USCIS has issued a PM (Policy Memorandum) adopting the decision of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) in Matter of O-A-, Inc.
Matter of O-A-, Inc. involved the question of whether post-baccalaureate (BA/BS) experience can only be measured from when the applicant received the formal diploma itself, as opposed to when the applicant completed all the requirements for the degree and instead received what is commonly termed a provisional certificate reflecting that the BA/BS degree was approved.
The AAO held that the date of grant of provisional certificate may be taken as date of grant of degree if a petitioner establishes that, as of the date the provisional certificate was issued, the beneficiary had met all substantive requirements for the degree and that the degree was approved.
The case involved a beneficiary possessing a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU) in India seeking EB-2 qualification based on a Bachelor’s degree and five years of post-baccalaureate progressive experience from the date of award of her provisional degree certificate showing that the Beneficiary has completed all the substantive requirements for the degree and that the university has approved the degree.
JNTU issued her a provisional degree certificate on May 17, 2006, but she did not receive her formal diploma until March 30, 2007. The Director of USCIS counted the five year period from the day of award of formal diploma and thus concluded that the Beneficiary fell just short of the five year requirement and denied the petition.
On appeal, the Petitioner maintained that the Beneficiary did accrue the requisite five years of post-baccalaureate experience if USCIS recognize that her “degree” was conferred on the earlier date of her provisional certificate.
The AAO sustained the appeal. It stated “we must conduct a case-specific analysis to determine whether, at the time a provisional certificate is issued, the individual has completed all substantive requirements to earn the degree and the college or university has approved the degree. We must consider evidence presented regarding the individual nature of each university’s or college’s requirements for each program of study and each student’s completion of those requirements. A petitioner will bear the burden to establish that a beneficiary’s provisional certificate reflects that, at the time the certificate was issued, all of the substantive requirements for the degree were met and the degree was in fact approved by the responsible college or university body”.
This decision will be very helpful to all applicants whose final diplomas are awarded many months after the grant of provisional degree certificates. It’s very common practice with Indian Universities to award the final Diploma after about one year of grant of provisional degree showing completion of program. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.