. If you, or if your employee or client received an H-1B RFE this year, there is a high probability that is was a specialty occupation RFE. Last year, USCIS bombarded H-1B petitioners with RFEs questioning whether their job met the requirements for “specialty occupation.” H-1B visas are work visas for foreign employees working jobs that require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent, and require application of specialized knowledge, skill, and understanding to perform. Last year, jobs that had never before been called into question were receiving these RFEs. Here is how to handle them: 1. You will need to provide the ad for the job that shows the degree requirement along with ads for the same position in the industry working for similar companies to show that the degree requirement is an industry standard. 2. You will need to provide evidence of past hiring practices for the company to show a consistent history of hiring employees with these advanced credentials. If this job is particularly specialized in a way that is not represented by an industry standard, this is especially important. 3. You will need to provide a detailed description of the duties and responsibilities of the job that clearly show application of specialized knowledge, understanding, and skill. 4. You will need to provide an expert opinion letter from a professional with extensive field experience in the industry. An instructor will NOT cut it unless they are also working in the field. The strength of this expert opinion letter will depend on how much information you can provide them from the first three points. The more details you can provide, the stronger case they can write to explain to USCIS why you, or your employee or client has been hired to a specialty occupation. At TheDegreePeople.com, we have experts in all industries on hand 24/7 to write the opinion letter you need, or your employee or client needs to address that H-1B specialty occupation RFE. For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  6. A recurring RFE we see every year with H-1B candidates is the education RFE for the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree. Candidates who do not submit credential evaluations that account for the missing fourth year of education with their initial petition get RFEs about it this time of year. Graduate schools commonly accept the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree as an acceptable prerequisite to their programs, and employers will hire employees to specialty occupations with this credential. International trade and labor agreements recognize the Indian three-year bachelor’s degree as the functional equivalency of a US four-year bachelor’s degree. The number of actual classroom contact hours and college credit hours in an Indian three-year degree is equal to or greater than the 120 college credit hours that make up the US four-year bachelor’s degree. For all of these reasons, H-1B candidates and their teams overlook the persistent USCIS approval trend of NOT APPROVING beneficiaries with just this credential. The best way to both prevent and answer this RFE is to include a detailed credential evaluation that accounts for the missing fourth year of education. Regardless of how many college credit hours this three-year program actually has, USCIS is hung up on that missing fourth year, and USCIS is the gatekeeper of your visa, or your employee or client’s visa. At CCI TheDegreePeople.com, we rely on the work experience conversion option in these credential evaluations to account for the missing fourth year. USCIS accepts that three years of progressive work experience in the field of the H-1B job is the equivalent to one year of college credit in that major. You must prove that you, or your employee or client took on progressively more responsibility as time went on, and that the nature of the work increased in complexity. Then, one of our professors at TheDegreePeople.com with the authority to issue college credit for work experience, will write this conversion and it will be included in the credential evaluation. This evaluation will show USCIS that you DO have, or your employee or client DOES have the academic equivalent of a US four-year bachelor’s degree in the field of the H-1B job. If you have, or if your employee or client has an education RFE for an Indian three-year bachelor’s degree, we can help get it overturned. For a free consultation, visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  7. USCIS and employers have a different idea of what qualified an H-1B employee for their specialty occupation. It is commonplace for employers to hire a candidate with a degree in a field related to the position, given they have proper work experience to master the specialized skills and knowledge necessary to perform it. It has been years since USCIS has regularly approved H-1B cases in which a beneficiary has the required US Bachelor’s degree in a field RELATED to the specialty occupation. USCIS will not outright approve an H-1B visa unless the beneficiary has a degree in the exact specialization of the occupation, or a detailed credential evaluation that explains how their educational and field experience background makes the equivalent of the correct degree specialization. Every year, we have clients come to us in this situation. The way we overturn these RFEs is to write a detailed evaluation that analyzes the course content of the degree earned to highlight college credit hours earned in the exact field of the H-1B job. Then, we take progressive work experience into account to bridge the gap between the beneficiary’s education specialization and the field of the H-1B job. Three years of progressive work experience in the field of the H-1B job in which the beneficiary can prove they took on progressively more responsibility and the nature of their duties and tasks became increasingly complex and specialized can be converted into one year of college credit in the field of the H-1B job. This conversion must be written by a professor with the authority to grant college credit for work experience. At TheDegreePeople.com, we work with professors in all fields to write the work experience conversion for the credential evaluation you or your employee or client needs to get that RFE overturned. There are no cookie cutter solutions to H-1B RFEs because every case is different. Every job is different, and every educational pathway is different, especially when it comes to highly skilled individuals. All evaluations are uniquely researched and written with regards to your, or your employee or client’s education, job, work experience, and visa. For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  8. Last year we had countless clients come to us with specialty occupation RFEs. Some of them came to us with RFEs that they had tried to get overturned with an expert opinion letter, and failed. One such client came to us with a specialty occupation RFE for computer programmer. He had submitted an expert opinion letter with the petition, anticipating issues arising. However, the expert opinion letter he included in his petition was from the WRONG expert. USCIS only acknowledges expert opinion letters written by experts that have extensive experience WORKING IN their field of expertise. Simply being a professor or instructor in the field does not cut it, they need to have a wealth of field experience of their own for their opinion to have the weight it takes to sway USCIS. At TheDegreePeople.com, we only work with experts with extensive field experience. While many of our experts are instructors, they also either work now, or have very recently worked directly in the field. When we send USCIS expert opinion letters, RFEs get overturned virtually every time. Of course, the expert opinion letter is only as good as the information provided. The more details you can give our experts the more credible and convincing their letter will be. If you, or if your employee or client received an H-1B RFE for specialty occupation, talk to us. Be sure to have detailed documentation of the duties and responsibilities of the position, the ad for the job as well as ads for the same position in different companies within the field, and proof of past hiring practices to prove that an advanced degree is the norm for minimum required education for entry into the position. We will advise you on anything else you may need for your, or your employee or client’s specific circumstance. For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  9. RFE season is now, and when CIS finds one problem with a petition, they tend to find more. Over the past few years, we have seen a common double RFE involving specialty occupation and education issues. H-1B eligibility rules state that to qualify for H-1B status the H-1B employee must hold a US Bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent in the exact field of the H-1B job. The job must be a specialty occupation, one that requires a minimum of the H-1B educational requirements for entry into the position. This job must involve theoretical and practical application of a specialized body of skills and knowledge as evidenced by the advanced degree. This double RFE calls into question whether the job meets specialty occupation requirements, and whether the H-1B beneficiary meets educational requirements. Some common issues on the job topic are when an occupation sometimes requires this advanced degree minimum qualification, or when the job is set at a low wage level. Some common issues on the topic of the beneficiary’s education are incomplete college, a degree earned outside of the United States – particularly the Indian three-year Bachelor’s degree, no college or a degree from an unaccredited institution, and having the right degree but in the wrong specialization. The first issue can be addressed with evidence showing past hiring practices, the ad for the job and similar jobs that show the minimum requirements meet H-1B specialty occupation requirements, a detailed breakdown of the duties of the job, and an expert opinion letter. This expert opinion letter validates that the job does require specialized knowledge and skill earned through the education required by H-1B statutes, and the expert must have expansive experience working in the field of the specialization, beyond instructing. The second issue can be addressed with the right credential evaluation that takes the job and the education into consideration, along with H-1B requirements, CIS approval trends, and any training that took place in a classroom setting or through progressive work experience in the field to fill in any gaps between the beneficiary’s education and H-1B job requirements. At TheDegreePeople.com, we have experts on hand in all fields ready to write the expert opinion letter CIS needs to get the RFE overturned. All of our experts have extensive work experience in the field. All of our credential evaluators have been trained to work with difficult RFEs and have expertise in international education and particular visa requirements. Every credential evaluation is uniquely researched. If you or your employee or client receives an RFE this summer, time is of the essence. Visit ccifree.com/ for a free review of your case and advisement of how to best proceed.
  10. Recently a lawsuit was filed against USCIS by ITServe Alliance. This is a organization of US IT service companies that had previously petitioned USCIS against new changes to H-1B adjudication rules. The new rules state that for IT consulting companies that contract H-1B employees to work off-site to meet H-1B requirements, they had to prove the H-1B employee would have “Guaranteed specific and non-speculative work assignments” scheduled for the entire duration of their three-year H-1B visa. This rule was applied to new employees seeking H-1B status for the first time, and for existing H-1B employees seeking visa renewal. This new rule has taken a toll on IT consulting firms across the United States. Last fall at the end of FY2018, a study of the 30 top employers that sponsor H-1B employees found that while IT consulting firms saw 20-80% rates of H-1B Denials among their sponsors, non-consulting companies only saw a 1% Denial rate. Consulting firms were answering RFEs and Denials well into the fiscal year the sponsored employee was hired for, cutting into business productivity and damaging relationships with customers because new hires could not start on time because they were still engulfed in a fight for their right to work. While USCIS claims that this new rule is simply a reinterpretation of existing statutes, ITServe Alliance disagrees. Regardless, USCIS is still the gatekeeper of you, or your employee or client’s visa status, and that means you must be prepared to prevent and answer the potential RFE or Denial that is likely to arrive this summer if you or your employee or client works for an IT consulting company. Here is what you need to do to get this kind of RFE or Denial overturned: 1. Clearly show three years of guaranteed and non-speculative work for the H-1B employee. This means providing a detailed itinerary of the employee’s next three years on the job bolstered by customer contracts and timelines. 2. Clearly show that the employer-employee relationship will be maintained even when the H-1B employee is working off-site. This means providing a clear breakdown of the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of the employee along with their means of reporting to the employer. Clearly show avenues of control and accountability as you will need to prove that the employer maintains the ability to hire, fire, promote, and otherwise control the work the H-1B employee does throughout the duration of the H-1B visa, regardless of which site they are working at. 3. Include an expert opinion letter that analyzes, ties together, and lends credibility to the evidence and documentation you provide. This expert must have extensive experience WORKING IN the IT consulting field, and not simply be an IT instructor or professor. At TheDegreePeople.com, we have the right experts on hand 24/7 to write the opinion letter you or your employee or client needs to serve a strong case for approval. 4. Make sure all of your bases are covered. When USCIS finds a red flag in a petition, they look deeper, and they usually find more aspects of a case to take issue with. Education issues, wage level issues, and specialty occupation issues are common features of the first or second round of RFEs. Always take the opportunity to prevent a second round of RFEs when answering the first. For a free review of your case, visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  11. USCIS has completed selecting the 85,000 H-1B petitions to be adjudicated for approval for cap-subject petitions for FY 2020. Those selected that filed for premium processing may begin receiving notice this week as to their approval status with the anticipated date of completion set on June 4th. Case adjudication for those who did not file under premium processing will begin early to mid-June and often takes months. Last year, adjudication for FY 2019 – which began October 1st, 2018 – extended into the 2019 calendar year. If you are unsure of whether or not your case was selected, check the account activity on the account of the check written for the H-1B processing fee. If it has been cashed, your case was selected in the lottery. When a notice arrives of the status of the case, do not be alarmed if you receive an RFE or Denial. This is NOT the end of the road. Over the past few years, the prevalence of H-1B RFEs spiked, especially for beneficiaries working entry-level positions, working as computer programmers, and working at wage level one. This year, USCIS adjudicators have been given the authority and encouragement to deny petitions outright without first issuing an RFE. This may lead to a spike in Denials instead of RFEs. Either way, they are possible to overturn and get the visa approved in time to get to work for FY 2020. If you expect an RFE or Denial is coming this H-1B adjudication season, you can better prepare to defend your case or your employee or client’s case. You will need a detailed credential evaluation that takes the job, the visa, USCIS approval trends, and any issues found in the case into consideration. You will also need documentation that details the demands, duties, tasks, and responsibilities of the job, and a detailed breakdown of employer and industry hiring practices with regards to minimum qualifications for the position in question. Finally, you will need an expert who works IN THE FIELD rather than just teaches it to write an opinion letter that ties the evidence you have provided together. First and foremost, however, you will need to take an honest look at your case, or your employee or client’s case and identify what might attract scrutiny by USCIS that could result in a visa Denial. At TheDegreePeople.com, we work with RFEs and Denials every year. We understand what triggers them and we know how to successfully respond to them. For a free review of your case, or your employee or client’s case visit ccifree.com/. We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
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