Strong letters of recommendation are crucial to a successful NIW petition; although, objective evidence (e.g. the number of publications and the number of citations for one’s publications) still holds more weight in the USCIS’ decision. However, applicants should not underestimate the importance of quality recommendation letters as these can tip the petition in the applicant’s favor. The following are components that should be included in the letters:
- Description of how the recommender knows the petitioner. If the recommender has not worked with the petitioner, this should be explicitly stated at the beginning of the letter. Such recommendation letters are given more weight by the USCIS than letters from the petitioner’s colleagues or supervisors because they demonstrate the wide influence of the petitioner’s work in the field. Applicants should include at least 2 to 3 letters from independent experts.
- Description of how the recommender came to know the petitioner’s work, including specific sources (e.g. Journals, research, etc.) and its relevance to the recommender’s own work. As an additional note: the more established and recognized the source, the more weight given by the USCIS.
- Background of recommender. This establishes to the USCIS that the recommender has the necessary qualifications to evaluate the petitioner’s work on U.S. national interest. This should include information about the recommender’s educational background, work experience, employer, job title and location. Experts may include:
- Editors of Journals in which the petitioner has made publications;
- Researchers, scientists, engineers citing the petitioner’s work;
- Researchers, scientists, engineers who commercialized the petitioner’s research;
- Researchers, scientists, engineers who work for the government or any other recognized agency;
- Advisors for the petitioner’s PhD or research; and/or
- Professors, associate professors or assistant professors.
In addition, letters from experts who hold higher positions (e.g. Directors) or work for nationally or internationally recognized organizations (e.g. American Cancer Society) are given more weight by the USCIS. The recommenders do not have to be U.S. citizens, and it is not necessary for the letters to be from the U.S. Although applicants may obtain letters from experts who are abroad, a majority of the letters should be from experts living within the U.S. Letters from politicians usually do not have any more weight than those from other experts since the letters themselves tend to be generalizations about the petitioner’s achievements.
- Detailed description of national significance of petitioner’s work. There must be specific examples and evidence of the following:
- Accomplishments of the petitioner that has already impacted the field.
- How the petitioner’s work is valuable/unique to the field and in the national interest (i.e. must demonstrate that a qualified U.S. worker with the same credentials could not accomplish what the petitioner has)
- Influence of the petitioner’s work on expert’s own work/research or another similar field.
- National influence and recognition of the petitioner’s work.
- Reasons that the petitioner’s presence in the U.S. would be in the national interest and significantly benefit the field within the projected future.
- Letters should be addressed to the USCIS Director. All NIW petitions are currently filed and adjudicated at either the Nebraska or Texas USCIS Service Centers. Where a petition is filed is determined by the residence of the applicant. The relevant Service Center and its address should be placed at the heading, before the beginning of the recommendation letter.
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87140
Lincoln, NE 68501-7140
For states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming.
USCIS Texas Service Center
P.O. Box 852135
Mesquite, TX 75185
For states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands and West Virginia.
For further information about the National Interest Waiver, please check the other pages about NIW on the site: