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Using Prizes and Awards to Strengthen the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Visa

You may be eligible for an employment-based, first-preference (EB-1) immigrant visa (green card)  if you fit into one of the following three categories:

  1. Noncitizens of extraordinary ability (EB-1A);
  2. Outstanding professors or researchers (EB-1B); or
  3. Certain multinational executives or managers (EB-1C).

This article will focus on the first category: noncitizens of extraordinary ability (EB-1A), and in particular, how awards and prizes strengthen these cases. To apply for an EB-1A visa (using Form I-140), you must prove that you have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and that you have earned sustained national or international acclaim. USCIS reserves these visas for the elite few people who have reached the very top of their field, so it is no easy feat to get one.  Fortunately, Attorney Monique Kornfeld has extensive experience in filing EB-1A petitions for her clients and know how to build a strong case.

You may qualify for an EB-1A visa if you have earned a major, internationally recognized, one-time achievement, such as the Nobel Prize, an Olympic Medal, or an Academy Award. However, if you are one of the majority of people who have not received such a prestigious award, you can also qualify for an EB-1A visa by showing that you meet at least three of the following ten criteria:

  • Evidence that you have received lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;
  • Evidence that you belong to associations in your field that demand outstanding achievement of their members;
  • Evidence that material has been published about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel;
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to your field;
  • Evidence that you have written scholarly articles that have been published in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions;
  • Evidence that you have performed a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations;
  • Evidence that you earn a high salary or other high forms of payment, compared to others in your field; and
  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts.

This article will explain how to satisfy the first criterion: evidence that you have received lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.  

When the officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluate prizes and awards, they consider several factors. First, they confirm that you are the recipient of the prize or award; not your employer or anybody else. Second, they look at the criteria that were used to grant the prize or award to ensure that receipt was based on excellence in the field, not any other factors. Third, they examine the national or international significance of the award or prize in the field. Fourth, they look at the number of recipients of the prize or award and determine whether any groups were excluded from consideration.

USCIS accords different types of awards with different weight.  For example, it does not consider  research grants as awards for excellence because they view them as providing funding for future research, not an assessment of past work. USCIS has also viewed university scholarships and fellowships to not count as nationally or internationally recognized awards if they are only recognized by people at the university.  USCIS has treated academic awards as local or institutional honors, not nationally or internationally recognized awards, since they are limited to staff and students of the institutions. Therefore, USCIS does not view academic awards as an accurate evaluation of the recipient’s overall standing in their field.

For more information on how USCIS evaluates prizes and awards for EB-1A visa applications, see the USCIS Policy Memorandum PM 602-0005.1, Evaluation of Evidence Submitted with Certain Form I-140 Petitions: Revisions to the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 22.2, AFM Update ADJJ-14 6 (Dec. 22, 2019), https://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual.html.

Please contact Attorney Monique Kornfeld to create the strongest EB-1A extraordinary ability visa petition possible.