Extraordinary Ability

It is extremely difficult to qualify to immigrate under the Extraordinary Ability Category. But those who do can enjoy the benefit of not needing a job offer, and can immigrate quickly by using the Premium Processing service of USCIS (review within 15 days). In addition, one strategy to contemplate would be to submit two separate petitions — one under the extraordinary ability category, and one under the national interest waiver category.

Who can qualify as an individual with Extraordinary Ability?

This category is for the elite — those who are recognized as being at the very top of their field and plan to continue working in their field in the US. There are two ways to qualify: show sustained national or international acclaim and 1) receipt of a major internationally recognized prize; or 2) meet at least three of the below listed criteria:

  • Receipt of a lesser nationally or internationally recognized prize or award for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • Membership in an association that require outstanding achievements of their members as judged by recognized national or international experts
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about you which relates to your work in the field
  • Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the same or in an allied field of specialization
  • Original scientific, scholarly or business contributions that are of major significance
  • Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media
  • Work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
  • Played a leading or critical role for an organization with a distinguished reputation
  • Commanded a high salary or other remuneration for your services in comparison to others in your field
  • Enjoyed commercial successes in the performing arts
  • If these criteria do not readily apply, then other comparable evidence

What else must the applicant establish?

Even if the applicant establishes that he meets at least three of the above criteria, USCIS will undertake a final merits determination: does the evidence reflect that it is more likely than not that the applicant has attained sustained national or international acclaim and that he/she is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field? In addition, the applicant must show that he plans to continue working in his field.

What are some of the problem issues?

USCIS strictly interprets the above criteria, and for those who satisfy at least three criteria, has imposed a very subjective final merits determination. Each word in the list of criteria is interpreted strictly — for example, “major media” does not include local hometown newspapers; contributions of “major significance” must be objectively verifiable, not just vouched for by colleagues at work; “leading or critical role” does not mean simply being a member of a group or team; “high salary or other remuneration” and “commercial success” may be hard to evidence in some countries because of the lack of statistics or may not seem impressive to a USCIS examiner; membership in an association with 10,000 members will not qualify under the membership criterion; a regional prize does not qualify as “national”. Under the belief that too many individuals were able to qualify by robotically applying the criteria, USCIS decided to graft on another test — the “final merits” determination — to weed out individuals who may be able to meet the criteria but do not, in its opinion, qualify as extraordinary.

How does White & Associates help?

We have been assisting individuals immigrate through this category for more than 25 years. We have seen the evolution of INS/USCIS’ interpretation — from relatively lax to very strict. What this means in real-world terms is that the documentation required is overwhelming — for a recent app developer, our submission included more than 100 appendices. For a structural engineer — more than 70. A kung fu master — 80. We assist in the preparation of testimonials and recommendation letters. For those who are “extraordinary” but not in a position to evidence this, we formulate a strategy to help achieve the client’s goal over a period of time. Please contact us to learn how we can help you.