Degree Equivalency Requirements for Form I-140

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If you are applying for an employment-based Green Card in the second or third preference, you will need to submit evidence that you have the education required to perform the job being offered to you by your U.S. employer.  The educational requirements for the offered job will be listed on your approved Labor Certification (Form 9089).

Remember, an employment-based Green Card involves three (3) distinct steps:

  • Labor Certification (Form 9089)
  • Immigrant Petition (Form I-140)
  • Adjustment of Status (Form I-485)

If your priority date is current, Form I-140 and Form I-485 may be filed simultaneously.  If your priority date is not current, you must wait for it to become current before you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status to permanent resident.

You will need to submit proof of your education when your employer files Form I-140 on your behalf.  If you earned the required degree(s) inside the United States, you should submit a copy of your complete transcripts and a copy of your diploma.  If you earned the required degree(s) outside of the U.S., you will need to obtain an evaluation of your credentials.  Many private companies provide credentials evaluation services that are designed for this purpose.

Qualifying for the Employment-Based Second Preference

In order to qualify for the second preference, the offered job must require an advanced degree.  You must also have earned the required advanced degree before the Labor Certification was filed.

USCIS now consults the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE) to determine the U.S. equivalent to a foreign degree, even though you are required to provide a credential evaluation if you have a foreign degree.  This may result in problems if EDGE has determined that your foreign degree is not equivalent to an advanced degree in the U.S.

People who earned advanced degrees in less than six (6) years often encounter this problem.  For example, many countries grant a Master’s degree in five (5) years with no underlying Bachelor’s degree.  And many countries grant a Bachelor’s degree in three (3) years, unlike the U.S. system which generally requires four (4) years to complete a Bachelor’s degree.

If EDGE does not consider your foreign degree(s) to be the equivalent of an advanced degree in the U.S., you will have to provide additional evidence to USCIS, proving that your degree is equivalent to a U.S. advanced degree.  This could include evidence relating to your particular school and field of study.  You could also provide information about the educational system in your country generally and the acceptance of degrees earned in your country around the world.  If you cannot provide enough evidence to convince USCIS of your qualifications, you may have to apply for a Green Card in the third preference.

Qualifying for the Employment-Based Third Preference

The employment-based third preference includes professionals with at least a Bachelor’s degree and skilled workers performing jobs that require at least two (2) years of training or experience.  For professionals in the third preference, the offered job must require a Bachelor’s degree and you must actually possess a Bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent).  If your degree was earned outside the U.S., you will need to provide a credential evaluation when your employer files Form I-140.

USCIS may consult the EDGE database for third preference petitions as well.  If you earned a degree outside of the United States and the EDGE database does not indicate that your degree is equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree, you will need to submit additional information to prove that EDGE’s determination is incorrect.  You may encounter this problem if you earned a foreign Bachelor’s degree in less than four (4) years, in which case you should submit detailed information that shows how you completed at least the same amount of coursework required for a four (4) year Bachelor’s degree earned in the United States.

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