Satisfying the Reviewer Criterion for EB1A petitions

For petitioners with a scientific background, one of the more attractive criteria when applying for an EB1A petition is the “reviewer” criterion. This criterion requires “evidence of the alien’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought.” At first, this criterion appears to be readily satisfied since most PhD scientists have conducted reviews for peer-reviewed journals or have served as a reviewer for scientific conferences in their area of specialty. Adding to this criterion’s popularity is the ability for a petitioner to perform reviews within a short amount of time, making this criterion one of the only EB1A criteria that the petitioner can have a direct impact on within a short time span. However, the manner in which USCIS evaluates this criterion is surprisingly stringent and it is not as readily satisfied as it may first appear. In this article, we would like to share with our readers some of our observations regarding the reviewer criterion and we will provide some practical advice on how to approach this important element of EB1A petitions.

Reviews Must Be under the Petitioner’s Name

It is common in nearly all scientific fields of endeavor to perform reviews on behalf of one’s PhD advisor or Primary Investigator. Unfortunately, since these reviews are not under the petitioner’s name, they cannot be used to satisfy the reviewer criterion. Thus, even if one has performed numerous reviews on someone else’s behalf they must be discounted when evaluating whether the reviewer criterion has been met.

Quantity and Quality

Whether the reviews are performed for peer-reviewed journals or conferences, the total number of reviews is one of the primary factors that the officer will consider when evaluating this aspect of the case. How many reviews are enough? A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10 total; however, just because a petitioner has 10 or more reviews does not guarantee that this criterion is satisfied. Equally important is to demonstrate the quality of the journal or conference that the petitioner has reviewed for. Being selected as an ad hoc reviewer for the journal Nature will carry more persuasive weight than being asked to review for a lesser journal with an impact factor of 2.0.

Real Case Example

The petitioner was a biochemical researcher who was dependent on the reviewer criterion to receive an approval for his EB1A.  At the time of submitting his petition, he had only completed six reviews: four for three different peer-reviewed journals, and two for conferences in his field.  To make up for the relatively small number of reviews, our office submitted evidence of the high impact factors of the three journals for which he reviewed.  We also researched the conference rankings for both conferences that he reviewed for, and discovered that they were both within the top seven conferences in his field.   We submitted these findings with the petition, and his case was approved in 10 days via the Premium Processing Service without an Request for Evidence.

The Review Request
Evidence of the manner in which the petitioner is asked to review should also be emphasized when available. For example, when a petitioner is asked to review, does the request state that the petitioner was asked to review based on his or her expertise and reputation within the field? If so, such evidence should be submitted since it is much stronger than the generic mass template e-mails that journals or conferences usually send out when trying to recruit reviewers.

Real Case Example

In a recent EB1A case, the petitioner had completed only four reviews which was particularly concerning because other than his publications, he could satisfy no other criteria and was thus dependent on the reviewer criterion for approval.  Our office took three of the reviewer request e-mails and highlighted the language that demonstrated that the petitioner was chosen to serve as a reviewer because of his high reputation in the field.  We were also able to acquire a letter, that was written by the editor of one of these peer-reviewed journals, which stated that he chose the petitioner because he considered him an authority in the field.  This case was approved in 22 days after receiving a Request for Evidence through the Premium Processing Service. 

Conference Reviews
Serving on the review committee for a conference in the field is also an excellent opportunity to satisfy the reviewer criterion. In many cases, the conference will send a review request letter stating that the petitioner was chosen because of his or her reputation in the field.  Additionally, by serving on these types of committees, the petitioner will usually review numerous submissions (sometimes more than a dozen for one conference) which can all be counted towards the total number of reviews.

Real Case Example

An EB1A petitioner with extraordinary ability in computer science had performed 12 reviews and was dependent on the reviewer criterion for the approval of his EB1A.  Like many in the computer field, most of his reviews were done for peer-reviewed conferences.  For one conference in particular, he served as a member of the reviewer committee and was entrusted to delegate reviews to ad hoc reviewers for the conference.  We emphasized this “supervisory” reviewer role, and also submitted the high ranking that this conference received.  This case was approved via premium processing in eight days.

One of the costliest mistakes we see self-petitioners make in their EB1A petitions is to underestimate the difficulty in satisfying the reviewer criterion. A petitioner can increase his or her chances of satisfying this particular portion of an EB1A petition by keeping the above practical pointers in mind when preparing the case. As the cases from our office have shown, by supporting the reviewer criterion argument with the evidence discussed above, a petitioner can decrease the risk of a Request for Evidence and enhance the overall persuasiveness of the case.

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