Going Through Credentialization: An Immigrant Meets Red Tape

Tied up in red tape
By James Petts from London, England (Tied up in red tape) [CC BY-SA 2.0]
A few days ago, a new immigrant to the USA told me that she was confused about the advice she had been given. She arrived here last July from India, and would like to obtain work in her field and to take university courses online.

Her English is very good with only a few minor pronunciation problems, and she has been told repeatedly that she must be credentialized. Sometimes she has been told that she must go through credentialization, but has no idea what that means.  She has tried looking up the term but cannot find it.  This is not surprising because it is a composite word; a blending of “credential” and the suffix “ized” or “ization” to indicate a process. I broke down the word for her and as soon as I said the word “credence,” her eyes lit up. This was a word she understood. Now she realized that the authorities needed to be able to trust her qualifications.

The process of credentializing is one in which a person’s transcripts and certificates are examined to see if the education referred to is equivalent to a similar one in the USA. I suppose every country requires new immigrants to undergo this process, and I had to endure it myself when I emigrated from the UK to Canada.

You would think that there are computers filled with lists from around the world of university programs and courses and their equivalences so that authenticating one’s professional qualifications would be a breeze. Sadly, this is not the case.

After you have sent in your most valuable documents you have to wait at least six months to find out that you have to go back to university for another year or two. This seems to be the outcome for most people. I suspect this has less to do with educational equivalence and more to do with education as a business, but that’s only when I’m feeling cynical. When I’m feeling more magnanimous, I trust that it’s to inculcate national standards into the immigrant mind.

While you are waiting for your credentials to be evaluated, you are in a kind of employability limbo because you no longer have your certificates and cannot prove to anyone that you have qualifications and experience. So, if you are able to find a job, it has to be one that doesn’t require that assurance. That’s why you find teachers, doctors, and engineers driving cabs.

In order to try to help the woman I met, I contacted the school board that she hoped eventually to work for, and I asked them to provide advice on how she could begin this process. The reply was very helpful, but it was replete with acronyms and jargon which I had to explain. Even the word “transcript” is not universally understood, and I was reminded anew how difficult all communications are for people whose first language is not English.

She was pleased, though, to finally have some specific instructions, numbers to call, and agencies to contact. Now, at least, she knows whether she needs regional, state, or federal approval. Once she has gone through credentialization, she will be in a good position to seek work that will make best use of her three university degrees. She will also be able to explain to her employers that “credentialization” isn’t actually a word in the dictionary.






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