Putting together an EB-2 NIW green card application may seem a daunting task. On this website, I compiled important information to guide you through the process. Specifically, this article can help you avoid some common EB2 NIW application mistakes.
#1 Outdated forms or no signature
The first top mistake is using wrong forms. Particularly, I am referring to outdated forms. USCIS, like every government branch, updates its forms regularly. They will reject and return your application if you include a form that is out of date. How to ensure you are using the current version of a form? Always check the USCIS website to make sure you got the right paperwork. For instance, this is the link to the I-140 form, and this is the link to the I-485 form.
Another silly mistake that will result in USCIS returning your application is forgetting to sign the forms. Typically, you will need to sign all forms at least in one place. Take a few minutes to carefully read your form after completing it to check for mistakes and identify where you should sign.
#2 Insufficient evidence: the worst of EB2 application mistakes
Each EB-2 NIW case is adjudicated on its own merit. A common mistake is to mentally compare a case with another and feel overconfident (or the opposite). However, this is not how USCIS decides on the applications, and you should not think this way. In fact, you are responsible to gather all the evidence that proves you fulfill the requirements for this category. It doesn’t matter that you have an excellent resume or track record on paper if you fail to show the USCIS all the documentation that proves you qualify for EB-2 NIW.
Ensure you attach the evidence to your application. This is typically done as Exhibits. Exhibits are similar to attachments to an email.
To recap, the EB-2 NIW I-140 is generally comprised of the following items:
- Table of contents or list of documents
- Forms and fees
- Petition cover letter
The petition cover letter articulates the case. Consequently, in this letter, you tell the officer why you fulfill the National Interest Waiver requirements. You will back up each claim by providing materials as Exhibits. There is no right or wrong number for how many Exhibits your application should have. You should include as many as you need to ensure your claims are well supported by the documentation.
Examples of materials enclosed as Exhibits are:
- Letters of recommendation by experts in the field.
- Personal statement providing plans for the future
- Peer-reviewed publications
- Copies of diplomas or transcripts
- Offer letters for employment
- Curriculum Vitae
- Government publications proving your field is of National Importance
- Any other document that can help you make your case stronger!
#3 Poor presentation in cover letter
Like we said earlier, the I-140 petition cover letter is the central piece that articulates your case. Think of it as the story you want to tell the USCIS officer to convince them that you meet the requirements. Typically, in this letter you will clearly state what those requirements are Then, you will go one by one explaining how you fulfill them.
A common mistake here is to use very complicated language. Make sure you use layman language so any person that reads your cover letter can fully understand what you do and what your contributions to the field are. Do not use too many technical terms that will be confusing to your audience: the USCIS officer.
#4 Lacking confidence or being overconfident about your profile
A very common attitude I observed by potential applicants is to think they do not qualify for this green card category. Some people get scared when they hear the words “exceptional ability”. In other words, they lack confidence.
However, one needs to remember that USCIS adjudicates EB-2 NIW cases solely based on the officer’s discretion. You do not have to meet a requirement 100%. In fact, the office may accept many partially fulfilled requirements. Always try to hit as many requirements as possible as long as you have grounds for them. This way, the USCIS officer may look at your overall application and agree you qualify for EB-2 National Interest Waiver green card.
On the other hand, an opposite end of the spectrum is overconfidence. Some potential applicants have the right profile but forget that it is all about how to present the evidence. Your case may fail if you do not have a strong cover letter with the appropriate supporting documentation.
#5 Weak or no recommendation letters: One of the key EB2 NIW application mistakes
Recommendation letters are not mandatory, but they are helpful to back up your claims. For example, you may want to have additional evidence of how impactful your publications are. What better way than letting an expert in the field comment on that?
Additionally, recommendation letters can highlight aspects of your profile that you consider important but are difficult to prove otherwise. In my case, I was a scientist in a privately-owned company. During my tenure in this company, I could not publish any of the important research I led due to confidentiality reasons. This resulted in a lack of publications showcasing my scientific work. Yet, I mitigated this issue using a letter of recommendation. One of my recommenders was an executive from my company and her letter clearly described my contributions. Specifically, she talked about why they were important to the company and the United States.
How many recommendation letters are needed for EB-2 NIW?
There is no set number of letters you should include. The typical number of recommendation letters for EB-2 NIW varies between 4 and 8. In my case, I had a total of 6 letters enclosed to the I-140 petition. Make sure every letter you include has a purpose and is useful to write the cover letter. In fact, in the cover letter you will cite excerpts from these reference letters to help strengthen your case. Check my petition to see how I did it!
Types of recommendation letters for EB-2 NIW
There are two types of recommenders: subjective or objective (also called Independent advisory opinions). For this green card application, independent recommenders are more important. These are individuals that are experts in the field and who know you based on your work. In other words, these are not people that know you personally, or at least they cannot be linked to you professionally based on your track record.
On the other hand, subjective recommenders are people that you know personally and may have worked with you. For example, your degree advisor would be a subjective recommender. It is good to include between one and three of these letters but keep in mind that independent references are more important.
My I-140 petition package contained a total of 6 recommendation letters: 3 of them objective and 3 of them subjective.
How to write recommendation letters for EB-2 NIW?
Structure of EB-2 NIW recommendation letters
Secondly, they should briefly mention in what capacity they know the applicant. For subjective recommenders, this could be an advisor-advisee or manager-employee relationship. Independent recommenders can refer to having attended a talk by the petitioner at a professional conference or just having read an article published in a scientific journal.
Thirdly, the recommender should highlight key areas of the petitioner’s work that relate to their exceptional ability and/or the importance of their work for the United States. Finally, a strong closing remarks section should make it clear that the recommender supports the petition to obtain permanent residency. And of course, the letters should be signed! Ink signature followed by scanning works the best.
Official letterhead and CV of recommender
Furthermore, there are two important style-related items to keep in mind about recommendation letters. One is that the letters should include the official letterhead of the institution the recommender belongs to. For example, the logo of a University or a company. Sometimes this is not possible because the organization may have a policy directly against producing these types of recommendations. However, it is always worth asking for it.
Another important aspect is to request a CV or resume from the recommenders, which will be enclosed in the I-140 package as Exhibit. This will help the officer that reviews the case to understand how important this recommender is in their field of work.
I wrote a specific blog post about recommendation letters that you can read by clicking here.
Conclusions: EB2 NIW application mistakes to avoid
In this article, I provided a few of the top EB2 NIW application mistakes so you can avoid them. These are just five of the top mistakes that I found more frequently, but there may be others. Do you have any other ones? Write them in the comment section below!