Effective Use of Recommendation Letters for NIW and EB1 Petitions

Many NIW and EB1 petitioners consider recommendation letters to be on of the most essential elements of the petition.  While this may have been true in the past, our office has observed a clear trend towards deemphasizing the importance of recommendation letters for NIW and EB1 petitions.   Several years ago, we began seeing RFE’s that explicitly stated that while recommendation letters would be considered, they would not be considered as persuasive as other forms of objective evidence.  Today, nearly all RFE’s we see make some mention of how other forms of evidence carry more persuasive weight than recommendation letters.

Over the past few years, our office has adjusted its strategy by limiting the number of recommendation letters to five, and placing more emphasis on objective forms of evidence such as citations, unsolicited emails requests for data, etc.  We use recommendation letters in a supporting role to strengthen and emphasize the objective evidence in the case.  This case strategy has been highly successful and was recently affirmed during a November 4, 2009, Liaison Meeting between the Nebraska Service Center (“NSC”) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”).

During the meeting, the AILA liaison inquired specifically about the persuasive value of recommendation letters for EB1 cases.  NSC explained that, “[t]he letters are accepted as evidence but are considered in light of the additional evidence provided…The letters are not presumptive evidence of eligibility but can help to explain the evidence and provide support depending on the quality of the entire submission.”

To demonstrate how to effectively integrate a recommendation letter with the objective evidence for a case, below are some examples from two recently approved cases:

Biochemist (NIW)

This petitioner had 26 citations to her 7 peer-reviewed articles.  While not a high citation count, we were able to show the importance of the petitioner’s work by using the recommendation letters in conjunction with the citations.  We were able to procure a letter from an independent scientist who cited the petitioner’s project publication in a recent publication.  The recommender mentioned the citation and remarked on the importance of petitioner’s project to his work.  In our petition letter and exhibit list, we emphasized the project publication that was mentioned in the recommendation letter and tied its citation list to the letter, thus giving greater persuasive weight to the citation list.  This case was approved without and RFE in approximately 4 months.

Professor of Biology (EB1B)

This petitioner had only 17 citations to 5 peer-reviewed publications; however, one of the conference presentations he gave attracted a great deal of attention in the field.  Shortly after his presentation, he received 12 emails requesting more information regarding this project.  The petitioner asked one of these requesters for a recommendation letter and asked him to explain why this project was important in the letter.  We were able to use this recommendation letter to make up the low number of citations – the letter, in conjunction with the unsolicited emails, were enough to prove his significant contribution to the field.  This case was approved via premium processing in 12 days.

While the USCIS has placed less emphasis on recommendation letters, they can still be used effectively to strengthen the objective evidence in a case as the above examples demonstrate.  The important point to remember in NIW and EB1 cases is that objective, unsolicited evidence is the key to approval – you can use your recommendation letters to underscore this evidence.


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

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