The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected — What Type of Evidence Should You Include in Your Extraordinary Ability Petition?

One of the most important components of an extraordinary ability petition is showing evidence to support your case – in other words – what makes YOU so extraordinary?

If you are considering an extraordinary ability petition, you will need to be prepared to show that you are the best of the best, a person of world renown who has risen to the top of their respective field. The easiest way to meet the standards of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is through evidence of an internationally recognized achievement award, such as a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, or Olympic medal. A majority of extraordinary ability petitioners must depend on alternative measurements, and can prove their ability by meeting a variety of criteria laid out by USCIS (for the complete list of extraordinary ability criteria click here).

Your extraordinary ability petition is your opportunity to show what makes you special – so it’s important to know what to include and what to leave out. Our immigration attorneys help our clients put forth the best application possible – if you need help with your petition, contact us today. Here are some examples of evidence you should always lead with, some evidence you should leave behind, and a few types of evidence you might not have considered.

The Good

It’s all in the details! You want to provide USCIS with the most specific information possible. For example, if you have won an award, you will want to include the following, if possible:

  • The number of people who received the award in the same year you did
  • The number of applications/submissions received by the organization giving the award
  • The detailed criteria for being chosen

For honors like a best paper award from a conference, it’s helpful to be able to show USCIS the abstract acceptance rate at the meeting, to show that your work was chosen out of the work of many others in your field.

Further, if you are using the Extraordinary Ability criterion for serving in a lead or critical role for an organization, you will want to provide detailed information about your roles. This can include things like revenue numbers stemming directly from your work, number and employment level of the people you supervise, and any impact of initiatives or projects that you lead.

The Bad

Save the trees! You do not need to provide every page of your lengthy research publication; I guarantee no officer is reading the whole thing. Submit enough to show USCIS the name of the publication and paper, date of publication, and that you are the author. This means that the first page of an academic article, and the cover and title page of a scholarly book are usually sufficient.

Also, be careful with evidence presented for the category of memberships that require “outstanding achievement”, as USCIS is generally tough on this point. Unless the membership criterion clearly shows a need for achievements, above and beyond the general academic requirements of your specialty, this category won’t help you build your case. Strong evidence for this category can include membership criteria, organization by-laws, and letters from the organization explaining why you were chosen for membership.

The Unexpected

Within reason, graphic representations of data and charts can be a useful way to summarize different points in your case. USCIS officers do not have much time to devote to each petition, so charts or graphs can be a strong way to get your point across quickly. For example, a detailed map can be a good way to show the location of the other researchers who have cited to your work, indicating the global exposure and interest in your research.

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