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How to Write Persuasive Reference Letters
 for EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) Petition

1. The Persuasive Reference Letters for EB2 National Interest Waiver Petition

A reference letter is also called a recommendation letter. The reference letters are important for a EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition. The USCIS officers are normally not experts in your field, the only way for them to determine whether you qualify for the EB2 NIW petition criteria is looking at the submitted evidence, and the submitted evidence should include articles, publications, citations, rewards, and reference letters from experts in your field.

Many EB2 National Interest Waiver petition include letters of reference. Certain testimonials written by other experts working in the alien applicant’s field may be submitted as evidence. But the letters of reference should not be the cornerstone of a successful EB2 National Interest Waiver petition.

For the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, the foreign applicant should obtain multiple recommendation letters or reference letters from recognized experts in their field. The majority of these letters should be from independent experts outside the alien applicant's circle. The letters should evidence the foreign national’s significant role in an area of substantial intrinsic merit, and the proposed work will benefit the nation as a whole. The letters should state that the foreign national is exceptional and in what ways.

Also, the statements in the reference letters should be corroborated with the submitted evidence. The reference letters should explain why he or she believe that you are working in an area of substantial intrinsic merit, and your work will benefit the nation as a whole. If a reference letter merely reiterates the National Interest Waiver definitions, or merely make expansive statements for the alien's accomplishments, this kind of reference letter is not persuasive.

2. Misunderstanding about National Interest Waiver Recommendation letters or Reference Letters

The reference letters or recommendation letters are very important for EB2 National Interest Waiver (EB2 NIW) petition. The independent reference letters from those who have never worked or collaborated with the alien applicant will carry much more weight with the USCIS than reference letters from dependent recommenders.

The reference letters should discuss the alien applicant's research contributions and their significance, and should comment directly on the benefit of alien applicant to U.S. The reference letters are also a great opportunity to demonstrate the implementation of the alien applicant's work. A reference letter from someone who has utilized the alien applicant's work, and can explain how they have done so is a great way to strengthen an EB2 NIW petition.

For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, a strong reference letter from expert in your field is one of the most important supporting documents, and writing a helpful EB2 National Interest Waiver reference letter requires good understanding about NIW requirements and criteria. Therefore, the alien applicant should carefully determine the perfect candidates to write the reference letters for the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition. 

Some EB2 National Interest Waiver applicants confuse the recommendation letters for EB2 NIW based Form I-140 immigrant visa petition with those recommendation letters for admission for graduate school or PhD program. Generally, the recommendation letters for admission of graduate school or PhD program are from a faculty members to discuss the applicant's personal qualities and accomplishments which are unique and perfect for the graduate school or PhD program.

But the recommendation letters or reference letters for EB2 National Interest Waiver based Form I-140 immigrant visa petition focus on the alien's influence and contribution to the field, and these reference letters do not necessarily come from people who know the alien applicant personally or in depth.

The statements in the reference letters should be corroborated with the submitted evidence. The reference letters should explain why he or she believe that the alien applicant is in the exception ability caliber. If a reference letter merely reiterates the EB2 National Interest Waiver definitions, or merely make expansive statements for the alien's accomplishments, this kind of reference letter is not persuasive.

3. The Reference Letters for the Alien’s Contributions in the Field

The letter of recommendation is also called reference letter, and it is a letter written by an expert in the alien applicant's field. The recommendation letters are essential for EB2 National Interest Waiver petition. The USCIS adjudicators are normally not experts in a field, thus the only way for them to determine whether an alien applicant qualify for exceptional ability and NIW criteria is looking at submitted objective evidence, includes articles, publications, memos, expert testimony, citations, rewards and recommendation letters or reference letters. A recommendation letter is among the most important objective evidence.

Generally, alien applicant's professional work is expressed in specialized language. In order to assist the alien’s significant role in an area of substantial intrinsic merit, USCIS adjudicators will consider the reference letters from the experts in the field  for the alien’s work and contributions. 

But not all reference letters could help to provide such analysis. The reference letters that specifically indicate how the alien beneficiary has contributed to the field and its impact to the field would add value for a EB2 National Interest Waiver petition. On the other hand, the reference letters do not include specifics, and simply use hyperbolic language do not add value for a NIW petition.

For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, a strong reference letter is one of the most important supporting materials. Therefore, petitioner needs to carefully figure out the perfect candidates to write the reference letters. Writing the good and helpful NIW reference letters require right understanding about EB2 National Interest Waiver petition requirements and USCIS criteria.

There is no requirement of minimum number of papers and citations for National Interest Waiver petition. The USCIS uses a flexible standard for NIW adjudication. Based on NIW petition experience and USCIS case decisions, more citation numbers can certainly support a researcher's claim to have influenced the field, while the lack of many citation numbers is not a bar for NIW eligibility, if other objective evidence of the petitioner's influence exists. 

4. Obtain Multiple Reference Letters or Recommendation Letters from "Independent Experts" in the Field

For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, the alien applicants should obtain strong reference letters from both those people they have directly worked with either in academia or in business, and also from those people they have not directly worked with. Because USCIS may believe that the alien applicant's close peers are possibly biased.

USCIS takes the position that an alien applicant with sustained national or international acclaim should be able to obtain ample unsolicited materials reflecting the acclaim. USCIS expects that an NIW applicant should be able to identify the "independent experts" in the field who may recommend the alien applicant. The independent experts include people who are familiar with the alien's work but may not have close relationship.

Many EB2 National Interest Waiver petition include letters of reference. Certain testimonials written by other experts working in the alien applicant’s field may be submitted as evidence. Be sure to include letters from experts in the field who have not collaborated directly with the alien beneficiary, or from "independent experts" in the field. 

However, it undermines the reputation when the peer reference did not previously know the alien applicant, but is writing the letter simply after reviewing his or her resume or publications. Therefore, a combination of letters from collaborators and mentors who describe the alien’s works in the field, along with a few other letters from independent references who know the alien’s work via their conference presentations or publications, is the best recipe for success.

According to USCIS, the reference letter should come from independent and well-recognized expert, based upon his/her review of the documents that are submitted with the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition. By "independent", the USCIS means an expert with whom the alien applicant has not worked before - not an employer, colleague, advisor, or client. By "well-recognized", the USCIS means a well-credentialed expert with lengthy experience in the field of endeavor.

Thus, the recommendation letters or reference letters from independent experts and outside sources carry more weight for an EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, because these letters could be viewed as a proof of the alien's accomplishments in the field. If an alien applicant's contributions in the field are not praised widely outside the close circle of acquaintances, then USCIS may not be able to conclude that the alien applicant has earned sustained national or international acclaim, or he or she is truly exceptional or outstanding.

5. Whom Should I Contact to Get Reference Letters for My EB2 National Interest Waiver Petition?

The application for EB2 National Interest Waiver is a long process. During the the complicated procedure, the first important issue is to decide the good candidates who could be asked to write recommendation letters or reference letters for the alien applicant, because good and right recommenders are essential in the successful National Interest Waiver petition.

The reference letters may substantially boost the chance of a successful EB2 National Interest Waiver petition. The USCIS believes that an alien applicant working in an area of substantial intrinsic merit with exceptional ability should have unsolicited materials reflecting the exceptional ability acclaim. Thus, reference letters from independent experts should carry more weight, and they are proof of the alien's accomplishments and exceptional ability. 

If an alien applicant's contributions in the field are not praised widely outside the circle of acquaintances, then it could not be concluded that the alien applicant has earned exceptional ability recognition and the alien's work will benefit the nation as a whole. Thus USCIS may not give much weight to reference letters from the alien's circle of colleagues, for his/her contributions in the field. There is specific requirements for the number of reference letters. Normally, the alien applicant should include three to seven letters of in a NIW petition.

In addition to be an expert in the field of your endeavor, it will be better if the person writing you a recommendation letter knows about your work and contribution enough to specifically address details in the recommendation letter. Therefore, although someone who has a prominent reputation in the field of your endeavor will be a better candidate than someone from your immediate circle of acquaintances, a perfect candidate will be an expert familiarizing your work and contribution. A recommendation letter from your existing or prospective employer is also appropriate.

Normally, recommendation letters from individuals recognized as experts in the field are given more weight for the alien's contributions in the field, and they are regarded to have more authoritative opinions for the alien's work. The reference letters from undistinguished colleagues may be subject to greater scrutiny than reference letters submitted by high level officials of recognized organizations.

Also, recommenders should be able to specifically address the alien applicant's accomplishments and contribution in the field. The person writing for an National Interest Waiver petition should have a good understand of the alien applicant's work and contribution to specifically address them in the reference letter. Therefore, a perfect candidate for the EB2 NIW reference letter should be an expert familiarizing the alien's contribution in the field.

An officer of a U.S. government agency may not write letters of reference or recommendation letter for submission to another U.S. federal agency in support of immigration visa or Green Card applications, on behalf of the U.S. government agency or on the agency's letterhead. But an employee of a U.S. government agency should be able to write his/her own personal letter on plain stationery for an alien applicant's performance and achievement.

Also, An employee of a U.S. government agency may send the requestor copies of any performance evaluations ("form of evaluation") which was previously prepared describing the person's relative skills, performance, development, etc., or copies of any letters of reference that previously wrote to evaluate his/her suitability for a job at another institution. Furthermore, an official letter may be written by a high level official of the agency (Director or above) as part of the official agency sponsorship for a candidate's employment.

6. USCIS' View of the Reference Letters for EB2 National Interest Waiver Petition

The USCIS adjudicators normally do not understand the alien applicant's work and contributions in the field, and they do not have the alien's expertise. Thus, the only way for them to determine whether a case may qualify the EB2 National Interest Waiver regulation requirements is by reviewing the submitted objective evidence. 

Based on our experience, people from government agencies, universities, and think tanks are the more prestigious reference letter writers for EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, and the recommendation letters or reference letters from U.S. government officials are especially helpful.

As indicated at USCIS' National Interest Waiver adjudication regulations, recommendation letters or reference letters from U.S. government officials and government agencies attesting to the U.S. national interests which will be served by the alien's permanent residence will greatly increase the successful chances for a national interest waiver application case.

When USCIS evaluates the statements in the reference letter, the relationship between the alien applicant and the reference letter writer is also an important considering factor. USCIS expects that an alien beneficiary in the EB1 extraordinary ability caliber should receive recognition beyond the circle of personal and professional acquaintances. 

In some cases, the statements in the reference letters make general assertions about the alien applicant, and may indicate that the alien is a competent or a respected person, but the writers of the reference letters fail to support such statements with sufficient evidence. USCIS may consider such reference letters, but they do not necessarily show the alien’s exception ability.

To assist the USCIS' assessment of the alien’s work and contributions in a field, USCIS officers will consider the reference letters from experts in the fields regarding the significance of the alien’s work and contributions. But only reference letters that specifically indicate the alien applicant’s work and contributions could add value for the NIW petition. The reference letters that lack specifics do not add value, and will not be considered to be probative evidence by USCIS.

7. What Information Should Be Included in the Reference Letter?

For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, an alien applicants may have three to seven reference letters (also called recommendation letters) from experts in a field attesting to the alien's contributions to the field and that "the significant benefit derived from the alien's participation in the national interest field should considerably outweigh the national interest in using the Labor Certification process."

It is recommended a alien should collect a variety of letters from people outside his or her current employer and/or outside the U.S., and from senior people in U.S. government and industry. The reference letters included in the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition and written by field experts should include the following: 

1) Qualifications of the writer: Writer's qualifications to issue his/her opinion, and the position of the writer in the field. A recommendation letter needs to include the description of the writer. If the writer comments on the foreign person's achievements or research, a statement should be included in the support letter that establishes the qualifications of these individuals to judge the applicant's work.

2) Know the alien's work: How the writer knows of the alien's work, and alien's background and achievements as well as commentaries on how the alien has played a significant role in an area of substantial intrinsic merit

3) Helpful testimonials from experts: Expert testimonials of your accomplishments are crucial to your petition. However, expert testimonials should bolster the argument that you meet the standard set by law. Evidence that merely establishes the alien beneficiary's competence or which fails to set him/her apart from other persons in the field does not support the petition, because it carries little weight and may actually be used to deny the petition.

4) Substantive information: A good recommendation letter should point out the unique expertise the alien applicant possesses. If it is a recommendation letter from an employer or professor of the applicant, it should specify the work the foreign national is responsible for and the requirements of the job. 

5) Specific Information: Recommendation letters that briefly discuss the alien beneficiary's activities and described him or her as a knowledgeable individual, but lack specific information are insufficient.

The worst thing is to obtain several reference letters which are all look same, and may have the same repeated grammatical errors. The USCIS examiners may believe that these reference letters were actually prepared by the alien applicant, rather than by the actual referrers.

8. Strong Reference Letters Can Make up for Minimum Citations

For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, there is no requirements of minimum number of papers and citations in the regulations. The USCIS adjudicators use a flexible standard for adjudication of National Interest Waiver petition. According to NIW case decisions and experience, more publication citation numbers can certainly help an alien applicant's claim to have influenced the field. But the lack of many publication citation numbers is not a bar for eligibility of EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, if the alien applicant can provide other objective evidence.

Also, being cited many times does not by itself establish the alien beneficiary's eligibility to National Interest Waiver. USCIS' essential consideration to decide an National Interest Waiver petition is the alien beneficiary's original and significant contribution to the field, and establishing the alien's contribution relies heavily on strong recommendation letters or reference letters.

9. How to Overcome the Reference Letters' Inner Circle Bias for an EB2 National Interest Waiver Petition

Generally, for the alien's original contributions of significance in the field, USCIS may not give much weight to recommendation letters from the alien applicant's immediate circle. For EB2 National Interest Waiver petition, if an alien applicant fail to produce letters from members of the field who do not know the alien applicant personally, other methods of demonstrating national recognition are possible, which include submitting articles published in noteworthy journals. Also, the USCIS adjudicators can be persuaded by the alien applicants who show that their work has been cited internationally. 

For some alien applicants who could not get the independent reference letters for the National Interest Waiver petition, another method is to obtain favorable manuscripts from the peer review process for their publications. We all know that many journals have a peer review process before publication, and many journals maintain manuscripts from the peer review process for the published papers. 

The peer review manuscripts have the opinions of unbiased and anonymous observers of the author's research. For published papers, these comments should be favorable on the author's work. Therefore, they are convincing evidence of the alien's accomplishments in the field, and USCIS adjudicators could be persuaded by the peer review manuscripts in EB2 National Interest Waiver petitions.

10. Other Issues about Reference Letter or Recommendation Letter

There are many issues to be addressed about reference letters or recommendation letters. First, the reference letters are not required by USCIS. But they can be very useful, and most USCIS examiners for EB1 Extraordinary Ability, EB1 Outstanding Researcher or Professor, or EB2 National Interest Waiver application expect them. 

Some alien applicants may try to avoid the reference letters or recommendation letters for confidentiality purposes, but for others, they are easy to obtain the reference letters. Some professional societies usually do not provide reference letters of their members. In addition, U.S. government agencies will normally not simply prepare a reference letter if asked. So the request of reference letters or “independent letters” heavily favors applicants with connections at government agencies or in professional societies, which may see as unfair for some applicants.

If it is difficult for an applicant to get reference letters or recommendation letters, a more thorough compilation of background materials can offset an absence of reference letters. These materials may include statistics about the area of research, information about professional organizations, awards, journals, etc.

11. The Petition Cover Letter for an EB2 National Interest Waiver Petition

Also, the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition should include a application cover letter, which should be used as a summary letter discussing the following items:

1) Describes the alien's work and how it affects the field, it’s potential for broader applications:

2) Explains the alien's current work and its future applications, both academically and in the private sector; 

3) Describes how the alien is essential or intimately connected to the work, the effects of this work on the U.S. and its people. 

In the Petition Cover Letter, it should clearly explains that the alien applicant has met the following EB2 National Interest Waiver requirements:

  • He or she seeks work in an area of substantial intrinsic merit: The alien must play a significant role in an area of substantial intrinsic merit, and must not be simply a minor constituent who took part thereof.

  • The alien's proposed work will benefit the nation as a whole: The alien proposed benefit should be national in scope. The alien must be involved in an undertaking activity that will substantially benefit the United States.

  • The significant benefit derived from the alien's participation in the national interest field should considerably outweigh the national interest in using the Labor Certification process: The National interest would be adversely affected if a Labor Certification were required for the alien. Under an EB2 National Interest Waiver , an alien who seeks an exemption from the job offer requirement must be able to demonstrate that the benefit his or her activity would provide to the nation is so great as to outweigh the nation's interest inherent in completion of the Labor Certification process. 

The application cover letter and reference letters should be written in plain English. Immigration officers with bachelor's or higher degrees will usually read these letters. They may not know the alien's field, but they do spend most working days evaluating and synthesizing information and drawing conclusions. Therefore, an alien applicant should convince them that the alien is doing exceptional work and that somewhere down the line this work will help someone they know.

12. How Should I Argue in the EB2 NIW Petition Cover Letter to Increase My Chance of Approval?

The following are tips of presenting evidence in your EB2 National Interest Waiver petition cover letter.

1) Providing Basis of Comparison: One method to answer the EB2 National Interest Waiver petition question of whether you "have a degree of expertise above that ordinarily encountered in your field" is to submit the evidence that provides a basis for comparison between you and those persons who are average or typical in the field. 

As an example, if you are in a field in which the article publication is typical, the evidence should be submitted to USCIS that your articles have been published in the most prestigious and peer-reviewed journals in the field, or your articles have been widely cited by other researchers in national or international scholarly articles. Also, if you have presented your papers at the most prestigious conferences in the field, it is a strong evidence that you are better than average or typical people in the field.

2) Comparing to Approved Cases: Generally, USCIS may try to restrain comparison to other approved EB2 National Interest Waiver petitions in the same field, but USCIS adjudicators' processing of other alien applicants in the field with comparable qualifications is highly relevant to a pending EB2 National Interest Waiver petition case. 

Thus, it could be important to find the approved or successfully appealed EB2 National Interest Waiver petition cases, and compare those cases with yours, and argue that the evidence in the approved cases is not stronger than your NIW petition case. As an example, if you have more publications or citations than an approved case in the same or related field, then your evidence is sufficient to support your case, and it could be deemed as a better supporting your EB2 NIW petition than an approved case.

13. File EB1 and EB2 NIW Categories at the Same Time

EB1 Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) and National Interest Waiver (NIW) are in the "special categories" of green card petitions. We have successfully helped a great many people in the EB1 Extraordinary Ability, EB1 Outstanding Professor and Researchers (EB-1B), EB1 Multinational Executive or Manager (EB-1C), and National Interest Waiver categories.

An alien applicant can actually file in two categories at one time, and may receive approvals in both. This strategy is sometimes used where the alien applicant potentially qualifies in multiple categories, to enhance the likelihood of successful approval. For example, an applicant can receive Form I-140 petition approvals in both the EB1 Extraordinary Ability and EB2 National Interest Waiver categories.

It is necessary to demonstrate and argue an applicant's qualifications in those areas that are relevant to the particular special category. These employment-based categories can potentially provide faster routes to complete the green card process for those who are eligible.

For example, an researcher had a record of conducting groundbreaking research in the field of Biomedical Sciences, specifically in the area of DNA research. He filed in both the EB1 Extraordinary Ability and EB2 National Interest Waiver categories at the same time, and got both approvals. The evidence was presented that he had resulted in advancements of significant benefit to research on cancer; viral infections, such as AIDS/HIV; diabetes; bacterial diseases, such as leprosy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia; and antibiotic resistance.

The supporting letters testified to the fact that this DNA research was considered vital for the development of targets for drugs and vaccines, as well as novel strategies to rectify glitches in DNA and cure diseases. In addition to improving the health of U.S. citizens, it is argued that his research work also benefits the U.S. environment, economy, and national security, as evidenced by its funding and support through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

 

 


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