FAQs on Credential Evaluation
What is foreign credential evaluation?
Foreign credential evaluation is a process which:
- Analyzes a foreign academic credential in terms of the U.S. system of education
- Generates a credential evaluation report that includes information about the original credential and its U.S. equivalency.
- Allows the individual’s education to be understood by anyone who is familiar with the U.S. educational system
What is the purpose of credential evaluation?
Foreign-educated individuals encounter many barriers during the immigration process, one of which may be the recognition of their foreign academic credentials. A credential evaluation will:
- Interpret your client’s qualifications in U.S. educational terms, so that they can be more easily understood by potential employers, licensing boards or university admissions officers
- Enable individuals with foreign credentials to compete on a level playing field with U.S.-educated candidates
What is the benefit of a credential evaluation to my client?
The time and energy invested in education pays off when academic credentials are understood and recognized.
- Educational systems around the world vary significantly so an accurate and objective analysis of how a foreign educational credential compares to the U.S. system makes it less likely that unfamiliar degrees will be dismissed or undervalued. For example:
- If your client puts the US equivalency to their foreign degree on their resume it makes it easier for an employer to reach a hiring decision.
- A college or university officer can make an offer of admission and award transfer credit that takes into account prior education and experience.
- An evaluation done for licensing purposes will indicate which additional courses may be necessary to fulfill requirements.
Who does credential evaluation?
In the U.S., there is no single agency or authority (such as a Ministry of Education) that evaluates foreign credentials.
- Some organizations (licensing boards, universities, employers) do their own evaluations.
- Most rely on an independent, external credential evaluation service to provide them with an evaluation report.
- Institutions that use external services will indicate which service should be used or offer a list of preferred providers from which individuals can choose the one that best meets their needs.
What are the different kinds of evaluation reports?
Depending on the purpose for the evaluation, your client may need to decide between a basic or a more comprehensive, detailed evaluation report.
- Basic evaluation reports provide a description of the foreign credential (e.g. 3-year Bachelor of Arts in Engineering from Delhi University, India) and advise recipients concerning the U.S. equivalency.
- Detailed evaluation reports list all courses completed for that credential and may also provide an equivalent U.S. semester credit and grade. Some agencies will calculate a U.S. Grade Point Average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale, which is the standard way of reporting academic achievement in the U.S.
How does my client know what kind of evaluation report is needed?
- The recipient institution (university, licensing board or employer that will receive the evaluation) determines what kind of evaluation report your client needs.
- A comprehensive, course-by-course evaluation is almost always necessary when an individual is applying for transfer credit or to a graduate degree program where there are certain prerequisites, or when being considered for professional licensing or certification in a regulated profession.
How does my client know if an evaluation service is legitimate?
- Credential evaluations services operate independently and establish their own policies and procedures, fees and processing times. This can make it difficult for individuals to know whether a service is reliable, or even legitimate.
- The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) is a voluntary association of about 20 organizations that meet professional and ethical criteria for membership. Choosing one of these services gives the consumer some protection from irregular practices and helps them avoid Internet scams. A list of NACES members can be found at www.naces.org.
How does my client choose the best service?
- Always check first with the website of the institution that will receive the evaluation (employer, university, licensing board) for guidance and requirements.
- If there is no explicit guidance on the recipient’s website, the individual should contact the intended recipient to seek out specific instructions.
- Be careful not to rely solely upon a general Internet search, especially on search engine advertisements, to choose an evaluation service. Unfortunately, there are a good number of unreliable and even bogus evaluation services.
Are there additional features or options to consider?
Evaluations vary by cost, turnaround time and types of reports offered, depending on the service provider. In addition to evaluating the credential, some agencies:
- Verify the authenticity of documents (which strengthens the report’s credibility and acceptance)
- Scan and store the report and related documents to enable clients’ easy access to verified documents and additional reports in the future
How much does an evaluation cost?
The cost of an evaluation depends upon many factors – the degree of detailed analysis required for your purpose, whether or not an agency charges for each credential it evaluates, processing time, etc.
- Fees for “basic” reports are typically in the range of $70-$150; for “detailed” reports the range may be $150-$350.
- Credential evaluations for licensing purposes may involve reviewing even more detailed information, higher fees and represent only one part of a longer process.
- Additional fees apply for expedited processing or express delivery options.
Financial assistance to cover the cost of credential evaluation is usually not available.
How long does an agency take to perform a credential evaluation?
Agencies vary considerably in how long it takes them to perform a credential evaluation.
- The “turnaround time” depends in part on how long it takes for all the documentation to arrive at the evaluation service. Translating documents and sending transcripts from abroad and can take anywhere from a week to a few months after they have been requested.
- Once the necessary documentation has been received, evaluation services vary widely in terms of their processing time – from a week to a couple of months.
Most credential evaluation services post guidelines on their website indicating how long the evaluation will take once all required documents have been received, and many offer options for expedited services for an additional fee.
What credentials can be evaluated?
- Any formal academic credential can be evaluated by most agencies, including a high school diploma.
- Some evaluation services will only evaluate credentials from recognized or accredited institutions.
- A professional license may also be evaluated, but only by the relevant licensing board or its designated evaluation service.
How does the evaluator determine equivalency?
- Agencies use a variety of research tools and resources to determine the status of foreign academic institutions and to assess an individual’s academic achievement against the U.S. system and standards of education.
- Services that have been performing credential evaluation for many years have an extensive database of precedent cases which allows them to rely on previous analysis of similar credentials.
How do evaluators ensure they are working with authentic documents?
Each agency has different standards and practices for determining the authenticity of documents.
- Evaluators check that the institution is nationally recognized (comparable to a regionally-accredited institution in the U.S.) and not a “diploma mill” or bogus institution.
- The norm in the U.S. and many other countries is to transmit official documents, such as transcripts, in a sealed envelope directly from the awarding institution to the receiving institution or its designated evaluation service.
- Some services will accept “originals” or unofficial copies from the student, especially if official documents are difficult to obtain, but the authenticity of these documents is more difficult to verify. It is not common practice to return transcripts or other documents to the individual.
Do documents have to be translated?
- Evaluators need to see the documents in the original language (if not English) and in English translation.
- If the original documents are not in English, the client is responsible for submitting a certified, word-for-word translation of all required documents with the application.
Note that many foreign academic institutions now issue official documents in English.
What happens if the required documents are not available?
In circumstances where official transcripts cannot be obtained, some agencies have policies that will provide for an alternative way of validating and evaluating a credential.
What is the best service to use if my client wants to get relicensed?
There is no single credential evaluation service for licensing, since licensed professions are regulated by state licensing boards. In order to avoid unnecessary costs and procedures, your client should:
- First check with the licensing board – their website should explain the licensing process for foreign-educated individuals and related requirements
- Many perform their own credential evaluation; others require the client to use a specific evaluation service, or provide a list of preferred providers
Does every credential evaluation service give the same equivalency?
- Credential evaluation is done on a case-by-case basis and the methods and resources used by evaluation services differ, so they may reach different conclusions regarding the U.S. equivalency of a foreign credential.
- Keep in mind that each credential is examined on its own merit, taking into consideration the country's educational system, the academic institution and program, year of graduation and many other factors that make each case unique.
Does everyone recognize the results of credential evaluation reports?
Evaluation reports performed by credential evaluation services are advisory and not binding on any institution.
- Ultimately the institution receiving the credentials ultimately decides how it will recognize the credentials. It is not bound by the professional judgment of the evaluation service – even if the institution has recommended the service.
What if your client is unhappy with the results of an evaluation?
If a client is dissatisfied with the results of an evaluation, in nearly all cases, a review or appeal may be requested.
- Members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) hold to high professional and ethical standard in conducting evaluations. The NACES Code of Practice states: "Upon request, the evaluation service should inform the applicant the basis for the outcome of evaluation."
- Many services will review these “appeals” for free, but some charge a fee.