Are all Recommendation Letters Created Equal?

writing_a_letter-300x199One of the most frequent questions we get from our clients is about the Letters of Recommendations needed for the self-sponsored applications (we actually call them Expert Review or Expert Opinion Letters). People want to know who the best referees are, what the letters need to say, etc. For the most part, people believe that these letters are a very important part, if not the most important part of the entire application.

While the letters are important, what is more important is that you have “objective”, independent evidence as to the importance and impact of your work AND, for the Extraordinary Ability application, your renown. By “objective” generally USCIS means documentation not produced solely for the green card application, but that exists already. A good example of this is a news article published online, or the selection of an article you published as an “article of the week”. Such evidence exists separate from the green card application itself. This is the type of evidence that makes the difference between an application that is approved, and one that is not. Most Expert Review Letters come from your current boss, or a former boss, or a postdoc advisor, or a collaborator, etc. These type of letters, while nice, and helpful in terms of showing the role you played in your work, are not considered “objective” as they come from those with an interest in you and your work. These type of letters simply confirm the “independent” evidence you submitted, but cannot make your case. Expert Review Letters from those who are independent of you, on the other hand, CAN be “objective” evidence and CAN be persuasive to an Immigration officer when they review your case.

Letters that come from others in your field who do not know you personally, maybe have never even met you, but they do know your work (through citations, through presentations, etc.) AND they have used your work to help with their own work (maybe they have utilized your research in their own work, or applied your findings in their own projects) are the type of letters that USCIS is looking for. A letter from such a person IS “objective” evidence as to the importance and impact of your work AND evidence as to your renown in the field. Especially for the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability application, this is the type of letter that you should be shooting for getting.

To summarize:

  1. The most important evidence for a self-sponsored green card application is “objective evidence”
    2. Most Expert Review Letters are NOT “objective” evidence
    3. An exception to this rule are those Expert Review Letters that are written by “independent” people in your field who testify as to the importance and impact of your work AND how they have used your work in their own work

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

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