EB1 Green Card – The Judging Category
Over the past couple of months I have been writing what will eventually be a ten-part guide on the categories that make up the baseline criteria for the “EB-1A”, which is an employment-based, first-preference visa for extraordinarily ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. My first article contained a more extensive introduction that I will not reiterate, but it can be found here:
This month, I continue on with the Judging category.
In high-profile competitions, award shows, presentations, or showcases, the people evaluating the work being presented are generally thought of as experts in the fields they are judging. For instance, the judges on famous singing contest shows like “The Voice” are often major celebrities who also have had major music careers in their own right. On the other end of the spectrum, a person selected to serve on a Ph.D dissertation committee that determines whether or not a candidate is granted their doctoral degree is likely an expert in their scholarly field.
If you are selected to evaluate the work of others in your field, you may be someone others consider to be an extraordinary talent in that field. USCIS agrees with this logic, and so Judging is one of the ten possible EB1 categories:
8 CFR 204.5 (h)(3)(iv) – Evidence of the alien’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as a judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization for which classification is sought.
From the basic language, USCIS has given their recommendations for this category in a 2010 practice memorandum –
- Determine whether the alien has acted as the judge of the work of others in the same or an allied field of specialization.
This memorandum reiterated the basic regulation and then also added that “the petitioner must show that the alien has not only been invited to judge the work of others, but also that the alien actually participated in the judging of the work of others in the same or allied field of specialization.” There are two main ideas that need to be further elaborated here.
“…actually participated in the judging”
Many people with busy professional careers often get invitations to judge for competitions or awards in their field, invitations that understandably go ignored because of overloaded schedules. However, if you’re looking to get a green card through an EB-1, it may be time to start paying attention to those invites. A stack of requests may be impressive, but if you don’t actually participate as a judge, you will not be able to meet the criteria for this category.
It is also important that your service be specifically as a judge of some kind. While you don’t have to necessarily be called that, you should be reviewing the work of others in a way in which you are determining its quality and not simply enforcing the rules (a referee in a soccer match would not be considered a “judge” for the purposes of this category). Additionally, in the past, we have had trouble with USCIS in certain fields where someone is judging the work of others, but referred to as a “counselor” or “tutor” in the thank you letter or in promotional material, so the evidence should make clear that you were indeed judging the work of others and how you did so.
While the USCIS memorandum refers to being invited, it is important to note that being invited is not actually required by the language of the regulation, you need only serve as a judge of the work of others in your field. Make no mistake – a nice letter or email imploring you to judge an event or competition will certainly look good to the immigration officer if you have it, but it is not necessary. Plenty of our clients have applied or requested to judge events and were not invited to do so, and yet still had their cases approved. All in all, being invited is helpful, but what really counts is that you judged, and as I am about to explain, who you judged.
“…of the work of others in the same or allied field of specialization”
This is the key part of the Judging criteria, and where an EB1 petition is most likely to win or lose this category. There are two main ways to interpret what the phrase means, and even individual USCIS officers seem to disagree on this-
- You have to judge the work of other professionals in your field or an allied field, and the work you are reviewing is also in your field or an allied field.
- You can judge the work of anyone, so long as the work is in your field or an allied field.
Obviously, it should be clear that #1 will almost always be more impressive. If you are a professional dancer for example, judging the performances of other professional dancers will always be more impressive than judging a children’s dance recital (and the latter is unlikely to be approved by USCIS for this category). Remember, the task is to convince USCIS that you are extraordinarily talented and not merely to technically meet the basic criteria, as that alone will not get you approved. Typically, extraordinary talents judge other professionals, not amateurs.
However, my experience with this category has taught me that although it is risky, #2 can prevail in certain situations. The prime example would be an undergraduate competition of some kind. For instance, if you are an engineer who judged undergrad graduation projects for a prominent university with an esteemed engineering program, I’d feel pretty good about submitting that as a Judging category even though the people you were judging weren’t quite professionals in the field yet.
Option #2 is tempting because it is often easier to find lower-level competitions to judge, and in many fields there are no competitions beyond the university level. Just remember though that you are taking a more perilous path and may get a tough Request for Evidence from USCIS or even a denial, but done correctly it can be successful in certain situations. I typically only suggest this as an option if the client’s two other categories are extremely strong, as a USCIS officer will hesitate to deny a case they otherwise like just because the people judged weren’t yet on the professional level.
One final note on the basics of this category – if the judging you did was part of your job duties, it won’t typically satisfy the criteria because the idea is that you are so extraordinary that others value your opinion even outside of your job duties. A quality control specialist, for instance, will not be able to meet the Judging category through their regular job duties even though they are literally judging the work of other professionals in their field every single day at work.
I believe it would be helpful for this particular category to have a quick list of common issues I’ve seen pop up.
While peer review can satisfy the criteria, there are many pitfalls to avoid. You will probably need several instances of peer reviewing for a pretty well-established journal for it to work. Just reviewing a single article for a publication no one has heard of will not get you very far. Further, professors will almost never be able to satisfy the Judging criteria through peer review because most immigration officers would see it as a part of the professor’s day job.
If you are planning to judge a future event, get as much supporting evidence as possible. The event program, pictures of you at the judges’ table, score sheets you filled out, etc. Having merely a thank you letter makes for a pretty barren category argument and does not look as impressive to the immigration officer.
Quality of the Contest or Event:
Try to find an event that is high profile and has a nice website where you can find a lot of detail about its history. While the criteria is only that you judged the work of others in your field, obviously judging for a famous competition is going to go a longer way in impressing the immigration officer than judging an obscure contest would.
Don’t deviate too much:
I have had clients come to me with some very creative ideas of how they could be recognized as having judged the work of others in their field. I usually suggest sticking to contests, competitions, or peer reviews whenever possible. Doing things like informally giving feedback on work products may technically meet the criteria, but immigration officers are less likely to go for it, unless it is highly impressive for some reason. Be open to all ideas, but err on the side of conventional events when you are considering what to judge.
In your field:
Be careful that the event you judged is in your field or a very related field. If you stray a bit too far and are left trying to string together a weak link on why a competition is loosely related to your field, then you have probably lost the category.
I hope this article was helpful to you in getting a general overview of the Judging category. I will be back next month to cover another category, but if you don’t want to wait, get in touch with us for a free consultation to see if applying for an EB-1A is the right choice for you!
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