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  1. Over the past three H-1B cap-subject seasons, we have seen an unprecedented rise in specialty occupation RFEs calling jobs into question that had never run into trouble before. This trend is echoed across the entire H-1B visa program, with overall approval rates plummeting from over 80% in 2015 to around 60% for FY2019. USICS approval trends changing, however, is nothing new. Before the rise of the specialty occupation RFE, education issues were the big change. USCIS began issuing RFEs for petitions in which the employee held an advanced degree in a related field, requiring the employee have a degree in the exact field of the H-1B job. This threw a wrench in the system but we learned how to successfully answer these RFEs with detailed credential evaluations and creative solutions. The biggest solution when addressing difficult RFEs of any kind are to go back to the basics and go from there. It worked with education RFEs, and we have seen widespread success with it when facing specialty occupation RFEs. There are two main standards that must be met to qualify for H-1B status. Although USCIS has raised the burden of proof to meet these standards, these two rules continue to be the guide to overturn an RFE. The H-1B job must require a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher to perform, and the H-1B employee must hold that degree or its equivalent. In the recent past, the issue was to prove the employee had a degree in the exact field of the H-1B job, which often required a credential evaluation to fill in the gaps between the employee’s education and the H-1B job. Now, we have to go several steps further in a similar way to prove that the H-1B job meets specialty occupation requirements. In the past, jobs that typically required a minimum of a US bachelor’s degree or higher as an industry standard were making the cut. Now they do not. One major example of this is the job of computer programmer. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, sometimes employers will hire to this position with just an Associate’s degree. In the past, the exception was not viewed as the norm, but now USCIS is adjudicating as it is. To prove specialization, you and your team need to go further to prove why the job in question meets specialty occupation requirements despite the exceptions. You will need to provide a detailed breakdown of the duties and responsibilities of the job that highlight the ways in which specialized skills and knowledge are applied theoretically and practically. You will also need to show similar ads for the same job in similar companies in the industry to prove that a US bachelor’s degree or higher is the minimum requirement as a standard, as well as evidence of past employer hiring practices that show this minimum education requirement as a standard for this particular job. Along with this documentation, you will need to provide an expert opinion letter. This expert must have extensive field experience as USCIS has rejected opinion letters from instructors and professors in the field who have not worked directly in the field beyond instructing it. The expert will look over all of the documentation you have prepared for your RFE response and lend their opinion that this job does meet specialty occupation requirements. At TheDegreePeople.com we have the right experts on hand in every field, and our experienced staff can help you work through the jargon of even the most difficult RFEs as we work with them every year. USCIS approval trends change every year, and this challenge is no different. Start by going back to the basic eligibility requirements and work diligently from there. Remember, you only have 90 days from when you receive an RFE to respond to it. Time is of the essence and waiting until the last minute will just hurt your chances of success. For a free review of your case visit ccifree.com/We will get back to you in 48 hours or less.
  2. Over the past two years, H-1B jobs that had previously been approved as specialty occupations – such as electrical engineer or computer programmer – are now receiving RFEs as responses to initial petitions instead of approval. This is because USCIS has raised its standards of proof without a new law or regulation, and without notice. While USCIS approval trends change from year to year – and there are never any guarantees with USCIS – this change was sudden, drastic, and is a threat to STEM industries in the United States. Already H-1B restrictions are causing major STEM companies from expanding their business to the United States, and deterring international students from enrolling in US undergraduate and graduate schools, as the option to stay in the United States to work under H-1B status is a major impetus for these bright students to come in the first place. Only 20% of graduate students in US schools studying electrical engineering and computer sciences are US citizens. We need the other 80% to keep STEM industries in the US alive. If you have received, or if your employee or client received a specialty occupation RFE this season, it is important to fight it, not just for this individual case, but for the health of the H-1B program and for the survival of STEM industries in the US. At TheDegreePeople.com, we have answered countless specialty occupation RFEs successfully. Here is how we do it: First, we ask the beneficiary and petitioner to provide as much evidence and documentation they can to support the specialization and complexity of the position in question, as well as a breakdown of the factors that went into setting the wage level. Specialty occupation issues often come hand-in-hand with wage level issues in this double RFE. We prefer to answer them both at once to save time, and also to prevent a second round of RFEs in the future. Include the ad for the job that shows a minimum educational requirement of a US bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent, different ads for the same position in similar companies showing this minimum educational requirement, and proof of past employer hiring practices that show the petitioner regularly hires employees to the position in question with this minimum educational requirement. Also include a detailed breakdown of the duties and responsibilities of the job to highlight the theoretical and practical application of specialized skills and knowledge. Second, we will take what you gave us and pass it over to an expert in the field of the H-1B job. The expert will write an expert opinion letter explaining why this job meets USCIS specialty occupation requirements. We work with experts in all H-1B industries, all of whom have extensive experience working IN THE FIELD. USCIS will not accept expert opinion letters from professionals who are instructors or educators in the field alone. The expert must have extensive field experience for USCIS to accept their opinion and approve your visa, or your employee or client’s visa. Let us help you overturn your specialty occupation RFE, or your employee or client’s specialty occupation RFE. Visit ccifree.com/ for a free review of your case and consultation.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
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