Client came to us with an opportunity to work as a Computer Systems Analyst. He possessed over three years of relevant experience and an Associate of Science degree in Computer Information Science from an accredited U.S. college.
However, the school admitted the client to its Associate of Science degree program with advanced standing based on his satisfactory test results on CLEP (College Level Examination Program) standardized examinations and for the studies he completed through Microsoft Certification programs. The client completed the requisite coursework at the college and was awarded a two year Associate of Science degree with a major in Computer Information Systems.
Because the client did not possess a bachelor’s degree, he would have to rely on the alternative credential for a Computer Systems Analyst: possession of a Post-Secondary Diploma and three years of experience.
In order to satisfy the Post Secondary Diploma qualification alternative credential requirement for the Computer Systems Analyst (and several other professions available for TN status under NAFTA), 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c) fn. 3 states that the Post Secondary Diploma must be “a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.”
We have had difficulty with CBP inspectors in accepting these types of Post-Secondary Diplomas in support of TN applications. CBP has frequently interpreted the “completion of two or more years of post secondary education” rule as requiring the student to physically spend two complete academic years at the diploma issuing school.
Analysis & Solution:
We believed that the client’s diploma should satisfy the Post Secondary Diploma requirements under NAFTA. Concerned that CBP would again apply a strict interpretation of 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c) fn. 3, we equipped our client with supplemental materials in support of his case for a TN.
In an Attorney Memorandum we prepared, we informed CBP that it is a standard practice for academic institutions to award college credit for “prior learning” and for satisfactory test results on standardized examinations:
Students usually can take exams to get college credit for what they know, shortening the time it takes to get a degree. Just like 4-year colleges and universities, 2-year schools offer credit to students who take advanced placement tests, International Baccalaureate exams, and College Level Examination Program tests.1
In addition to preparing an Attorney Memo, we also obtained an expert opinion letter which stated that “[d]egrees awarded based, in part, on advanced standing arising from prior post-secondary studies, are indistinguishable from degrees that are issued based on the completion of the entire academic program at one single institution.”
The client applied at the Calgary pre-flight inspection office and received his TN approval with little complication.
1. Olivia Crosby, Associate Degree: Two years to a career or a jump start to a bachelor’s degree, Occupational Outlook Quarterly (Winter 2002-03).