When offered a tenure-tracked position within an institution of higher education, or a permanent research position from a private employer, EB-1-2 category, an outstanding professor or researcher, is one plausible way to obtain an immigrant visa in the United States. Compared to EB1-1, Alien of Extraordinary Ability, the EB-1-2 is less restrictive in terms of meeting the statutory requirements. More importantly, it is an option for universities and private companies to avoid labor certification for their research staff and faculty. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people obtain green cards each year through the EB-1-2 category.
Based on our many years of experience and review of decisions made by the USCIS’s Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) involving appeals of denials of EB-1-2 cases, we offered our opinions on current trend of EB-1-2 and how to prepare a strong EB1-2 case.
The EB-1-2 Standard
Section 203(b)(1)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that a person qualifies for immigrant visa classification as an outstanding professors or researcher if he or she:
- is recognized internationally as outstanding in a specific academic area,
- has at least three years of experience in teaching or research in the academic area, and
- seeks to enter the United States –
- for a tenured position (or tenure-track position) within a university or institution of higher education to teach in the academic area,
- for a comparable position with a university or institution of higher education to conduct research in the area, or
- for a comparable position to conduct research in the area with a department, division, or institute of a private employer, if the department, division, or institute employs at least three persons full-time in research activities and has achieved documented accomplishments in an academic field.
USCIS regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(i)(3) state that a petition for an outstanding researcher or professor must be accompanied by:
- Evidence that the professor or researcher is recognized internationally as outstanding in the academic field specified in the petition. Such evidence shall consist of at least two of the following:
- Documentation of the individual’s receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the academic field;
- Documentation of the person’s membership in associations in the academic field that require outstanding achievements of their members;
- Published material in professional publications written by others about the person’s work in the academic field. Such material shall include the title, date, and author of the material, and any necessary translation;
- Evidence of the individual’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as the judge of the work of others in the same or an allied academic field;
- Evidence of the person’s original scientific or scholarly research contributions to the academic field; or
- Evidence of the individual’s authorship of scholarly books or articles (in scholarly journals with international circulation) in the academic field;
- Evidence that the person has at least three years of experience in teaching and/or research in the academic field. Experience in teaching or research while working on an advanced degree will only be acceptable if the individual has acquired the degree, and if the research conducted toward the degree has been recognized in the academic field as outstanding. Evidence of teaching and/or research experience shall be in the form of letter(s) from former or current employer(s) and shall include the name, address, and title of the writer, and a specific description of the duties performed by the person.
How to Satisfy Three Years of Research Experience
Three-year experience would normally not be an issue. Predoctoral research counts toward the three-year requirements if the individual acquires the degree. However, for a Ph. D student who works for a professor as a research assistant, the petition must clearly document the outstanding nature of any pre-doctoral research, and that the experience must be distinguished from the basic research involved in the dissertation.
An acceptable evidence that the individual fulfill the three-year requirements is a verification letter from current employer. For example, we have successfully obtained EB1-2 greencard for a post-doctoral researcher from California Service Center. The individual was offered a post-doctoral research position immediately after he obtained his doctor’s degree from the same department. In the RFE, USCIS specifically requested for verification of three-year full-time research experience. Together with other documents, we submitted a well prepared verification letter from previous advisor who is also current employer, stated the individual has been a full-time research once he passed the qualification exams. It also states the individual has played a critical role in government-funded project and made significant contributions. Also, detailed job duties performed by the person are also included.
How to Satisfy Each Criterion
Outstanding teachers or researchers must be recognized internationally. This may be shown by presenting evidence that the individual meets at least two of the following six criteria (the more, the better).
Receipt of Major Prizes or Awards for Outstanding Achievements
Theoretically, USCIS does not recognize awards that do not establish international recognition. Such awards, as graduate fellowships, TAships, and Travel award, held little or no weights because they did not establish international or national recognition.
We had experience in presenting individuals with scholarship from various government agencies and private funding agencies, such as Baogang Scholarship and Guanghua Scholarhsip in China, Qiushi Scholarhsip from a private foundation in Hong Kong, Monbutso Scholarship from Japanese Government, Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Fellowship in Germany, patent award from US Patent Office and Outstanding Poster Presentation Appreciation Award from an international conference.
In cases that the employer is a recipient of grant award from competitive sources, such as National Institute of Health (NIH), DAPPRA, American Heart Association, National Science Foundation, we would state the grant was based on recognized past achievements, and that the funding was largely attributed to the person’s research findings.. Document could include testimonial letters for the EB-1-2 petition.
It seems that USCIS is not longer satisfied with the mere proof of the award, it also looks into the importance of the award. This may include the awarding procedures, judging criteria and media coverage if available. For instance, to present the significance of Qiushi Scholarship awarded to the individual, we include evidence that the awarding ceremony was covered by three leading newspapers in China.
Membership in associations in the academic field that require outstanding achievements of their members
It is well known that most associations do not require outstanding achievements as an eligibility to join. Most scholars with the appropriate degree are eligible for such associations upon payment of a membership fee. For a membership that carries weights in this category, there must be a higher selective standard for admission to the association. For example, membership in the Sigma Xi, “represents that you have achieved a standard of excellence that is shared by over 180 Nobel Prize winners”, would sufficiently satisfy this requirement. Evidence may include selective membership criteria, membership certificate, and testimonial letters from other leading experts testifying that the society requires outstanding achievements of their member.
Published material in professional publications written by others about the person’s work in the academic field
There seems to be widespread misunderstanding of a number of nuances of this criterion. Many petitioners presented evidence of citations to the petitioner’s works as evidence of published material about the petitioner. However, the AAO has repeatedly stated that citations do not satisfy this requirement.
This meet this requirement, the published material should be at the national or international level. Articles in local newspapers, university publications, or internal company reports do not qualify.
To give some examples that published materials recognized by USCIS: cover story about the research article that the individual is a co-author (if not the first author), the awarding ceremony of Qiushi Scholarship reported by three nationally circulated newspapers in China, as well as highlight article on the scientific breakthrough for which the individual was a major contributor and his/her name was referred in the highlight article.
Participation as a Judge of the Work of Others
We have a lot of beneficiaries who reviewed manuscripts for publications. But the requests were not directed to them, but it were their doctoral or postdoctoral advisors who actually received the requests to review the manuscripts. In cases like this, we submitted letters from the advisors verifying the claim.
Based on our experience in EB1 cases, USCIS set a higher standard on this criterion. Requests passed down from an advisor or mentor to prove beneficiary’s participation as a judge of the work of others are sometimes questioned.
To satisfy this criterion, evidence should include correspondence with the editor of the journals, letter from the editor or other expert in the field verifying the criteria for being invited as an expert reviewer.
Original Scientific or Scholarly Research Contributions to the Academic Field
There are a number of ways to satisfy this criterion. Simply publishing or presenting one’s work is considered by USCIS as common in research. So, evidence submitted in this category must address the international reputation standard.
Expert testimonial letters from advisors and mentors who are familiar with your research, as well as recognized authorities in your field who know you through your publications and presentations made on conferences consider your contributions original and significant will satisfy this requirement.
Evidence that alien’s work has been frequently cited as authority would be another way to satisfy this requirement. It is deemed as a reliable indicator of the significance of the articles. Printouts from Science Citation Index (SCI) indicating the number of papers which cited the person’s papers, should be submitted.
We also frequently submit patent or patent applications to prove the originality and novelty of the work. However, we need to submit documents to prove the significance of the patent in academic field and the application of the patent economically. Letter to testify on the person’s contribution as a co-inventor is also needed.
Authorship of scholarly books or articles (in scholarly journals with international circulation) in the academic field
The publications must be in peer-reviewed academic journals, preferably those with international circulation, and national circulations at least. Since USCIS does not has specific requirement on the number of publications, it would be wise to demonstrate the journals are prestigious by providing the citation ranking and impact factor. Also, it helps to have expert opinion letter to describe the beneficiary’s contributions in the published papers, and that they appeared in prestigious journals of international circulation.
It has a widespread misunderstanding that the beneficiary must be the first author of the article in order to fulfill this requirement. Based on our experience, USCIS realized the collaborative nature of scientific research but it does ask for proof that the beneficiary is a key research scientist in a teamed project. So we need to clearly demonstrate the role the beneficiary played in a research project, and that the co-authored paper is largely resulted from his work.