Foreign Degree Visa Requirments: 4 minutes read
If you are a foreign national exploring options to immigrate to the United States, you’ve likely seen that several visa types call for applicants to hold advanced degrees to meet the requirements. Understandably, interested applicants often inquire about their own degrees, which have been earned in their native countries, and are curious if they will be recognized by the US government as advanced. Let’s jump in and explore this topic and clear up some of the confusion.
Advanced Degrees for the EB2(A) Visa
To meet the basic legal requirements for an EB2(A) visa, guidelines state that the foreign national must have earned an advanced academic degree, such as a Master’s, Ph.D., Juris Doctor (J.D. or law degree), or an M.D. (medicine). This can be awarded from a foreign educational institution; it is not required to be awarded from a U.S. institution.
However, depending on the profession and the other supporting evidence, there have been occasions where applied professional experience can count in lieu of advanced degrees. Specifically, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’s definition of an “advanced degree” includes a B.A. or B.S. “followed by at least five years of progressive experience in the specialty,” which it considers to be equivalent to a master’s degree.
The “progressive” aspect of the experience means that the level of responsibility the worker managed, the complexity of the tasks taken on, and the knowledge gained in that position must have increased over the course of the five years, such as through a promotion and expanded scope of responsibilities. Please note that the five years’ experience must be completed prior to the employer-sponsored application with an organization. With the guidance of an immigration attorney focused on specialty visas, that requirement can be clearly conveyed on a visa application.
Can my foreign degree count towards a National Interest Waiver?
The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is another term you might hear within the EB2 visa category, there is no requirement for an employer to sponsor the application for this specific visa. However, there is a need to show substantial benefit to the United States, and that the applicant is qualified as an expert in a given field of work.
For an NIW, in order to demonstrate benefit to the U.S. the applicant will have to show that their work will have a favorable impact on the country’s economic, employment, educational, housing, environmental, or cultural situation, or some other important aspect of U.S. life. Building a profile to prove expertise is a key part of this visa, like many others. Evidence such as advanced degrees from a foreign institution in the field of work related to the application, along with forward-looking plans, press and awards, and speaking experience at industry conferences are key to showing that the foreign applicant is more qualified than someone residing in the US that could arguably perform the same work benefit for the country. This applicant profile is similar to what would be assembled for a talent visa–showing concrete expertise, industry accolades, and exceptional talent. The difference for the NIW is that the applicant will directly contribute to enhancing the quality of life in the United States in some way. Great examples of this could be applicants specialized in science or engineering when there are infrastructure problems to address, or medical occupations when there is an employee shortage.
The competitive Edge of Advanced Degrees
Advanced degrees are always a benefit to a foreign applicant looking for a US visa. Even in categories where a Bachelor’s is required, an advanced degree, such as a Master’s or Doctorate, shows enhanced dedication to an area of industry along with a larger amount of expertise on behalf of the applicant. Be sure to share any and all degrees, certifications, and other professional programs completed with your immigration attorney here at Loigica to help build a compelling and competitive profile for your visa application.
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