EB-1A Extraordinary Ability: The Cold Hard Facts

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Many times we hear from clients or prospective clients that a “friend” of theirs, who has much less in the way of credentials, was approved for an EB-1A.  Sometimes it was a  “friend of a friend” or a “relative”  or some other acquaintance who had the approval.  While I have no idea if these individual stories are accurate or not (and I do suspect that some of these people may have been approved in different categories, either the EB-1B Outstanding Researcher (employer sponsored) or the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (self-sponsored))  I do know that numbers wise, very few people, especially on a country by country basis, are approved in this category every year.

Overall, every year there are 40,040 immigrant visas made available to the EB-1 category.  Each country gets approximately 3% of these immigrant visas per year.   There is also a limited number of visas that can be re-allocated from countries that typically do not use all their visas, to those that use more, but this is very limited and may, only bring a single countries usage up to 7% of the total or approximately 2,802 immigrant visas in this category.  It should be noted that this 3% includes all three application types in this category:  the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability AND the EB-1B Outstanding Researcher AND the EB-1C Intracompany Transferee.  All three application types share the number of visas in this category.  It also included not just the principal filer, but their spouses and children as well.   It should also be noted, that there is no backlog in this category for any country, so the maximum number of visas in this category allocated to each country is not even being used, further bringing down the overall number of approvals.  Overall, there are simply not that many people per country getting approved in this category.

Looking at USCIS statistics, this category, the EB-1A, has a historic approval rating of just over 50%, again showing how difficult this is.  Plus, you also need to take into account that there is a certain percentage of cases that are filed that definitely qualify (they won a Nobel Prize or similar, or they have huge amounts of documentation).  Once those people are taken into account, the actual approval rating for those with less sure cases is even lower.  This is in stark comparison to the EB-1B Outstanding Researcher which has an approval rating in the 90% range.

So for those approved in this category, congratulations you are truly one of a small percentage.  For those looking at applying in this category, do not deceive yourself into thinking it is easy as it is not.  It is possible to get approved with the right documentation and the right arguments, that is what is sets apart those cases that are approved, and those that are not.  We will discuss more about the kinds of documentation necessary in future posts.

As always remember while blogs are good at disseminating general information, you can only get good legal advice by contacting and discussing your specific case with a qualified attorney.

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.