Mistakes to avoid with EB1A recommendation letters

The below note by Attorney Sharif Silmi is adapted from the USCIS Policy Manual instructions to adjudicators regarding the probative value of ‘recommendation letters of support’ in an EB1A petition.

Many petitions to classify a person with extraordinary ability contain recommendation letters of support. Letters of support, while not without weight, should not form the cornerstone of a successful claim for this classification.

Instead, the statements made by the witnesses should be corroborated by documentary evidence in the record. Letters ought to be testimonial in nature, a qualified party
making specific statements based on their authority, personal knowledge and expertise.

The letters should explain in specific terms why the witnesses believe the beneficiary and their contributions to be of great significance and the caliber of a person with extraordinary ability. Letters that merely reiterate USCIS’ definitions relating to this classification (i.e. exceptional, significant, outstanding, of major significance) or make general and expansive statements regarding the beneficiary and their accomplishments are generally not persuasive.

Letters must be credible. The relationship or affiliation between the beneficiary and the witness is also a factor USCIS will consider when evaluating the weight of witnesses’ statements. It is generally expected that one whose accomplishments have garnered
sustained national or international acclaim would have received recognition for their accomplishments well beyond the circle of his or her personal and professional acquaintances.

In some cases, letters from others in the beneficiary’s field may merely make general assertions about the beneficiary, and at most, indicate that the beneficiary is a competent, respected figure within the field of endeavour. Still, the record lacks sufficient,
concrete evidence supporting such statements. These letters may be considered but do not necessarily show the beneficiary’s claimed extraordinary ability.

Ultimately, a successful EB1A petition will consist of extensive documentary evidence that is contemporary to the applicant’s contributions throughout their career. Support letters can put the contributions in context but are not a substitute for existing documentary evidence.