Hello International Students:
Starting the summer of 2017, employers and immigration attorneys began noticing that US Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications. The number of challenges — officially known as “requests for evidence” — are up 44% compared to last year, the highest level they’ve been since 2009. This is definitely not good news for either employers or international students themselves.
I share this post with you with some hesitation though because the vast majority of you out there will not experience the scenario called RFE when applying for your H1-B. I certainly don’t want to cause international students any unnecessary anxiety, particularly these days. Let’s start by defying what a RFE is. See below.
So you get it. Essentially the government is saying: we are not sure if you qualify for an H1-B visa so we need to ask you a few questions and we need some additional documentation from you as well.
There will be a few of you out there who may, unfortunately, find yourselves in the same situation that Yang had to deal with. See the message below I received from an internatinal student who I had been working with.
Sometimes if work diligently and smartly with your attorney you can try to avoid an RFE in the first place. Because some RFE scenarios may be avoided, I thought I’d go ahead and offer some suggestions on this topic. The basic principle is simple: rather than worrying about how to treat a cold isn’t it best to develop strategies that might prevent you from catching a cold in the first place?
If you are applying for an H1-B come April 1, work closely with your attorneys and ask them this question next time you speak to talk to them:
Have I delivered every documentation and information you need to allow for my H-1B petition to be approved right way, without an RFE?
Below are some very wise words from immigration attorney Dobrina Ustun, who I know.
“As an immigration attorney and H-1B practitioner, I am a firm believer in having an H-1B RFE strategy at the time of initial filing. However, having a strategy for issues we have not seen before, it is not feasible. Yes, the Level 1 RFE is a great example. Also, each case is different hence it requires different strategy/analysis. For example, the first step is to look at the petitioning employer: consulting vs. product company vs. start-up. Often with consulting companies, we need to think about employer-employee relationship, end-client, existing contracts and etc. Start-ups need to worry about revenue, business plan, do they have existing clients/contracts/ how do you show ability to pay and etc. The next step is the H-1B candidate: the type of degree, the courses taken, how they fit with the job description and the position, can we leverage prior experience and etc.”
Be an informed H1-B applicant and help your attorney represent you in the best manner possible when your H1-B application gets filed on April 1st. Attorneys make mistakes sometimes. They are people like you and I. Do not completely put your future in the hands of your immigration attorneys. Help them help you. Partner with them. Ask them the right questions. Give them the evidence they need so your H1-B can be approved with no issues. Be a proactive client. Anticipate what will most likely not happen and take the right steps to ensure it won’t happen.
I have reached out to a few experts in the field of RFEs and they seem to think that the number of RFEs, which has been on the rise, could increase in 2018 though no one knows what will happen, of course. But once again, please don’t let this post keep you up at night. Chances are you will be fine. But given the high level of scrutiny around the H1-B program and how critical some of our politicians have been of it, perhaps the evaluator of your H-1B application could be unusually interested this year in determining if you deserve an H1-B visa or not. After you finish reading this post I encourage you to read the article below, which was written by someone with a lot of experience in the RFE field.
From my perspective, many of the international students I know have gotten in trouble with their H1-B petitions in the past because their educational background did not match their position job title and/or job responsibilities.
You MUST establish a link between your degree/coursework and the duties of the job you were hired for. If the link is not there, the government may deny your H-1B application, or an RFE may be coming your way.
If you obtained an MBA and the job description you submit with your H-1B application does not state that an MBA degree is a requirement for the job you could be in trouble. Similarly, if you got an MBA degree but your job is in the field of artificial intelligence that could be an issue as well. The goverment may conclude that your degree may be not needed for the role you got hired for. Discuss these scenarios with your attorney and manager before filing for your H1-B, of course.
Below is another example…
Please meet Polina Haryacha everyone, who is an international worker and found herself in the middle of an RFE when her employer applied for her H1-B. In the end, Paulina succeeded and secured her H1-B. Note how she took control over her situation once she found out her H1-B had not been initially approved. See the great blog Paulina wrote below about her experience. And Thank you Polina for doing this very helpful post)
If you know someone who will be trying their luck with their H1-B this coming April 1st share this post with them.
And once again, don’t stay up at night worrying about a RFE. Take whatever proactive steps you might be able to and hope for the best. It will be OK in the end. As usual, I will be rooting for you international students.
Marcelo Barros is the author of The International Advantage Get Noticed Get Hired! Barros partners with university career centers to give international students an edge when job searching. Lately, amongst many other things, Barros has been a little worried about RFEs.