Who should I ask to be a reference?

The number of references we recommend working with varies depending on the case type and specific characteristics of the case. We find that EB1A and O1 petitions generally benefit from 3-4 reference letters, NIW petitions from 2-3 letters, and EB1B petitions from 1-2 letters. For streamlined petitions we do not recommend including reference letters. Please prepare a list of potential references, including their preferred contact information, job title, and your affiliation with them. This should be a mix of collaborators and independent experts. For these purposes, independent experts are people with whom you have not published, studied, worked, or shared time at the same institutions. If possible, please try to include references from a variety of institutions and countries. This helps show that you are widely known throughout the field, not just your circle of collaborators.

We recommend, when initially contacting your references, that you let them know their time commitment will be minimal. Please tell them that your attorney’s office would like to speak with them directly and will offer to draft the letters.

What is the process for obtaining reference letters for my petition?

Once you have sent us a list of confirmed references, we will contact each of them by email. The email will contain 3-5 questions about your research. Your references can choose to reply to some or all of these questions via email, or they can opt to set up a 5-10 minute phone call instead.

Based on the answers we receive, we will then draft a letter and send it to the reference by email for his/her review and signature. We will ask him/her to email us a signed letter, on letterhead, along with a copy of his/her CV or biosketch.

What if my references are too busy to help with the letter? Can you send a template they can edit?

Because the letters of reference must discuss specific details of your work, it is generally not possible to provide a template letter for editing. We know that your references are busy and we make every effort to be respectful of your professional relationship with them. If one or two references do not have time for a quick email or a 5-10 minute phone call, we will work with you to come up with an alternate way to prepare a draft, perhaps by talking to someone else who is familiar with your work.

Should I write the letters for my petition myself?

No. We have years of experience writing letters in support of Extraordinary Ability/National Interest Waiver/Outstanding Researcher petitions. We keep up with the latest trends in adjudication and evaluation of these petitions, and we ensure that the references address the immigration-specific criteria. It is more efficient for our office to work directly with your references, and generally speeds up the preparation of your case.

How can I help if you do not want me to write the reference letters?

You can provide us with a clear research description and definition of your field, and be available for one or two phone conversations to clarify and explain your research as we prepare the petition.

If you have any recent letters written for you in support of job, fellowship, or grant applications, these may be helpful in drafting your immigration reference letters. It can also be helpful for us to talk to someone who is not writing a reference letter, such as a graduate student or an assistant who is working with you. Every case is different, and there is a bit of a learning curve for us as we begin to understand your work. Talking to people who have time to share their perspective on your work is extremely useful.

Why do these letters look so different from other letters I have seen? They seem short and contain minimal information about the reference’s credentials. The description of the research also seems oversimplified.

The only purpose of these reference letters is to demonstrate that you meet the necessary criteria to qualify in the Extraordinary Ability/National Interest Waiver/Outstanding Researcher category. Therefore the letters will only focus on your specific accomplishments that meet those criteria.

The immigration officer assigned to your case will have 20-25 minutes to review your whole petition. That immigration office will not have any specialized knowledge about your field. Our goal is to win the case on the first round of review. We want to make the letters, and the entire petition package, as strong and as simple as possible, so the examiner can understand it clearly and quickly.

How has the standards for these letters changed recently?

USCIS has become much tougher on these kinds of cases. In particular, expert letters are not given the same weight as they once were, and a case cannot win with just well-written expert letters. The letters must corroborate the evidence submitted in the petition.

As one example from 2009, here is a case that was denied and appealed (not ours). The Administrative Appeals Unit wrote this about expert letters:

The submission of letters from experts supporting the petition is not presumptive evidence of eligibility; USCIS may evaluate the content of those letters as to whether they support the alien’s eligibility. See id. at 795. Thus, the content of the experts’ statement and how they became aware of the petitioner’s reputation are important considerations. Even when written by independent experts, letters solicited by an alien in support of an immigration petition are of less weight than preexisting, independent evidence of original contributions of major significance that one would expect of a trainer of coach who has sustained national or international acclaim. Without extensive documentation showing that the petitioner’s work has been unusually influential, highly acclaimed throughout his field, or has otherwise risen to the level of original contributions of major significance, we cannot conclude that he meets this criterion.


Therefore, it is very important to work with us to brainstorm additional evidence/anecdotes that we can package and submit with the letters to show the reaction of the research community to your work.