Crafting effective EB-1A recommendation letters

hand, writing, pen-325321.jpgWhy EB-1A Recommendation  Letters Matter

Recommendation letters play a crucial role in EB-1A petitions, even though they are not officially required by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These letters help establish your extraordinary abilities, achievements, and the broader impact of your work. Not including recommendation letters in your I-140 application package could be considered a significant mistake, as they can help strengthen your case in various ways. Some key aspects that recommenders can help you showcase include:

  • Significance or importance of your achievements in your field
  • Your abilities are extraordinary
  • Evidence of sustained national or international acclaim
  • Receipt of prestigious awards or recognition
  • Professional memberships requiring outstanding achievements
  • Having received prizes or awards

How Many Recommendation Letters for EB1A?

For EB-1A petitions, I recommend to include between 4 and 8 reference letters. While there are no strict limitations on the number of letters you can include, adding more than eight may not provide any significant additional value and may only serve to distract the officer reviewing your case. Obtaining these letters can be time-consuming, so it is essential to focus your efforts on other crucial aspects of your petition. On the opposite hand, having too few letters can be seen as a weak sing, perhaps meaning a lack of recognition in your field of endeavor. 

Types of Recommenders: Objective Versus Subjective

There are two main types of recommenders for EB-1A petitions: objective and subjective recommenders. Objective recommenders, also known as expert opinions or independent advisory opinions, are highly valuable for EB-1A petitions. These are experts who may not know you personally but are familiar with your work. In the eyes of USCIS, this serves as an indication of your extraordinary abilities.

On the other hand, subjective recommenders are professionals who know you personally and have likely worked with you. Examples include your manager, a colleague, or your Ph.D. advisor. While these recommenders may be the most common type of reference we use for job applications, their letters may not carry the same weight for EB-1A petitions. It is essential to include a balance of both types of recommenders to strengthen your case.

How to Find and Approach Potential Recommenders for EB-1A

Finding Subjective Recommenders for EB-1A

Subjective recommenders are typically easier to identify within your professional circle. Here is a non-exhaustive list of potential subjective recommenders:

  • Graduate advisor
  • Other professors you have worked closely with
  • Current or former manager
  • Executive from your current or previous job
  • Current or former colleagues
  • Human Resources personnel
Your Academic Advisor: A Strong Subjective Recommender

If you have an advanced degree and maintained a good relationship with your graduate advisor, they can be an excellent subjective recommender for your EB1A petition. Your advisor can provide specific details about your academic experience, highlight your achievements on research projects you undertook together, and discuss your involvement in leadership activities. If your degree is closely related to your field of extraordinary ability, your advisor can help establish the significance and broader impact of your work.

In addition, if you published the results of the research while working with this professor, they can provide a statement in the letter highlighting your publication record compared to other students. This can help substantiate your claim of extraordinary ability.

Letters from Employers: Document Experience, Specific Contributions, and Impact

Letters from a current or former supervisor or executive can be helpful in supporting claims of extraordinary ability. These letters can describe your specific contributions, achievements, and the broader impact of your work in your field.

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Finding Objective Recommenders (or Expert Opinions) for EB- 1A

Objective recommenders, by definition, are individuals who may not have worked closely with you but know you through your work and professional achievements. As a result, they can be more challenging to secure. Here is a list of ideas for finding objective recommenders:

  • Leaders in other organizations within your field (competitors)
  • Professors in your field who you have not worked with
  • Authors who cited your work
  • Professionals you met at conferences or networking events
  • Connections of connections

Prioritize potential recommenders based on their reputation and experience. The more reputable the potential recommender, the stronger your application will be. For example, a C-level executive is a more attractive recommender than a mid-level manager, if we are talking about the private sector. In Academia, someone like a Head of Department is typically more desirable than an Assistant Professor.

Find Potential Recommenders in Your Citation Record

A strong recommender could be someone who cited your work, especially for applicants with scientific backgrounds. Review your citation record and read the publications that cited your work. Some of these articles  may not just cite your work but also describe your research in more detail and explain why your work was important for the field. The contact information for the authors is often included in the paper, making it easier for you to reach out and request their collaboration in your EB-1A petition.

Connections of Connections: Easy to Approach

Connections of connections, and professionals you met at conferences or networking events, can be a more accessible source of objective or independent recommenders. In some cases, these connections may come through your academic advisor or other professional acquaintances. These recommenders can discuss your participation in professional events, describe their impressions of your work, and demonstrate the impact of your contributions on the field.

How to Use Objective Recommenders for EB-1A Petitions

Letters from objective recommenders can help establish your importance and impact in your field. Since they know you through your work and not personally, these letters will specifically highlight aspects of your career that demonstrate your extraordinary abilities. For example, if you are a scientist applicant, they may provide examples of your research findings from peer-reviewed publications to showcase your contribution to the broader field. Remember that USCIS believes that independent recommendation letters carry more weight than subjective letters!

Identifying Potential Recommenders and Making Contact

It is essential to select recommenders who can provide objective, expert opinions on your extraordinary ability. When approaching potential recommenders, consider leveraging any existing connections, such as personal meetings at conferences or mutual acquaintances. Draft a polite, concise email explaining your situation and asking for their assistance. Here you can read an example email to request a reference letter for an EB-1A application:

Example of e-mail to request an EB-1A recommendation letter

“Good morning, Dr “Professor”,

My name is Oscar LastName. We briefly met last year at the Conference of Scientific Scientist of Science in New Mexico. At the time, I was working with Dr. Professor Wiseman, and we went together for lunch at that Italian restaurant near the Convention Center. I remember you presented in the session before lunch, on your recent work on conversion of forest residues to bioplastics.

Since we last met I graduated with my PhD in Biotechnology and I am currently working at Greendeal Biotechnology, a biotech startup in California. We are developing various products using a strain of Vibrio, the fastest growing microorganism that we know of.

I wanted to ask you for a favor. I am preparing an application for an EB-1A green card so I can stay in the USA beyond my visa expiration date. This green card category requires me to proof I am a person of “Extraordinary Abilities” in my field of endeavor. There are multiple documents I need to gather, including letters of recommendation from reputable experts in my profession.

I would like to ask you if you would be able to help me by signing such a letter. I can prepare a draft so your work is minimize, and you can review this draft, edit it as needed, and sign it. I would be extremely grateful to you if you say yes, as this is a crucial part of my green card petition.

Please let me know, one way or another, so I can draft a letter to share with you” 

Setting a Target Date for Completion and Following Up

Once your recommender agrees to provide a letter, send them a draft and suggest a deadline for their response. Be prepared to follow up as the deadline approaches. 

Request that they use their institution’s official letterhead if possible (this is not mandatory but it looks more professional), sign the letter with ink, and provide a scanned copy for your application. Remember to thank your recommenders once your EB-1A application is approved.

International Recommenders: Enhancing Your EB-1A Application

Recommenders from abroad are not mandatory, but can strengthen your EB-1A application by demonstrating your global recognition. Ensure that any foreign-language letters are translated into English, or have them originally signed directly in English instead. For instance, if a professor from Brazil provides a letter in English, no translation is required.

Crafting Strong EB-1A Recommendation Letters

A compelling EB-1A recommendation letter may be approximately 1,000 words, or 2-3 pages long, and include the following components:

Official Letterhead

The letter should feature the institution’s official letterhead, such as a university or company logo.


Ensure that the letters are dated, as the USCIS may not consider outdated letters. Typically, I prefer letter that have been signed within the last year before the submission of the EB-1 package.

Address to USCIS and Subject

The letter should address the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, with an opening salutation like “Dear USCIS officer,” “To Whom It May Concern,” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” The subject of the letter may read something like “RE: Independent Recommendation Letter for Dr. FirstName LastName”, or similar.

First Paragraph: Introduction

The recommender should introduce themselves and explain their relationship with the applicant. They can  sometimes start by summarizing key reasons why the applicant should be considered a person of extraordinary ability. Generally, it should clearly state the reason for writing the letter: to support the petitioner in their EB-1A green card process.

Second Paragraph: Recommender’s Background

The recommender should provide an overview of their expertise and qualifications, demonstrating their authority in the field. This is a summary of their CV or resume, highlighting the key accomplishments in their career. 

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Central Paragraphs: Highlights of the Applicant’s Qualifications

These paragraphs should emphasize the applicant’s extraordinary ability and achievements, demonstrating their significance and relevance to the EB-1A application. Make sure the recommender goes beyond vague statement and actually provides concrete and specific examples of you achievements and their significance for your discipline.

Final Paragraph: Strong Support of EB-1A Application

In closing, the recommender should express their unwavering support for the applicant’s EB-1A application.

They should sign the letter with ink and provide you with a scanned copy so you can add it to your petition. You do not need to use the original, they can keep it.

Request Recommenders’ CVs

Include the CVs of your recommenders in your EB-1A application so the USCIS officer can better understand that this person is an expert in the field. As discussed earlier, the more respected the recommender is, the more effective the letter of recommendation is to strengthen your petition. If the recommender does not have a CV readily available, a resume or bio sketch will do. Alternatively, you can download their LinkedIn profile as a last resort solution.

How are the letters used within your EB-1A petition?

The recommendation letters will be attached to the I-140 petition as Exhibits, together with the CV/resume of the recommender. In the petition cover letter, you can past excerpts to validate the claims you are making. For example, when discussing the significance of your contributions to the field, you can quote a few lines from a reference letter where they explain how one of your projects helped the instruction your used to work for, and what specific responsibilities you had in the project. If you want to know how to use these letters in the most effective way, download my sample EB-1A I-140 package!

Summary: Strengthen Your EB-1A Green Card Application with Powerful Recommendation Letters

Including 4-8 well-crafted recommendation letters in your EB-1A application can significantly improve the success chances of your case. Aim for at least half of these letters to come from independent recommenders to demonstrate you are a respected member of your profession. By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can strengthen your EB-1A application

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