by Victoria Chen, Esq., J.D.
The first question a petitioner in EB1-A has is whether the prize they have received is categorized as a major internationally recognized prize, a lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or neither. As the law states, to be qualified as an EB1-A extraordinary worker, a petitioner must submit evidence of receiving a major internationally recognized prize or submit at least three types of evidence listed in the law. A lesser nationally or internationally recognized prize is one of the 11 types on the list.
What is a Major Internationally Recognized Prize
The legislative history indicates what is contemplated by 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(h)(3). A.R. 3, S.E.R. 5 is a “major, international“ prize. In interpreting what constituted a major, internationally recognized award, the House Report, specifically cited to the Nobel Prize as an example of a one-time achievement. The AAO (Administrative Appeal Office) opines that other examples of one-time awards which enjoy truly international recognition may include the Pulitzer Prize, the Academy Award, and the Olympic Gold Medal. The AAO concluded that these prizes were “household names recognized immediately even among the general public as being the highest possible honors in the respective fields. “
In addition, the burden of proof is on the petitioner to submit supporting evidence showing that certain prize is an event that garnered major, international recognition. Moreover, the type of prize received must command immediate international recognition comparable to the major awards intended by implementation of the regulation. The petitioner has to produce “extensive documentation “ to support the statement that the prize is a major internationally recognized prize.
What is a Less Nationally or Internationally Recognized Prize
Although a less nationally or internationally recognized prize is a lower standard than a major internationally recognized prize, the petitioner still has the burden to submit substantial evidence proving the prize is a nationally or internationally recognized one.
With regard to the receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards, evidence should be submitted regarding the number of person nominated, a description of the prize or award and whether it is a team work or an individual performance. USCIS has made the following rulings concerning this evidence requirement:
a) Academic scholarships or grants do not suffice.
The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) has taken the position that academic scholarships and grants are not uncommon and do not constitute significant prizes or awards for purposes of satisfying the regulatory criteria. The AAO noted that unlike awards or prizes that recognize demonstrated past achievements, grants are often bestowed in response to applications by prospective recipients who describe an endeavor that they seek to undertake. In addition, the AAO said, grants generally support future activity rather than recognize previous achievement.
b) Being Listed on Who’s Who is not a Prize:
The AAO has also rejected evidence indicating that a petitioner was listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America noting that: (1) recognition can come from a national organization and still not be highly significant, and (2) simply having one’s biographical sketch included in a publication does not constitute receipt of a prize or award.
c) Evidence should be Submitted Regarding How Many Individuals were Nominated for an Award or Prize and the Criteria for Eligibility.
It must be established that the particular award that the organization issues is nationally recognized such that it was indicative of national acclaim. USCIS will not be able to make this determination if the supporting documentation does not mention the selection criteria for the award or the pool of candidates from which the awardees were selected. If the award was only open to an organization’s researchers, for example, it might not qualify because the petitioner had only competed against an organization pool of experts.
d) Team award is less valuable than individual award.
The applicant’s performance in award-winning programs will be given less weight than an award presented specifically to individual performers. The AAO reasons that when a play or program wins an award, it is generally a reflection on the talents of the director, producer, writer, and many other individuals integral to the production of each show. On the other hand, while an award conferred upon a large symphony might not reflect the national or international acclaim of each member, a Grammy or equivalent award conferred upon all members of a small group (where each member receives a statue) is indicative of each member’s recognition in the field.
e) Local awards do not suffice.
Little or no weight will be given to awards or certificates for local, rather than national or international, recognition. Evidence must be submitted on the extent to which an award or prize is recognized. An award might not be characterized as “internationally recognized “ merely because nationals of more than one country compete for the award.
To sum up, major internationally recognized prizes are few based on the legislative history and AAO opinions. In most petitions, the applicants need to prove that he/she has obtained at least three types of evidence listed in the law. And even if the standard of a less nationally or internationally recognized prize is lower than the major internationally recognized prize, the petitioner should pay attention to AAO opinions concerning certain forms of awards or prizes not qualified.
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