In many of the employment-based visa categories, immigration officers are required to make decisions based on broad, subjective criteria. It may be difficult for an examiner to understand, solely based on submitted evidence, why an alien’s accomplishments as a cellist or a biochemist are extraordinary. In these situations, aliens can benefit enormously from well-written recommendation letters.
The role of the recommender is to provide the reviewing immigration officer with context, which assists in understanding the evidence being presented in the application. Many recommenders, however, are unsure what the letters should contain. Recommendation letters (also called support letters) do not follow a required format. Generally, they are 2-3 pages in length but can be longer if necessary to explain the alien’s accomplishments. Helpful support letters should include the following:
Introduction of the recommender. The recommender should give a detailed, one-paragraph overview outlining professional accomplishments and the recommender’s current position. If working with the alien’s attorney, the recommender should also provide an updated CV to be submitted with the visa petition. This serves the purpose of establishing that the recommender is qualified to offer a professional opinion on the alien’s qualifications.
Explanation of the alien’s accomplishments and importance to the field. In this section, which comprises the majority of the letter, the recommender explains what the alien has accomplished, why those accomplishments are important, and the impact of such accomplishments. Recommenders are advised to refer to the alien’s CV when writing this section to ensure that all achievements are discussed.
Qualification for the visa. In closing the letter, the recommender should offer an opinion on the alien’s abilities and accomplishments in light of the evidence that has been discussed in the letter. The purpose of this opinion is to help the reviewing officer in establishing whether the alien satisfies the overall visa requirements. For example, if the letter is submitted in support of an Extraordinary Ability petition, the recommender should indicate whether the alien has risen to the top of her profession.
Because all visa categories have different requirements, it is important to work closely with the alien and her attorney to ensure that the specific requirements are understood and can be addressed effectively in the letter. The credibility and persuasiveness of a support letter for an Extraordinary Ability petition can be seriously undermined if it incorrectly discusses the qualifications for a National Interest Waiver.
If you have any questions about the recommendation process or employment-based immigration visas in general, we at Donati Law would be glad to assist you.