Today, we bring you a guest article authored by Shail Sturm, Manager at Park Evaluations, to discuss how credential evaluations are an important component in preparing successful immigration petitions to U.S. immigration.
In the context of immigration, foreign academic credential evaluators are critical in evaluating higher education degrees obtained abroad. Some of the most popular work-based visas require educational degrees. A bachelor’s degree obtained in one country may not always equate to a bachelor’s degree obtained in the U.S. Today, we demystify the evaluation process by looking at the tools evaluators use to assess academic equivalency to a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
UNITED STATES BENCHMARK
In the U.S., primary and secondary school education starts with Kindergarten and lasts through 12 levels (or grades). The final four years (9th-12th grades) are called “high school.” Beyond that, students pursue secondary education at a two-year college, or four-year college or university. The standard undergraduate bachelor’s degree usually requires four years of undergraduate study. Therefore, most foreign credentials are based on the four-year standard bachelor’s degree in the U.S.
Foreign bachelor’s degrees that are a three-year program are usually not sufficient to be evaluated as the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. This is the common problem encountered with Indian bachelor’s degrees. However, some three-year academic programs may equate to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. For instance, a three-year degree from the United Kingdom, or Israel, can equate to a U.S. bachelor’s degree if you factor in the total requisite years of study for entry into the three-year program. As foreign academic credential evaluators, we have precisely some of those tools at our disposal.
AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) developed the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE). This database collects and analyzes data for degrees from around the world. It categorizes the educational certificates and degrees from various countries around the world. Because USCIS has adopted the EDGE database, this tool has become indispensable to evaluators.
CASE STUDY: AUSTRALIA
In the U.S., the standard prerequisite for entrance to a college or university are entrance exams and/or completion of high school requirements. In other countries, the requirements for entering university are different.
For example, Australian students receive Technical and Further Education certificates (TAFEs). These certificates are designated by their levels: TAFE I, TAFE II, TAFE III, and TAFE IV and are the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma. However, because the certificates denote “further education” in its titling, it can lead to an erroneous conclusion by some that the certificates are the equivalent of a university-level degree. While some of the certificates may reflect completion of undergraduate coursework, that alone would not normally equate to the equivalent of an undergraduate U.S. degree.
In Australia, the length of a bachelor degree program can vary from three years to seven years of coursework. Some Australian bachelor’s degrees may even equate to a U.S. master’s degree, while other bachelor’s degree programs equate to a few years of college coursework in the U.S. It all depends on the length and robustness of the degree program.
GENERAL TIP FOR EMPLOYERS AND FOREIGN CANDIDATES
A common rule of thumb is that a bachelor’s degree with at least four years of continuous undergraduate study is usually considered equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. If the degree program doesn’t meet this test, then accruing relevant work experience can also be helpful towards establishing the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree based on combined work and academic experience.
ABOUT OUR GUEST AUTHOR
Shail Shurm grew up in Canada. His grandparents emigrated from both Germany and Hungary. Immigration has been a steady focus in Shail’s life. He has been working with Park Evaluations for the past 3.5 years and has a passion for assisting attorneys and foreign nationals navigate the complexities of credential evaluation for U.S. immigration matters. Shail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.