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Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

SIIP Best Practices: Using Federal and State Funding to Pay for Credential Evaluations

Thursday September 21, 2023 | by Trevor Shealy

Multi-racial employees shaking hands over a table

In May, WES Global Talent Bridge’s Katherine Gebremedhin and Mikaela Santos traveled to Reno and Las Vegas to partner with the Nevada Governor’s Office for New Americans (ONA). Together, they hosted the Northern and Southern Nevada Foreign Education Credentials Workshops, an in-depth training on credential evaluation and recognition. These workshops represented the culmination of the work the Nevada ONA has done over the last year and a half as a participant in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) Demonstration Opportunity. During that time, the SIIP’s funding and technical assistance enabled the Nevada ONA to build capacity for the Immigrant Workforce Development Group, strengthen immigrant and refugee workforce engagement, and create a strategic plan for immigrant and refugee workforce development for the State of Nevada. As the SIIP Demonstration Opportunity cycle concluded, the Foreign Education Credentials Workshops allowed the Nevada ONA to cap off these achievements by further engaging workforce and education providers from across the state in robust discussions around supporting internationally trained immigrants and refugees. The workshops also promoted the achievements of state and local programs already doing this work on the ground.

The Nevada ONA reports that it has integrated the evaluation of international credentials as a standard intake service for immigrants and refugees receiving federally funded welfare assistance—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training (E&T)—and encouraged practitioners to implement the practice in their own organizations. Other communities across the country are also using a variety of federal and state funding sources to pay for internationally educated clients’ credential evaluations. In Texas, adult education organizations including the members of Synergy Texas are using Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) funding, authorized as Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), to cover the cost of credential evaluations for their internationally educated students; and recipients of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Refugee Career Pathways grant, such as Global Talent Idaho, are using this federal funding to cover credential evaluations as a career pathway service. These examples demonstrate SIIP participants’ ingenuity in effectively directing existing and available federal and state dollars.

How Public Funding Can Make Credential Evaluations Accessible

A credential evaluation demonstrates the value of academic credentials earned in another country, and helps employers, licensing bodies, academic institutions, and others understand those qualifications. Credential evaluation reports verify academic qualifications and assess the academic equivalency of degrees awarded in another country and assess the comparability of degrees and coursework to standards in the United States. Credential evaluations are required for internationally educated individuals pursuing further education or licensure in the U.S., and sometimes for employment.

Credential evaluation agencies charge individuals a fee to provide this service. However nominal, this fee imposes a financial barrier that prevents many immigrants and refugees from obtaining a credential evaluation, which then impairs their access to work or study at a level commensurate with their existing skills and education. By channeling public funding to cover the costs of credential evaluations, some SIIP participants have successfully lowered this barrier for their internationally educated clients, demonstrating best practices in the field of immigrant and refugee inclusion that can serve as a model for communities across the U.S.

How SIIP Communities Use Federal Funding to Finance Credential Evaluations

Three SIIP participants in Texas, Nevada, and Idaho have used a variety of federal and state statutes and existing funding structures to fully pay for credential evaluations for their internationally educated immigrant and refugee clients.

In Texas, as noted, a network of adult education providers—including the organizations that make up Synergy Texas—have used AEFLA funding authorized through Title II of WIOA to pay for credential evaluations for internationally educated students enrolled in their Integrated Education and Training classes. Liz Moya, former Adult Education Program Coordinator at Ysleta Community Learning Center (SIIP 2019 – 2020 cohort and SIIP Demonstration Opportunity partner), says, “The impact of policy change in Texas adult education has been transformative, In essence, with the support of the Texas Workforce Commission, adult education providers are validating the academic expertise of internationally trained professionals, nurturing their talents, and propelling them towards professional and economic success. The use of WIOA funding for credential evaluations provides opportunities to validate undergraduate and graduate education, resulting in workforce success! The contributions of internationally trained professionals become part of the fabric in making for a prosperous, diverse, and inclusive society.”

In Nevada, the state’s Department of Health and Human Service’s Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS) and the Nevada ONA have integrated credential evaluations as a step during the intake process for internationally educated immigrants and refugees seeking TANF or SNAP E&T welfare assistance.

“Over the last year, the Governor’s Office for New Americans has pursued strengthening a focus on Nevada’s workforce services by bringing the immigrant perspective into our state’s workforce development efforts. Through the creation of working groups, we have worked side by side with key partners on shared programmatic goals that will advance our collective services aimed at uplifting Nevada’s immigrant and refugee families,” says Grecia Perez-Rodriguez, Skilled Immigrant Integration Program Officer at the Nevada ONA (SIIP 2020-2021 and SIIP Demonstration Opportunity partner). “As part of these efforts, we have made improvements in our state’s welfare assistance practices to ensure their methodology includes the offering of credential evaluation to all skilled immigrants with foreign credentials. This ensures skilled immigrants can utilize their foreign education credentials to obtain employment, advance their skill set, and further their education whenever they are ready.”

Global Talent Idaho received the ORR’s Refugee Career Pathways grant, which aims to “enable refugees to achieve self-sufficiency by obtaining the necessary credentials, education, experience, and job skills to secure employment in professional and/or skilled career fields.” To this end, the grant funds career pathways services for refugees and other eligible populations, explicitly including credential recognition.

“Credential evaluations allow professionals to stand in confidence of the education they received abroad and then step forward toward new career pathways, educational opportunities, and certifications. Being able to use federal funding to pay for our clients’ credential evaluations gives them one break when they are having to climb every hill.”
– Heather Webster, Career Advisor at Global Talent Idaho (SIIP 2018-2019)

To learn more about how to implement these three successful funding models to pay for credential evaluations, visit our fact sheet.

Benefits of the SIIP Network

Best practices like these funding models to pay for credential evaluations are regularly shared among members of the SIIP Network. In addition to exchanging successful practices and providing updates on state and local initiatives, members of the SIIP Network receive:

  • Quarterly trainings on a variety of relevant topics
  • Technical assistance support from national workforce experts and WES Global Talent Bridge
  • Monthly calls with WES Global Talent Bridge and other SIIP Network members
  • Access to a platform to regularly collaborate with SIIP peers and view resources on career pathways, employer engagement, and data and research analysis
  • An invitation to a national in-person convening

For more information about SIIP and related state and local initiatives in general, visit our webpage.

Trevor Shealy headshot

Trevor Shealy is Program Specialist, State and Local Initiatives, at WES Global Talent Bridge.