Frequently asked Q & A for "Aliens of Extraordinary Ability"
Based upon our numerous years of experience, USCIS’ practice, and decisions from Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), followings are several examples of common misunderstandings between theory and reality for the immigrant petitions based on Alien of Extraordinary Ability.
Question: How can I prove that I am one of small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.
Answer: Usually, a major nationally or internationally recognized award, such as Nobel Prize, is sufficient. However, most aliens do not win Nobel Prize. The fact that an alien has received lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor can be evidenced as one of ten enumerated criteria. But remember that USCIS takes the position that prizes for academic achievements or student awards will not be considered for EB-11 and EB-12 adjudication. The based reasoning is that university study is not a field of endeavor and outstanding achievements by students are not at the level of those fully engaged in the profession.
Additionally, USCIS rejected the argument that research grants can be considered as prizes or awards by ignoring the fact that peer-reviewed funding in academia is highly competitive and generally is considered as recognition of alien’s national or international acclaim or achievement. However, those research grants can be considered as evidence of importance of the alien’s contributions to the field.
Question: How “extraordinary” can be qualified as one in elite percentage in my field of endeavor.
Answer: Small percentage must take into account the approximate number of professionals practicing in the field worldwide by comparing alien’s relative stature with total population. USCIS often requests that the alien provide a list of five to ten names of experts who are at the very top of the alien’s field of endeavor worldwide and appropriately rank and place the alien among the ranking.
Question: What kind of membership of professional associations can be qualified to meet legal criterion?
Answer: The alien is a member of professional associations that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts, such as National Academy of Sciences. However, most recently graduated Ph.D. aliens do not have that kind of membership. Membership in professional associations which only require degree or experience and payment of membership dues will be given little weight by USCIS.
Question: Another criterion is published material about the alien in professional or major trade publications or media by other experts. What is USCIS’ position?
Answer: An unevaluated listing in an index or footnote, or a reference to alien's work without evaluation is insufficient. The articles must, in their content, actually discuss and evaluate alien’s work and not just simply reference it.
Question: I am a scientist, not an artist. Can my research exhibition be classified as display my work at scientific exhibitions or showcases?
Answer: As a scientist or researcher, the alien can showcase his or her work by lecturing or exhibiting posters at professional conferences.
Question: How can I prove my performance in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation?
Answer: While most aliens do not serve as chairmen of a department or principal investigator, reference letters by experts should detail alien’s role within the organization and show what kind of critical achievements or contributions the alien has made.
Question: How high salary can be considered as commanding a high salary or commercial successes in relation to others in the field?
Answer: Most scientists or researchers in the field of academia do not generate high salary (say a million) or have commercial successes at their early stage of academia. However, if the alien holds patents, patents might yield commercial revenues.
Question: If I meet at least three of ten enumerated criteria, should my petition be successful?
Answer: Despite the clear language of the regulations which do not require a showing that the alien meets all of the regulatory criteria, merely meeting only three criteria does not guaranty approval of your petition. USCIS will weigh quantitatively and qualitatively on the evidence submitted. It is better to substantiate specific criteria as more as possible.
Question: Can I petition for myself under “Extraordinary ability” and no job offer is necessary?
Answer: At petition, the alien must prove that he or she will "substantially benefit prospectively the United States" in the area of his or her expertise. Aliens must demonstrate that they are planning to work in their field of expertise. Usually, letters from prospective employers, evidence of prearranged commitments for employment, or a description of how he or she will continue to work in the field in the United States are persuasive evidence. If the alien is currently employed in his or her field, it should be a sufficient evidence to prove his intention to continue working in his or her expertise.
Question: I heard that USCIS requests advisory opinions from government organizations or research institutions. Since I have difficulty in obtaining reference letters from specific entities, my petition will probably be denied.
Answer: Neither law nor regulations require providing sole evidentiary means to meet specific criteria in any particular manner. Therefore, no reference letters from government organizations or research institutions shall not constitute a detrimental or decisive factor for your petition.
Question: I know many experts very well from my professors, fellow co-workers, and other colleagues. Thus, they are willing to give me full support on their letters. So my petition has better chance for approval since all my references are very strong.
Answer: USCIS frequently takes the position that letters from professors, fellow co-workers, and colleagues of aliens do not constitute convincing evidence of international acclaim or recognition since they are well acquainted with alien and their statements are not fully considered as unbiased. Thus, aliens should submit references as more as possible from disinterested experts as independent advisory opinions.
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