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H-1B Degree Equivalency Using Work Experience and Specialized Training

In order for a foreign national to qualify for H1B employment, the person must establish that he or she is a professional/specialist, which is defined as possessing at least a bachelor's degree, or the equivalent work experience or specialized training in a specialist occupation. Problems can arise for the foreign national who has a degree from a foreign college or university that does not reach the equivalent of a US bachelor's degree. If the foreign degree is found to be the equivalent of only three years of US college education, that person must establish one additional year of college education to qualify for H1B employment.

Experience and training are counted using the three-for-one rule

The law recognizes that a person who does not have the required normal academic qualification of a bachelor's degree can reach that level through relevant experience and training in the field. If the person lacks a bachelor's degree, relevant work experience and/or specialized training is counted toward the equivalent of college education using the three-for-one rule. When making a determination whether a foreign national possesses the required academic credentials necessary for an H1B occupation, the USCIS will consider three years of specialized training and/or work experience to be the equivalent of one year of college education.

Experience and training must cumulate to the equivalent of the degree

Occasionally the USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) suggesting that the beneficiary’s work experience is not relevant because it was not all in a professional-level position. However, specialized training and work experience must be progressively responsible. This means that work experience that is not in a professional-level position should not be ignored when counted toward the three-for-one rule of degree equivalency. According to regulation, the requirement is that the years of specialized training and/or work experience counted towards college education must have culminated in professional-level employment. The word “culminated” means that experience in a nonprofessional position that leads up to experience in a professional position is relevant because that experience culminated toward the professional position.

If the regulation were to require all work experience and specialized training is only relevant when it is accumulated while in a professional-level position, then this would actually require a foreign national to have accumulated many more years of training or experience than the three-for-one rule requires. For example, when people acquire experience from employment, they do not begin working in a professional-level position at the beginning of their career. Rather, the person gradually attains professional-level ability through work experience that culminates in the achievement of the professional-level.

Thus, for three years of work experience and/or specialized training to be considered the equivalent of one year of college education, entire three years of that training or experience does not have to be in a professional-level position. Rather, the requirement is that at the end of those three years, the person reached a professional-level position. If you have questions about H1B degree equivalency issues, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney.

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