O-1 and EB-1A: The matter of Recommendation Letters

July 15, 2022 by Martina Bellan

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This week, the whole PassRight team is excited to launch a new service on our website to help prepare Recommendation Letters for visa applications. Recommendation Letters are a key element for the creation of a strong, winning case, as they briefly – yet precisely – describe the major achievements and the extraordinariness of the visa beneficiary.

This article is going to explain the differences and characteristics of each Recommendation Letter, providing a detailed and complete guide to fully understand their relevance for a visa application and which aspects are crucial to writing a successful Recommendation Letter.

What is a Recommendation Letter?

A Recommendation Letter is a letter written by an expert in the visa applicant’s field who can recommend the individual’s work or academic performance. A Recommendation Letter describes and recognizes a person’s qualifications and skills as they relate to the individual’s extraordinary achievements and capacity. These letters typically come from previous employers, professors, colleagues, or clients, among others, who have a clear understanding of the major impact that the visa applicant’s contributions have had on the field. Letters from famous people (e.g., a Nobel Prize winner or other prominent award winners) may strengthen the case.

Recommendation Letters are an especially important part of the application, as they show the recognition of the applicant/beneficiary as a high-level specialist, which is the main criterion for selection. Through the letters, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Officers may have a clearer understanding of the context and the major relevance of the alien’s work.

The Recommendation Letters used to support an O-1 Visa and an EB-1A Green Card application are Expert Opinions, Advisory Opinions, and Letters of Confirmation. Below, you will find a detailed description of each one of them.

OUR GENERAL SUGGESTIONS AND GUIDELINES:

  • The name, title, and contact information of the writer must be included in all the letters to valid them,
  • The letter should be signed with ink or a digital signature on the letterhead of the company to make it look more official.

Expert Opinions

Expert Opinions are Recommendation Letters written to support the O-1 and EB-1A Visa criteria for “Original scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field”. The letters must be written by experts in the field who have witnessed the alien’s professional development and have a deep understanding of the alien’s major contributions in the field. Therefore, the recommender should be someone familiar with the alien’s work and who feels positive about it, besides being in a position of authority or with a recognized reputation.

The Expert Opinions should at least include:

  • A paragraph indicating which are the writer’s main accomplishments and why he or she may be considered an expert in the field. It should also state how the expert became acquainted with the alien and the duration of their relationship,
  • A development providing an evaluation of the alien’s main skills and accomplishments. Here, the writer can explain the context of the application of the alien’s contributions, his/her critical role in an organization, the significance of their major prizes or awards, the prestige associated with a membership in an organization, or otherwise inform the USCIS Officer of the importance of the individual’s accomplishments from the perspective of an esteemed insider in the field. In summary, the body of the letters should resume the alien’s unique strengths and extraordinary qualifications,
  • A conclusion explaining why the writer would recommend this extraordinary person and how the alien can benefit the United States through his/her work.

A key aspect of the Expert Opinion letters is the language. The alien’s outstanding contributions must be explained in simple yet precise language, describing accurately complex specifical breakthroughs to a non-specialized audience. As mentioned in a previous PassRight article, Expert Opinion letters will need to be honest but laudatory in nature and without exaggeration. If USCIS Officers have cause to believe that one piece of evidence has been exaggerated or inflated, they will pull on that thread and this could cause the entire case to unravel. One piece of shaky evidence could undermine the whole argument; therefore, the letters must be convincing, accurate, and authentic.

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that USCIS Officers often claim that certain achievements are considered normal in certain fields: publishing, presenting abstracts at conferences, writing book chapters, reviewing works, etc. Hence, Expert Opinion letters need to point out how the alien’s achievements are truly outstanding and of proved international acclaim, setting the alien apart from others in the field. 

OUR SUGGESTIONS AND GUIDELINES:

  • The main goal of Expert Opinions is to highlight the outstanding nature of the original contributions where the applicant has a key role,
  • The letters need to emphasize the international recognition for the exceptional achievements of the alien and the ground-breaking contributions which have altered traditional views and have had a major impact on the field (new areas of investigation, procedures, or techniques based on cutting-edge research or technology),
  • It is important to avoid mentioning the future promise of the alien’s technology, research, or work, as he or she must be already a recognized expert in the field in order to be granted the O-1 or EB-1A Visa. Phrases such as “the most promising” or “to have a major impact in the future” should be avoided.

Advisory Opinions

An Advisory Opinion letter is required for the O-1 Visa application (it is not needed for EB-1A Visa). The Advisory Opinion letter discusses the qualities and capabilities that make the candidate a good fit for a given position in the petitioner’s company. The purpose of an Advisory Opinion is to determine whether the applicant   is suitable for the offered position. 

For this, the Advisory Opinion must be written by a U.S. basedentity, such as a a company headquartered in the US or the US-based expert that has authority within teh applicant’s field of expertise.  It has to state that the alien does have a sustained reputation of extraordinary ability and is essential for the development of the petitioning company’s business plan. . 

The Advisory Opinion letter should at least:

  • Describe the nature of the consulting entity and of the petitioning company, which should be similar or equivalent,
  • Describe why the alien is an extraordinary individual suitable to satisfy the petitioning company’s needs,
  • Conclude by stating that the alien is the ideal candidate for the offered position and the consulting entity, as a peer competent group, supports the visa application and petition of the alien.

OUR SUGGESTIONS AND GUIDELINES:

  • The Advisory Opinion is a critical letter to attach to the Visa application, as it is supported by a non-involved party, and therefore represents a more objective point of view,
  • It is not necessary to state how the writer and the alien know each other,
  • It is important to fully analyze the petition, the role offered, and the alien’s background to make a comprehensive statement supporting the Visa application.

Letters of Confirmation

Letters of Confirmation are Recommendation Letters written to support the O-1 Visa criterion for “Employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation” and the EB-1A Visa criterion for “Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations”. As can be noticed, two main aspects have to be covered in both criteria:

  1. The alien was employed in a critical, essential, or leading role in a distinguished organization.
  2. The alien was employed in a critical, essential, or leading role in a distinguished organization.

Therefore, the letters should focus on both aspects to avoid a Request for Evidence (RFE). The beneficiary may have worked in the past or be working at the moment for the organization in order to satisfy this criterion.

Letters of Confirmation should at least:

  • Quote the organization or establishment’s eminence, distinction, or excellence in the field,
  • Explain which was/is the relationship between the writer and the beneficiary. The writer should have an equivalent or superior role as the beneficiary, and must closely know what the alien’s duties in the company were/are,
  • Demonstrate how the beneficiary’s role was/is leading or critical for the organization or establishment, specifying their title or role and functions, and how his contributions were/are essential to the outcome of the organization or establishment’s activities.

The letters should contain detailed and probative information that specifically addresses how the beneficiary’s role for the organization or establishment is or was leading or critical. The key is not in merely mentioning a top-level title or position but in utterly describing how the beneficiary’s presence in the company had an impact on the successful results of the organization. Therefore, the letters should be detailed and provide specific information about the beneficiary’s fundamental role and the extraordinary effects of his employment in the company. 

OUR SUGGESTIONS AND GUIDELINES:

  • The highest the role of the writer is, the best. However, keep in mind that it has to be someone who knows the alien’s work and has overseen their work and involvement in the company,
  • General descriptions with no specific duties or achievements are not useful to support the extraordinary abilities of the beneficiary in the field. Always try to be the most detailed as possible to confirm the proximity of the writer and beneficiary’s roles, besides the major impact of the alien’s contributions to the organization’s results,
  • It is better to avoid language relating to personality traits such as “hard-working”, “productive”, “efficient”, “competent,” “well-trained” and/or “has potential” as it could lead USCIS Officers to think that the applicant has not yet risen to the top of his/her field.

Conclusion

It has been proven that Recommendation Letters may have a decisive role in a visa application. Well-written and founded letters will surely help to confirm to the USCIS Officers the beneficiary’s extraordinary abilities in their field and will act as a determining factor toward an Approval Notice. On the contrary, Recommendation Letters lacking the right language, information, or format may be a reason for the USCIS Officers to file a Request for Evidence or, in the worst scenario, a Denial Notice.

At PassRight, we are pleased to offer a specialized service for helping you prepare the Recommendation Letters for your visa application. Our experience, professionalism, and preparation are at your service to guide you in your visa process. You can check our brand-new Recommendation Letters page on our website, and contact us for any inquiries regarding our services for your O-1 or EB-1 Visa.

FAQs

  • How many letters should I provide?

    There is not a required number of letters in the USCIS guidelines. We provide different recommendations according to the client’s profile and the designed person to sign the letters.
  • How long should the letters be?

    There is no specific length of the letters in the USCIS guidelines. We recommend focusing on the content and providing well-structured letters with meaningful content.
  • Can I use previously signed letters?

    Yes, you can use them if the content is appropriate for the purposes of the visa application.