Current US educational trends clearly show that the amount of time it takes to complete a degree is not an accurate reflection of its actual academic content. More and more US college students are taking over four years to complete their four-year bachelor’s degrees, opting to take time off or take fewer classes at a time. However, when it comes to H1-b educational trends, USCIS is obsessed with the “four-year” aspect of the US four-year bachelor’s degree required equivalency. For this reason, H1-b candidates with three-year bachelor’s degrees from India have trouble getting their visas approved.
As an immigration attorney, it is important to first understand the truth behind misconceptions about the Indian three-year degree, and then understand how to address these misconceptions to USCIS in a way that takes their trends into account. Regardless of the actual value of your client’s education, it must be communicated in such a way that is in harmony with CIS requirements and educational trends.
There are two prominent misconceptions about the education of candidates who hold Indian three-year bachelor’s degrees:
- Candidates do not possess the core knowledge that comes from a US four-year degree.
The Indian three-year bachelor’s degree tends to have a more specialized curriculum while US four-year bachelor’s degree programs require general credits and classes from outside of a student’s major. However, this is changing in universities across India. Many institutions have changed to a choice-based credit system, which allows flexibility for students to take classes outside of their major. At the same time, the core education curriculum required for Indian students to earn a High School Diploma before they even enter college is extensive, rigorous, and well rounded. In most cases, Indian students are coming into college with the core knowledge US bachelor’s degree students must learn in college.
- The missing fourth year means a missing year of academic content.
Debunking this myth is a matter of math. The US four-year bachelor’s degree requires 120 credit hours to graduate. One college credit hour is comprised of fifteen classroom contact hours, meaning fifteen hours spent directly in the classroom. This is 1800 classroom contact hours for a US four-year bachelor’s degree. According to Dr. R. Venkatachalam, former psychology professor at Bharathiar University in India (http://www.emailwire.com/doc/three-year-indian-degree.pdf), a typical Indian three-year degree program has roughly 3,240 classroom contact hours.
Now that you understand the value of your client’s three-year Indian bachelor’s degree, how can you express this to USCIS in a way that they will understand? Regardless of how many classroom contact hours your client’s degree consists of, CIS still requires a progressive work experience evaluation to account for the missing fourth year. This means your client must have three years of work experience in their field of employ that can be converted into one year of college credit in that field. Progressive work experience means your client took on more work and responsibility in this experience, indicating that specialized skills and knowledge were learned and mastered. A credential evaluation agency with the authority to convert progressive work experience into college credit can write the detailed credential evaluation your and your client need to meet H1-b visa requirements in accordance with CIS educational trends. Do not file your client’s H1-b petition without one such credential evaluation or the missing fourth year will come back to haunt you in the form of an RFE or Denial.
About the Author
Sheila Danzig is the Executive Director of TheDegreePeople.com a Foreign Credentials Evaluation Agency. For a no charge analysis of any difficult case, RFEs, Denials, or NOIDs, please go to http://www.ccifree.com/ or call 800.771.4723.