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What is the difference between expert letters for O1 or EB1A petitions compared to NIW petitions? Can I re-use the same letters I used for a different category petition?

expert letters

Expert letters play a crucial role in supporting O1 visa, EB1A green card, and NIW (national interest waiver) green card petitions. The government relies on these expert letters to gain an understanding of an applicant’s outstanding abilities and achievements in their field. However, it is important to understand the nuances of how expert letters play different roles in O1, EB1, and NIW petitions and consequently, how they are prepared differently.

O1 Visa & EB1A Green Card Petitions: Proving Extraordinary Abilities and Achievements

The focus of expert letters in support of O1 and EB1A petitions is proving that the applicant has extraordinary ability in their fields and have received sustained national or international acclaim for their outstanding achievements. They tend to focus on the following:

1. The applicant’s unique expertise in the subject matter.

Expert letters for O1 and EB1A petitions come from leading authorities in the field. They outline the unique knowledge, skills, and achievements the applicant is known for, and explain why this sets them apart from typical experts in that field. These letters play an important role also in defining the scope of the relevant field in which the applicant is considered a prominent or leading figure.

2. Recognition from peers in the field, such as awards.

An important element in an O1 or EB1A letter is describing how the applicant made outstanding contributions to the field and was recognized widely by peer experts because of that. Recognition can come in various forms. Achievements leading to professional awards in the field, for example the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, can be mentioned. In the case of entrepreneurs, securing a high amount of venture capital funding can also be a form of recognition from the industry.

3. Original and significant contributions to the field.

In most cases, the letters also include 1-2 examples of the applicant’s most notable achievements that earned them recognition and acclaim in their field. These take the form of mini case studies, where the expert would describe the industry-wide challenge or gap in the knowledge that existed, how the applicant made an original contribution to the field that solved this, and the results of this achievement, which are often accompanied by various forms of recognition or commercial success.

4. Specific O1 requirement – Consultation Letter or “No Opposition” Letter

Finally, specific to O1 petitions there is a special form of letter that is required – either a consultation letter from a US peer group (professional union) covering that field, or a “no opposition” letter from an industry expert in the US if there is no relevant union in that particular sector. For example, an applicant applying for an O1 visa in the graphic arts profession must obtain a Consultation Letter from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). A list of U.S. peer groups covering each industry can be found here.

NIW (National Interest Waiver) Petitions: Proving Broad Impact of Applicant’s Past and Future Work and Contributions to Public Interests

The focus of expert letters in support of EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) petitions tend to focus on providing detail responsive to the Dhanasar factors, which are that (1) the applicant’s proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance, (2) the applicant is well positioned to advance this endeavor, and (3) on balance, it would benefit the US to exempt the applicant from the labor certification application.

1. Innovation and Impact of Proposed Endeavor.

A major focus of NIW expert letters is explaining the potential impact of the applicant’s proposed endeavor (i.e., their plans in the United States) to the field. In many cases, this is done by emphasizing the unique or outstanding nature of the applicant’s approach and highlighting how this addresses an important industry-wide problem and advances the field. The innovative aspects of the applicant’s specific contribution will be highlighted. The letters will explain how the applicant’s work is at the forefront of their industry.

2. Case Studies Showing Impact to the Field.

In many cases, NIW expert letters include specific examples that showcase the applicant’s previous achievements that have impacted the field in a broad way. These mini case studies, similar to the EB1 or O1 context, will describe how the applicant made an original contribution addressing a particular challenge in the field that was recognized by peers or otherwise was notable, such as by broad commercial success.

3. Link to Matters of Government Interest.

Finally, NIW expert letters present the argument of how the applicant’s work is linked to matters that the U.S. government has pronounced to have national importance. The letters can describe how the applicant’s specific project can directly benefit the United States by contributing to national security, improving public health, promoting large-scale economic growth, enhance social welfare or cultural enrichment, etc.

In sum, the above comparison reveals that expert letters for O1, EB1A, and NIW petitions have distinct functions and priorities. It is important to tailor the contents of expert letters to match the expectations of each category to maximize the chances of approval.

Related posts:

O1 or NIW, which one is right for you?

The advantages of NIW over other visa categories

Differences between the EB1A and NIW options

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