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How to Write a Good O-1 Recommendation, Pt. 1. By Roger Algase

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As almost everyone knows, one of the most crucial parts of preparing an O-1 extraordinary ability petition is drafting recommendation letters for people who are prominent in the O-1 candidate's field to sign. There is even a common misconception that O-1 success depends largely, or even entirely, on the number of recommendation letters for a given case, regardless of their content. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, recommendation letters are only one of several types of evidence that may be submitted in an O-1 case, and it is necessary to have at least three different types of evidence listed in the O-1 regulations in order to be considered for O-1 approval.

Second, O-1 immigration examiners, at least in my experience, tend to place more weight on objective evidence of an O-1 candidate's record of distinction or outstanding achievement, such as receiving awards or other public recognition, and having published articles written about his or her accomplishments by acknowledged experts in the person's field, than on recommendation letters, which are more subjective by their nature.

Nevertheless, recommendation letters are important, and well-prepared ones can make a difference in the result of an O-1 case. Here are a few suggestions based on my own experience for preparing an effective O-1 letter. I will use the acronym: PROS in order to outline my recommendations:

1) P stands for "Personal". It is important for the recommendation letter writer to explain what it is, based on his or her personal knowledge of the O-1 candidate's ability and accomplishments that makes the person extraordinary or distinguished in his or her field. It is not enough merely to recite the person's record or resume or repeat what other people may have said about the candidate.

If the O-1 candidate is a performing artist, for example, the recommendation letter should mention when and where the writer has seen the candidate perform and what aspects of the performance(s) the writer believes show the person's distinction or extraordinary ability. If the O-1 candidate is a scientific researcher or in business, the letter writer should describe what kind of research or business activities he or she has participated in with the candidate and how the candidate's work in those activities showed extraordinary ability in the field in question.

2) R stands for "Relevant". The comments in a recommendation letter about the O-1 candidate must be related to the area of activity in question. I have seen far too many O-1 recommendation letters which contain nothing but vague comments about what a wonderful "work ethic" the candidate has, how well he or she gets along with and is liked by colleagues or co-workers, or what a great "contribution" the person has made to "the team".

Such comments can be worse than useless, because they may make the O-1 examiner think that the writer has nothing else to say about what makes the O-1 candidate truly extraordinary, distinguished or outstanding.

Every O-1 candidate must be assumed to have a good work ethic, to get along well with colleagues and co-workers and to make contributions to a common effort. Otherwise, who would want to write a recommendation for the person in the first place?

To be continued in Part 2.
_______________________
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain employment and family-based work visas and green cards.

Roger's practice includes H-1B and O-1 work visas, J-1 training visas and permanent residence through labor certification, extraordinary ability and marriage, as well as other immigration and citizenship cases. His email address is algaselex@gmail.com



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Updated 11-05-2015 at 10:42 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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