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Citation Records: Discerning the Ambiguous Curve - How many citations are sufficient for an NIW approval?

2013-11-25, BY WeGreened

It probably feels like graduate school admissions season all over again. You keep asking yourself, “Do I have the right numbers to gain admission?” “Or do I have the right numbers to even petition?” And in the case of graduate admissions, it is as simple as checking the school’s websites, or a plethora of other specialized domains. Unfortunately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) do not have a neat and tidy system to give percentile rankings to citation records, much less give quartiles. And while there is no magic number of minimum citations, it is very similar to graduate school admissions in that respect.

Essentially, we at Chen Immigration Law Associates are of the opinion that the USCIS looks at one’s comprehensive background. The look at peer review duties, journals in which one was published, industry projects in which one’s models, policies, designs, or analysis were implemented, and obviously, citation history. And since, in the mind of an Immigration Officer, citations are the most comparative and quantifiable measure of merit, one’s citation record is very important, and almost always scrutinized.

However, this is not to say that having a low citation record, or none at all, in fact precludes one from National Interest Waiver Petition acceptance. We Chen Immigration Law Associates have helped numerous clients have their National Interest Waiver petitions approved regardless of their moderate citations. We Chen Immigration Law Associates always take time to carefully discuss with our clients to see if there are other ways in which we can outweigh or overcome a low citation record. We at Chen Immigration Law Associates always have different strategies to provide alternative explanations for our clients’ low citation record. In other words, some of our clients are in an industry, or working for a company, in which intellectual property consideration supersedes any attempt to publish their research or work. In addition, we Chen Immigration Law Associates argue that one can impact the national interest in a different manner than research, effectively showing impactful influence on our clients’ national or international industry through some manner such as models or designs.


Furthermore, we always cite AAO cases to defend on moderate citations in the our petition letters. The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) is an agency with appellate jurisdiction over USCIS regional centers and district offices. They provide legally sound guidance for disputes involving immigrant and non-immigrant petitions, along with applications entered into USCIS centers. Thus, the AAO is quite similar to a court of appeals in the normal judicial courts. Moreover, the AAO provides the public with numerous cases of alternative explanations, thus shedding some light on the issue at hand.

For example, in an AAO case overturning the California Service Center, the beneficiary had only one independent citation, yet the AAO stated that although the service center had determined the beneficiary lacked national influence, the beneficiary, a software engineer, had designed an important software package that demonstrated his value to the national interest. Here is a direct quote from the verdict:

“While frequent citation can certainly bolster a researcher’s claim to have influenced the field, the lack of frequent citation is not a bar to eligibility where other objective evidence of the petitioner’s influence exists. Engineers designing new technology may not disseminate their most significant work for intellectual property reasons or because it is limited to a narrow segment of the field. Other evidence, such as licensing agreements or affirmations from government agencies or industry officials who have adopted the technology must be considered.”

From this example, it is evident that national interest impact can be influenced by external factors. However, in consideration of a different example, the beneficiary, a postdoctoral pathology researcher, had 34 citations, and although there were no substantial impacts on the field of research, the AAO determined that the independent witness letters, submitted within the petition, sufficiently portrayed evidence of growing influence of the beneficiary’s work.

In addition, as aforementioned, we Chen Immigration Law Associates sometimes argue that there are situations where utilization of a beneficiary’s work by researchers, professors, or industry officials is adequate evidence for National Interest Waiver approval. In an AAO case overturning the decision of the Nebraska Service Center, the beneficiary, a civil engineer, had an insignificant citation history, yet reference letters submitted with the petition confirmed that the beneficiary’s work was utilized by professors in lectures and engineers in the field. Thus, affidavits confirming the utilization of models or research in lectures can effectively override low citation records, and in turn secure a National Interest Waiver.

We Chen Immigration Law Associates think that the most important and consistent factor to remember is that while low citation history does not bar National Interest Waiver acceptance, we always go over each client’s case to seek alternative explanation or overwhelming alternate proof that our clients in fact significantly benefits the national interest. Even if sometimes we are not able to provide guaranteed service to clients with relatively less strong citation history, our approval rate for cases we don’t provide guarantee is still over 90%.

Please note that because each case is entirely unique, you should always consult an experienced immigration counsel about employing a comparison to AAO cases. We Chen Immigration Law Associates is here to help. Contact us for a free evaluation today.

Our staff keeps close track of the latest immigration trends and regulations of USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), decisions of AAO (Administrative Appeal Office) and judicial review opinions. The massive collected materials contribute to the most convincing arguments and winning strategies of our firm for EB1A, EB1B, and NIW petitions. If you are interested in filing the green card, please send your CV to for our free evaluation. Our attorneys will email you back with the evaluation result within 24 hours.

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