EB1A Extraordinary Ability Petitions for Marital Artists

While a majority of the EB1A Extraordinary Ability petitions from our office are filed for petitioners with scientific backgrounds, a good number of our EB1A’s are filed for petitioners with extraordinary ability in sports.  One of the more popular types of sports-based EB1A’s at our office are filed by martial artists, which include masters in Taekwondo, Wushu, Traditional Kung-Fu, and Karate.  We would like to share with our readers some of our observations into what a successful martial arts based EB1A case should entail.

For many martial arts based EB1A’s, one of the most important strategic decisions to make is to decide what type of category to apply under: one can apply as either a martial arts practitioner or a martial arts coach.  In the martial arts community, there is usually a close nexus between being a great practitioner and being a great coach.  It is not uncommon for successful practitioners to also work as coaches to make a living. To be approved for EB1A, a petitioner must demonstrate that she meets at least three of the ten criteria spelled out in the EB1A regulations.  Because there is such a close relationship between practicing and coaching, we have often seen self-petitioners attempt to meet three of these criteria by combining their accomplishments as a practitioner with their accomplishments as a coach.  This is a fatal mistake, as the USCIS will only allow an applicant to claim only one type of category for a case. By way of illustration, we will use one of our recent case approvals as an example:

The petitioner was a grandmaster who held a 7th degree black in Traditional Kung-Fu.  Before contacting our office, she attempted to petition by herself, arguing the four following criteria: 1) awards won as a practitioner, 2) display of her work as a practitioner at exhibitions, 3) original contributions to the field of Kung-Fu as a coach, and 4) playing a critical role as a coach for the national Wushu team.  This case was unsuccessful because, as the USCIS correctly pointed out, the petitioner only met 2 criteria as a practitioner and only met 2 criteria as coach – she did not meet three criteria in either category.

Our office submitted a new case on her behalf, eliminating any claims that related to coaching, and argued the following criteria:  1) awards won as a practitioner, 2) display of her work as a practitioner at exhibitions, and 3) membership in an association requiring outstanding achievement (as a 7th degree black belt grandmaster).  The case was approved in eight days via premium processing.

Even though we argued less overall criteria, the case filed by our office was successful because we chose a category (practitioner), and then focused on it to meet three of the required criteria for approval.

As the above example demonstrates, if one is applying as a martial artist, it is vitally important to select a category, (either practitioner or coach) and then stick with it exclusively throughout the case.  While it is tempting to include both categories in one case since you may be able to claim more overall criteria, our experience has shown that restricting and focusing the case to one category is a better path to approval, even if it eliminates the number of overall criteria a petitioner can claim.

For questions or comments regarding this article please contact Attorney Fok at: jfok@jclawoffice.com