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Could 3-year bachelor degrees affect your National Interest Waiver (NIW) application?

A graduate holding up a bachelor's degree

Special care is needed when an applicant for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition is seeking to qualify as an advanced degree professional with a three year bachelor’s degree from a foreign country and over five years of post-baccalaureate work experience.

Although in many parts of the world it is common and sometimes standard for bachelors’ degrees to be granted after three years of study, such as the UK, New Zealand, Israel, etc., there is a risk that USCIS will find that a three-year bachelor’s degree is not equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree, which usually requires four years of study. This could disqualify an applicant for EB-2 classification.

If you have a 3-year bachelor’s degree from a foreign country which you are considering using as a basis for meeting the threshold requirement for EB2 national interest waiver (NIW) petition, the following strategies could mitigate the risks:

U.S. Equivalency Evaluation based on AACRAO EDGE

Applicants with 3-year bachelor’s degrees issued in certain countries, for example the UK, may benefit from obtaining and submitting an U.S. education equivalency report, citing the AACRAO EDGE database, that confirms that the foreign bachelor’s degree is indeed equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree notwithstanding the fact that it is obtained with three years of study.

The AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers) EDGE (Electronic Database for Global Education) database is commonly relied on by USCIS in making determinations of whether a certain foreign degree is equivalent to a U.S. degree. Therefore, obtaining a degree equivalency report from an institution that explicitly cites to the “AACRAO EDGE” database could be persuasive support for USCIS to find that your degree is a U.S. equivalent bachelors degree.

Though confirmation from AACRAO EDGE is certainly a strengthening factor, it is worth noting that equivalency determinations are ultimately reserved to the discretion of the USCIS officer.

Meeting the EB-2 threshold with Exceptional Ability

Another strategy to meet the EB-2 threshold, which does not require the proof of an advanced degree or an advanced degree equivalent, is through qualifying under “exceptional ability.”

To successfully argue “exceptional ability,” the applicant should provide evidence for at least three of the below criteria:

  • Any degree, certificate, or other academic credential related to your field
  • 10 years of full-time work experience in the applicant’s field, proven by official letters from former or current employers.
  • A license or certificate to practice in your profession.
  • Evidence that you have received a significantly higher salary than the average in your field.
  • Membership in professional associations in your field
  • Recognition of your contributions to the field by your peers, government entities, or other professional or business organizations.
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility.

As a whole, the collection evidence should cumulatively indicate that the applicant has a degree of expertise that is “significantly above the ordinary” in their field of science, arts, or business.

It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced lawyer in these petition areas to help you identify the best strategy to fill in any potential gaps in your petition that could affect the outcome of your case.

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This website and blog constitutes attorney advertising. Do not consider anything in this website or blog legal advice and nothing in this website constitutes an attorney-client relationship being formed. Set up a one-hour consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results are no guarantee of future results and prior results do not imply or predict future results. Each case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

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