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Reference Letters or Recommendation Letters
for EB1 Outstanding Researcher or Professor Petition

1. Obtain Multiple Reference Letters or Recommendation Letters

Be sure to include letters from experts in the field who have not collaborated directly with the alien beneficiary. However, it undermines the claim to an international reputation when the peer reference did not previously know the beneficiary, but is writing the letter simply after reviewing his or her resume and publications. Therefore, a combination of letters from collaborators and mentors who describe the beneficiary’s reputation in the field, along with a few other letters from independent references who know the beneficiary’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 EB1 Outstanding Researcher or Professor Petition. By "independent", the USCIS means an expert with whom the alien application 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. The experience should include an advanced degree, more than ten years of experience in the field, a lengthy publication and presentation record.

It is suggested that reference letters should note the impact of an article in subjective terms where appropriate. Any specific details, such as the article sparking discussion at a particular meeting, should also be included. The petitioner should encourage letter writers to take a bit of extra time to come up with details like this if possible. The reference letters should be used properly, as a piece of supporting evidence. 

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

The foreign national should obtain multiple letters of recommendation or recommendation letters from recognized experts in their academic field. The majority of these letters should be from independent experts outside the alien applicant's circle, and preferably from international sources. The letters should evidence the foreign national’s international recognition as outstanding in their field and original scientific or scholarly research contributions. The letters should state that the foreign national is outstanding and in what ways.

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 EB1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher petition. The USCIS adjudicators are normally not experts in an academic field, thus the only way for them to determine whether an alien applicant qualify for outstanding ability is looking at submitted objective evidence. A recommendation letter is among the most important objective evidence.

Generally, scholarly work is expressed in specialized language. In order to assist the alien’s original contributions in the field, USCIS adjudicators will consider the reference letters from the experts in the field for the alien’s 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 on subsequent work would add value for an EB1 Outstanding Researcher or Professor application. On the other hand, the reference letters do not include specifics, and simply use hyperbolic language do not add value for an EB1 Outstanding Researcher or Professor application.

3. Whom Should I Contact to Get Reference Letters for My EB1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher Petition?

The reference letters may substantially boost the chance of a successful EB1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher petition. The USCIS believes that an alien applicant with international recognition of outstanding ability should have unsolicited materials reflecting the outstanding ability acclaim. Thus, reference letters from independent experts should carry more weight, and they are proof of the alien's accomplishments. 

If an alien applicant's outstanding 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 sustained international recognition. Thus USCIS may not give much weight to reference letters from the alien's circle of colleagues, for his/her original contributions of major significance 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 an EB-1B 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 research 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 contribution. A recommendation letter from your existing or prospective employer is also appropriate.

4. What Information Should Be Included in the Recommendation Letter?

These are issues that should be included in a recommendation letter:

1) Qualifications of the writer: 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) 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, i.e., that the alien beneficiary is internationally recognized. 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.

3) Substantive information: A good recommendation letter should point out the high level of 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. 

4) Specific Information: A recommendation letter from an employer can establish that very few individuals can fill the offered position and the alien is one of these few individuals. In addition, recommendation letters that briefly discuss the alien beneficiary's activities and described him or her as a knowledgeable individual, but lack specific information regarding how the his/her contributions had significantly and consistently influenced the field are insufficient.

Also, the reference letters and testimonies must provide a much detail as possible about the beneficiary’s contribution, and must explain, in detail, how the contribution was “original”, not merely replicating the work of others. General statements regarding the importance of the endeavors are insufficient.

5. 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. 

6. The Petition Cover Letter for an EB1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher Petition

Also, an EB1 Outstanding Professor or Researcher petition should include a petition cover letter, which should be used as a summary letter discussing the following items: describes his or her work and how it affects the field, the potential for broader applications; explains the his or her current work and its future applications, both academically and in the private sector; describes how the alien is essential or intimately connected to the work, the effects of this work on the U.S. and its people.

The petitioner should present the his or her accomplishments and qualifications in general terms. This is especially important in the recommendation letters and in the petition cover letter. A clear and easy to read cover letter should make the petition more easily navigable for someone who is not familiar with the material. Because not all USCIS examiners are college educated, and none are likely to be experts in an specialized field. Additionally, USCIS examiners have a very limited amount of time to read all the materials in each petition.

7. 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).

8. The Restrictions for the EB1-Outstanding Professor or Researcher Petition

The EB1-Outstanding Professor or Researcher (EB-1B or EB1-OR) petition is for those applicants who are internationally recognized as outstanding in a particular scientific field. There are three main criteria to qualify for this classification: 

1) The alien applicant should have international recognition in a specific academic field; 

2) The alien applicant should have at least three years of relevant research or teaching experience;

3) The alien applicant should have a permanent job offer in a research or teaching position.

To qualify for a U.S. Green Card in the EB1 Outstanding Professors or Researchers category, the alien applicant should have an international reputation for being outstanding in an academic field, and have an job offer from a U.S. employer. Also, the foreign alien should have at least three years experience at either teaching or research in the relevant academic field. Not every employer can use the EB2 Outstanding Professors or Researchers category. 

The U.S. employer must be a qualified employer, which can be either a university or institution of higher education, or a department, division, or institute of a private research entity with at least three full-time researchers on staff. Also, the private U.S. employer will need to show a history of significant research achievements.

Due to the restrictions of this category, an alien applicant needs outstanding achievements and also needs an employer to sponsor the immigration petition. Therefore, the numbers of the EB-1B applicants are relatively small, and visa numbers are primarily current.

A labor certification is not required in EB-1B petition. But the EB-1B immigration application requires that alien has a permanent employment offer from an employer in United States. The permanent job offer may includes tenure or tenure track positions, or other permanent job position. For positions other than a tenure or tenure track position, the job offer letter should be carefully drafted to meet the "permanent job" requirement of EB-1B application.

9. How to Submit Evidence to Present a Strong Case that a Professor or Researcher Is Considered Outstanding

According to USCIS, the following evidence may present a strong case that the professor or researcher is considered outstanding:

1) peer-reviewed presentations at academic symposia;

2) peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals;

3) testimony from other scholars on the alien beneficiary's contribution to the field;

4) a number of entries in a citation index citing the alien beneficiary's work as authoritative; or

5) participation by the alien beneficiary as a reviewer for a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

All non-English language documents must have an English translation for the pertinent parts of the documents that help to establish eligibility. If you would like USCIS to consider evidence that is written in a foreign language, you must submit English language translation for the parts of the document that could help to establish eligibility for the requested benefit. The translator must certify that:

  • The translation are accurate and complete, and
  • The translator is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.
USCIS Service Center often issues the Request for Evidence in EB1 petitions with respect to the criteria of "judging the work of others." USCIS examiners question the alien applicant's work in acting as a reviewer for scientific journals, if the journals at issue were not the highest ranked journals in the field. Under the law, serving as a referee for scholarly, peer reviewed journals meets the "judging the work of others" criteria, even if the journal is not the highest ranked journal.

Normally, USCIS examiners may ask for "documentary evidence for selection of judges in panels/referees in journals." The petitioners should get documents from the editors of the journals. If the alien petitioner was asked to review any articles for the journal, he or she can ask a letter as evidence from the editors or associate editors. Additionally, the editors typically send out review decision letters to reviewers that they influenced the decision or outcome of the review. They may say that the decision to publish or not publish was made based on reviewer's recommendation. Such letters would play an important role for the RFE response also.



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