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Reference Letters or Recommendation
Letters for EB1 Extraordinary Ability Petition

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

The foreign applicant 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 extraordinary in their field and original scientific or scholarly research contributions. The letters should state that the foreign national is extraordinary 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 Extraordinary Ability 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 extraordinary 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 EB-1A petition. On the other hand, the reference letters do not include specifics, and simply use hyperbolic language do not add value for an EB-1A petition.

2. The Reference Letters (Recommendation Letters) and Application Cover Letter

For EB1 Extraordinary Ability application, an alien applicants may have three to seven reference letters (also called recommendation letters) from experts in a field attesting to the alien's significant contributions to the field and national or international reputation in the field. 

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 EB1-Extraordinary Ability application and written by field experts should include the following: 

1) Writer's qualifications to issue his/her opinion, and the position of the writer in the field;

2) How the writer knows of the alien's work, and alien's background and achievements as well as commentaries on how the alien's achievements are original contributions of major significance;

3) Commentaries on the significance of the alien's publications, awards, and any memberships in professional associations, and how the alien's work has made significant or outstanding contributions to the field;

4) The alien applicant possesses unique knowledge, abilities, or experience that sets him/her apart from the professional peers.

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 will believe that these letters were actually prepared by the applicant, rather than by the actual referrers. 

Also, the EB1-Extraordinary Ability application 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. 

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. 

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

Many EB1 Extraordinary Ability application 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 application of EB1 Extraordinary Ability.

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 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 Extraordinary Ability 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. The experience should include an advanced degree, more than ten years of experience in the field, a lengthy publication and presentation record.

4. 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 Extraordinary Ability petition. The USCIS believes that an alien applicant with international recognition of extraordinary ability should have unsolicited materials reflecting the extraordinary 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-1A 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.

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.

5. USCIS' View of the Reference Letters for EB1 Extraordinary Ability Application

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 beneficiary is in the EB1 extraordinary ability caliber. If a reference letter merely reiterates the EB1 extraordinary ability definitions, or merely make expansive statements for the beneficiary's accomplishments, this kind of reference letter is not persuasive.

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 beneficiary’s extraordinary ability.

To assist the USCIS' assessment of the alien’s original contributions in a field, USCIS officers will consider the reference letters from experts in the fields regarding the significance of the alien’s contributions. But only reference letters that specifically indicate the alien applicant’s contributions of major significance to the field and its impact on subsequent work could add value for the EB-1A petition. The reference letters that lack specifics do not add value, and will not be considered to be probative evidence by USCIS.

6. 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 and is at the top of the field. 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.

7. Other Issues about Reference Letter or Recommendation Letter

For reference letters, youn should focus on independent and objective experts in the field who know of your work primarily through reputation, and make sure that the reference letters address how each of your accomplishments meet each individual EB-1A criterion, as well as how the evidence in its entirety demonstrates that you have achieved national or international acclaim, and are one of the very few who have risen to the top of the field.

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.



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