Letters of Recommendation

Although objective evidence (e.g., the number of publications or the number of citations of one’s publications) holds more weight in the eyes of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicating officers, strong letters of recommendation are crucial to a successful National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition. Applicants should thus never underestimate the importance of quality references, as these can tip the petition in the applicant’s favor.

Strong recommendation letters illustrate or include the following:

  1. 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 USCIS than are 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 two or three letters authored by independent experts.

  2. How the recommender came to know the petitioner’s work, including specific sources (e.g., journals, research, etc.) and the relevance of the petitioner’s work to the recommender’s own work. As a general rule, the more established and recognized the source, the more weight given by USCIS.

  3. Background of the recommender: This establishes to USCIS that the recommender has the necessary qualifications to evaluate the petitioner’s relevance to U.S. national interests. This should include information about the recommender’s educational background, work experience, employer(s), job title, and location. Experts may include:

    • Editors of journals in which the petitioner has published
    • Researchers, scientists, and/or engineers citing the petitioner’s work
    • Researchers, scientists, and/or engineers who commercialized the petitioner’s research
    • Researchers, scientists, and/or engineers who work for the government or any other recognized agency
    • Advisors for the petitioner’s Ph.D. or research
    • Professors, associate professors, or assistant professors
  4. Detailed description of the national significance of the petitioner’s work. To this end, letters of recommendation must include specific examples of the following:

    • Accomplishments of the petitioner that have already impacted the field
    • How the petitioner’s work is valuable or 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 already accomplished)
    • Influence of the petitioner’s work on expert’s own work or research, or on another similar field
    • National influence of the petitioner’s work, as well as the national recognition the petitioner’s work has garnered
    • Reasons that the petitioner’s presence in the U.S. would be in the national interest and significantly benefit the petitioner’s field in the future
  5. In addition, USCIS officers generally consider letters from experts who hold high-level positions (e.g., directors) or experts who work for nationally or internationally recognized organizations (e.g., lead scientist at NASA) more favorably. The recommenders do not have to be U.S. citizens, and it is not necessary for the letters to be sent from a U.S. address. Still, although applicants may obtain letters from experts who are abroad, a majority of the letters should be from experts living in the U.S. Letters from politicians usually do not have any more weight than those from other experts since, in our experience, politicians’ letters tend to be generalizations about the petitioner’s achievements.

  6. 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, and 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.

The NIW process is complex and, at times, a bit convoluted. We recommend that you seek the assistance of experienced immigration attorneys. Over the past two decades, we have successfully represented thousands of clients in their NIW cases. If you would like to contact us, please call us at (713) 771-8433 or visit us at one of our seven locations. You can also send us an e-mail at info@hooyou.com. Our superior attorneys will ensure that you receive only the highest quality of service.

Read the USCIS ruling (Matter of Dhanasar) governing NIW here. And for more detailed information about the National Interest Waiver, including minimum requirements and USCIS policies, please click on the relevant links on this page:

Updated 03/23/17