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Can I use Wikipedia in support of my immigration case? Can I submit Wikipedia articles to show circulation figures of major media for my O1, EB1, NIW case?

A person conducting research

No, we do not recommend submitting Wikipedia as evidence of any facts that may affect your eligibility for an immigration benefit, because USCIS takes the position that it will not assign weight to information from Wikipedia, due to its nature as an open, user-edited internet site with no assurances with respect to reliability.

As many of you may know, Wikipedia is a non-commercial, free-to-access, open online encyclopedia available in 300+ languages and 2 billion unique visits per month, and has been around for 22 years. There is no question about the popularity of the site as an informative resource and the sheer volume of information available and collated on Wikipedia. As a result, many applicants try to use Wikipedia articles as supporting evidence for key facts in their immigration case, such as to prove circulation figures for a media outlet to show that they qualify as a “major media” source as required for O1 or EB1A criteria.

Where an applicant relies on Wikipedia to cite circulation numbers, however, it gives USCIS an easy reason to dispute the argument that the media outlet qualifies as major media, which may affect the decision on their eligibility. USCIS sometimes cites a federal court case, Badasa v. Mukasey, 540 F.3d 909 (8th Cir. 2008) in support of its position that it “will not assign weight to information from Wikipedia.” See here for an example. Whether or not USCIS’s categorical exclusion of Wikipedia as a source of information is justified, it is in the interest of applicants to search for and include alternate sources of information outside Wikipedia in support of their case. Here are a few examples.

Alternative to Wikipedia: Third party articles

Though an applicant should not include the Wikipedia article itself as supporting evidence, the applicant can still use Wikipedia as a starting point of their research. One strategy is to refer to the footnote citations and links provided in a Wikipedia article to refer back to the original source of the information reported in the Wikipedia article. If the original source is available, the applicant can enclose that source as evidence.

Specifically for proving the circulation numbers and prestige of a particular media outlet, the most reliable form of evidence is third-party, independent reports. This means discussions about the media outlet published by sources other than its own publicity materials. This can include rankings, such as Nielsen ratings for TV viewership, or various other instances where the media outlet is mentioned in any way in articles published elsewhere.

Alternative to Wikipedia: publicity materials from the subject itself

If there is no third-party source available that describes the subject, another alternative is to include its own publications as a source of information about the subject. For example, a media outlet frequently has an “About” section where it describes its own history, frequency of publication, intended audience, and circulation figures. USCIS does acknowledge the submission of background materials that originate from the publications themselves, so using them are preferable to using Wikipedia. However, in such a case it is recommended to supplement this material with additional third-party materials that may provide more objectivity to such representations.

In sum, notwithstanding the practical utility of Wikipedia, using an article capture from Wikipedia to support a key fact in an immigration case is not a recommended practice. There are several alternative ways you can better support such facts. Attorneys at Scott Legal have broad experience in assisting clients put together a persuasive petition package in each immigration category and would be happy to help you navigate this process.

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