Publications and citations for NIW green card

In this article, we will cover one of the most frequently asked questions for researchers that are considering applying for this green card: how many publications and citations for NIW?

If you want, your can watch the YouTube video on the right-hand side of the screen. 

Do you need publications for NIW?

No, there is no official requirement for publications. This includes peer-reviewed publications, poster or oral presentations at professional conferences, and books or book chapters. Nevertheless, if you are a scientist, it will be easier for you to put together your petition if you can show a track record of publishing in your discipline.

Scientific PapersWhy can publications help you as a researcher?

Publications are not a requirement by USCIS but can help establish you are well positioned to advance the proposed of endeavor. This is one of the three prongs you must meet since the Matter of Dhanasar took precedentA USCIS policy manual gives includes the following as a type of evidence that can be used:

“Documentation demonstrating a strong citation history or the person’s work or excerpts of published articles showing positive discourse around, or adoption of, the person’s work”

Peer-reviewed publications can be especially useful to demonstrate that you are well-positioned because your work needs to undergo review by experts in the field before it is published. Then, citations to this work can further demonstrate its importance.

How many citations do you need for EB2 NIW?

The short answer is that there is no minimum number of citations needed. There is no requirement for citations in the USCIS EB2 NIW guidelines. This makes sense if you consider that this category goes beyond researchers. However, it is also true that, if you are a researcher, citations to your publications can help establish your authority in the field.

How can citations help you with EB2 NIW?

As a scientist or researcher, showing a citation record can aid in proving you are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, one of the three prongs under the Matter of Dhanasar. Particularly, if we are talking about peer-reviewed publications. USCIS does mention that “a strong citation history of the person’s work” can be used as evidence to show that a person is well positioned.

How can you demonstrate the number of citations in your I-140 application?

As an applicant, you can include a screenshot of your Google Scholar profile where your publications and the number of citations are shown. Alternatively, you can use other platforms that offer similar functionality, like ResearchGate. You may want to include this as an Exhibit in your petition. You can check out how I went about showing my publication records in my own I-140 application.

The number of citations varies by field

Did you know that 44% of all published manuscripts never get citations? Just one citation for a scientific article may put you in the top half, and 10 will make you top 24%. In addition, if you are doing research, you may be very aware that different fields have different expectations for the number of publications or citations. Elsevier shows in this report data from Scopus that indicates that the field of Biochemistry, Genetics, and Molecular Biology has four times more citations than Arts and Humanities.

How can you prove the number and quality of publications in your petition?

The number of publications for EB2 NIW

To show the number of peer-reviewed publications, you may follow a similar method as for citations. You can take a screenshot of your Google Scholar profile and include it as an Exhibit in your petition. Of course, remember to refer to it in your cover letter! Moreover, you should consider adding at least the cover, if not a few pages, of each publication. You can create another Exhibit for your publications, and reference it in your cover letter.

The quality of your publications

Another important aspect is to speak to the quality of your publications. You can use two approaches here. The first one is to use quotes from recommendation letters where the recommender describes the significance of one or some of your articles. 

The second one is to use “objective” evidence to measure the quality of the journals where you published. As you may know, scientists use metrics such as impact factor to classify the journals. You can go to the journal’s homepage where they show impact factor, and take a screenshot that you can add in an Exhibit. Then you can include this information in your cover letter. However, it may be hard for the officer to understand how good the journal is solely based on this number. This is because they are not experts in your field. 

You can also find rankings of journals by discipline, and provide a copy of them as Exhibits in your petition. Then, you can use this information in your cover letter to argue that the journal you published in is relevant. There are two ranking resources I used in my own application:

  1. Scimago – link here
  2. Google Scholar – link here

In both of these websites you can refine your ranking by field and sub-field. For example, for my particular discipline I can select Life Sciences as category and Biotechnology as sub-category. Then I can highlight the journal I published in (Bioresource Technology) and include this screenshot as evidence in the Exhibits section of my petition. In my cover letter I can refer to how Google Scholar considers this journal top 2 in the discipline. By association, having my work published in such a reputable journal is proof of how I am well-positioned.

Google Scholar Ranking for publications for EB2 NIW
Screenshot of Google Scholar Rankings


What can you do if you do not have publications or citations?

There may be many reasons why you do not have publications or citations. Depending on the reason, a different solution may be available:

Reason #1: You are not a researcher.

Typically, publications are more typical of scientists and other researchers. If publications are not common in your field, you should not worry about this. This article is only for our audience of researchers.

Reason #2: You are too early in your career.

Maybe you just started your research career, and it is still too early to have peer-reviewed publications, or you just started publishing but you have not gathered enough citations. Present your case by comparing your citation number with the average citation number for articles of the same age in your disciplineThere are tools out there that can help you gather this information. Clarivate is one of them but unfortunately, it is a paid platform (you may check if your institution has access). 

You can also include a Research Plan as an Exhibit in your petition, so you can demonstrate you have ideas and a path to conduct research in the United States.

Reason #3: You do not work in academia.

If you are a scientist in a private organization, publishing may be not be an option. This is because oftentimes publishing hurt the chances for intellectual protection (IP). Take my case as an example: I published 7 peer-reviewed articles from my four years in Academia, but zero during 5+ years working in a company. And believe me, there were plenty of projects that generated publication-quality data! 

For this type of cases, you may want to use letters of recommendation to let others speak about your contributions to the field. For example, a senior employee at your organization can highlight your scientific achievements and even comment on the fact that publishing was not an option for IP reasons. 

Patents or patents applications are a type of publication that demonstrates your influence in the field. If you have some under your belt, you leverage them instead (or on top of) research publications.

Alternative types of evidence

This is a non-exhaustive list of alternative types of evidence you can leverage to compensate for the lack of publications or citations:

  • Letters of recommendation. Reference letters are a very versatile tool to help you build a strong case. In the case of low or no publications or citations, you may want to let others describe how important your contributions are. You can cite certain passages in your EB2 NIW cover letteand attach the reference letters to your application as Exhibits.
  • Awards, grants or scholarships. Awards for any accomplishment in the field can be an excellent demonstration of how well-positioned you are to advance your proposed endeavor. Similarly, being the recipient of grants or scholarships can show the USCIS officer you can achieve what you claim in your petition.
  • Patents, patent applications, invention disclosures. This type of intellectual property document can help demonstrate that you are an expert in the field.
  • Dissertations, thesis, conference papers, book chapters. Not only peer-reviewed publications are important. Any type of publication can be valuable for your EB2 NIW petition.
  • Research Plan. You may choose to add personal statement in the form of a letter to your I-140 application. This can give the USCIS officer a clear idea that you have thought your endeavor through and are positioned to advance it with a concrete plan of action.


Publications or citations are not a requirement for a successful EB2 NIW green card application. A high number of publications or citations can definitely help researchers, such as scientists, when putting together a case. However, there are alternative types of evidence one can use to compensate for the lack of peer-reviewed publications or low citation volume.

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