Step by Step Introduction for a Good NIW (National Interest Waiver) Recommendation Letter

by Victoria Chen, Esq., J.D.

A recommendation letter is also called a reference letter, support letter or testimonial letter. Strong testimonial letters are key to a successful NIW (National Interest Waiver) case. Good recommendation/reference letters not only bolster the petitioner’s credentials in filing a NIW (National Interest Waiver)  case but can make up for the lack of substantial publications and citations of the petitioner.
Our firm has realized the significant role recommendation/reference letters play in the success of an NIW (National Interest Waiver) case approval and we therefore draft recommendation/reference letters for our clients on an individualized basis without extra charge. We are of the opinion that drafting a good recommendation/reference letter requires a good understanding of the immigration law and USCIS regulations and these cannot be replaced by templates.
However, for those who are considering or in the process of DIY their NIW petitions or who are currently working with law firms that do not provide the service of drafting recommendation/reference letters, we hope these tips can be useful for your petition.

What you Should Avoid in your Recommendation/reference Letters

Substantially Similar NIW (National Interest Waiver) Reference Letters:

Although it is almost a universal practice that NIW (National Interest Waiver) reference letters are drafted by the petitioners themselves or their lawyers for the recommenders to review and sign, the USCIS adjudicators expect the contrary. This creates a huge problem for your NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition if the recommendation/reference letters you drafted are substantially similar. Some AAO cases on NIW (National Interest Waiver) petitions suggest that these letters are regarded suspicious and the merits of the letters are significantly discounted.
Therefore, try your best to make letters look different, by making basic variances such as different front, format or using more advanced techniques such as different writing styles, sentence structures, tones and approaches of advocacy. And remember to have someone do the proof reading for you. The worst scenario is having the same grammatical error in all the recommendation/reference letters.

Many Average Quality NIW (National Interest Waiver) Recommendation/Reference Letters

Remember, NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition is not a competition of who can get
most recommendation/reference letters. USCIS adjudicators have limited time on each case. Too many average-quality recommendation/reference letters lead to RFE even rejection of your NIW (National Interest Waiver) case simply because the USCIS adjudicator does not have time to find the merits of your case. Therefore, focus on the strength of each letter instead of the amount of letters you can get.

Avoid Empty Compliments in the NIW (National Interest Waiver) Reference Letter

All comments on the NIW (National Interest Waiver) petitioner in the reference letter
must be supported by objective evidence or specific examples. Simply reiterating the standard of law on NIW (National Interest Waiver) or laying out empty compliments will not bolster your chance of case approval but only make USCIS officers suspect the merits of your NIW (National Interest Waiver) case.

What You Should Include in your NIW (National Interest Waiver) Reference Letter
So exactly what should you include in your NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter? Remember, the USCIS has never laid out the format of a NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter. So a reference letter can be in any form. However, in accordance to the experience of our firmAAO released cases and the USCIS memos, the following statements are essential in a good NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter.

An introduction of the recommender/referrer of your NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition, including their achievements and qualifications to commend on your work

A paragraph or at least several sentences in the NIW (National Interest Waiver) reference letter should be contributed to a summary of the recommender/referrer. Specifically, you should list the name, position held by the recommender, his/her accomplishments in the field of endeavor, his/her qualifications to comment on your work.

A brief summary about how the NIW (National Interest Waiver) referrer came to know you:

The statement about how the referrer knows you gives the USCIS officer an idea about
your relationships with the recommender. If the reference letter comes from an independent recommender, this part is even more important because the way the referrer knows about you is another proof of your international or national recognition.
The following are some examples of this type of statement in your NIW (National Interest Waiver) reference letter:

  I came to know about [the petitioner] through his magnificent contributions to pharmaceutical science, which has appeared in a leading scientific journal.

Because of [the petitioner’s] distinguished achievements during his Ph.D. study, I invited him to join my laboratory so that he could apply his wealthy knowledge and unique expertise of membrane protein structure and function to our studies of ion channel proteins that are involved in nervous system disorders.

“Although I am not within [the petitioner’s] circle of colleagues or acquaintances, I am well aware of [the petitioner’s] research because of our mutual research interest in neuronal channel proteins. I have reviewed his documents and invited him to give an oral presentation of his seminal research work to my colleagues and lab members in my department. I was very impressed by the research works he has performed within the last few years. He has demonstrated unique expertise and exceptional accomplishments in his breakthrough research.”

“ I have never worked with [the petitioner], and in fact I do not know him personally. My evaluation is based on his outstanding professional contributions to the field of biochemistry/biophysics in the subdiscipline that I have been specializing in. I am well-acquainted with his research because of our joint research interestin membrane proteins involved in biological energy transducing processes. I have carefully read all his research papers because of their importance to our research field, and I have cited some of his manuscripts in my own publications.”

“ Although I have no personal ties to [the petitioner], I am quite familiar
with his research interest and works and scientific expertise. I first
became acquainted with [the petitioner’s] research during an international
conference while he was still a Ph.D. student at Purdue University.”

“ I served as an Associates Editor [for] the peer-reviewed journal Crop Science
for six years. During 2005 I managed the review of an article by [the petitioner].
Given the unique nature of the article, I requested three rather than the
typical two reviews. It was my opinion that the article presented pioneering
research that was of the highest quality. The three reviewers all felt the
manuscript should be published. ”

“ I met [the petitioner] in the summer of 2001 when I visited Professor XXX’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh. During my 6 weeks of stay there, [the petitioner] and I worked together on the research project of two-dimensional thermal convection. It was during that time that I noticed his special understanding and broad knowledge in
physics, especially in the area of fluid turbulence.”

Discussion of Your Research in the NIW (National Interest Waiver) Reference Letter

A good NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter should discuss
your research. As previously discussed, a good recommendation/reference letter should not be full of empty compliments; advocacy of a NIW (National Interest Waiver) case is only convincing when they are accompanied with the discussion of your research.
In addition, the content in recommendation/reference letters will be used in your NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition letter. As a result, a favorable discussion of your research and accomplishments will also make your NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition letter more convincing when it quotes the words in reference letters. Let’s look at some good examples of detailed discussion of the NIW (National Interest Waiver) petitioner’s work:

“ [The petitioner] has created a series of experiments to characterize the nature of convection and flow in thin liquid films. He has been an important collaborator in a combined experimental and theoretical project on thin film flows that involves myself and professor XXX of the Technion in Israel. Overall, he has carried out outstanding research, both in quality and quantity.”

“ [The petitioner] has made groundbreaking findings in controlled drug
delivery systems called polymeric nanocarriers to combat breast cancer. [The
petitioner’s] development of several unique strategies has led  to new
applications in controlled drug delivery systems. In addition, his research
demonstrated that his system is effective in protecting healthy human cells
against tumor cells. His work has shown that certain chemical features of
his drug delivery system are able to specifically target tumor cells.”

“[The petitioner’s] work focuses on the delivery of anti-cancer agents using novel
designs of polymer carriers. When these polymers are hydrated, they
can circulate in the blood for periods of up to about 24 hours. Another
important advantage of this polymer is that the linkage can be designed to
control where and when the drug is released by tumor cells. It also allows
the use of much higher dose[s] of these anti-cancer drugs. [The petitioner] had
demonstrated that up to 10 fold of polymer-drug conjugate material could be
given in a single dose to a mouse without any toxicity.”

“ [The petitioner] has discovered that his drug delivery system has
potent chemotherapeutic activity against cutaneous breast carcinoma,
melanoma and leukemia cells.  This work is ground breaking because it provides a totally new system for anti-cancer intervention, and will no doubt lead to new considerations for preventive and therapeutic strategies.”

“[The petitioner’s] current project, focusing on BK channels, has provided intriguing and
important insights as to how phosphorylation and alternative splicing of BK
channels regulates excitability of neurons. He has made the surprising
discovery that brain BK channels are extensively phosphorylated and
alternatively spliced. Such findings are important to understanding the
fundamental mechanisms underlying molecular regulation of electrical
excitability, and are also critically helpful for the development of novel
therapeutic approaches for mental and neurological disorders.”

“ [The petitioner] has made many very valuable contributions to our group’s
research at Duke. Working with Dr.XXX and Dr.XXX,  [the petitioner] has
constructed and carried out experiments describing the complex dynamics of
liquid mixtures subjected to thermal heating. [The petitioner’s] laboratory
studies were absolutely crucial in validating predictions made by
theoretical models.”

Strong advocacy that sets you apart from others in the same field –the standard of NIW (National Interest Waiver) adjudication

Expert testimonials of your accomplishments are crucial to your NIW (National Interest Waiver)  petition. However, keep in mind that expert testimonials should bolster the argument that you meet the standard set by law on NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition, i.e., that you qualify for national interest waiver because the field of your research has intrinsic merits and your accomplishments are substantially above others in the same field. Evidence that merely establishes your competence or which fails to set you apart from other persons in the field does not support your NIW (National Interest Waiver)  case because it carries little weight and may actually be used to deny the petition. The following examples serve well the purpose of setting you apart from others in your NIW (National Interest Waiver) case:

“[The petitioner’s] work establishes an excellent method for deprotection of the N-Boc group, a methodology useful for synthesis of many biologically active compounds and peptides. Discovering a useful new method in organic chemistry is a significant achievement.”

“ [The petitioner] is an outstanding and exceptionally skilled scientist whosegroundbreaking research work is of vital importance  to our country’s biomedical research efforts and improvement of public health in national scope. His accomplishments to date have far exceeded those of the vast majority of his peers as evidenced by his productive publications in premier scientific journals and frequent citations of hisvworks by other researchers….”

“ [The petitioner] has achieved great distinction and has made many breakthroughs in his elegant research.”

“ As a young scientist, [the petitioner] has achieved spectacular
 in the research field of membrane protein structure and

“  [The petitioner’s] manuscript was the first and most important paper in this
kind of research in Crop Science and it makes significant contributions to
studies of traits of agricultural importance.”

“ [The petitioner] made significant scientific contributions to the field of
two-dimensional turbulence where new non-invasive techniques were
implemented with a great potential for future research. Important results
were also obtained by [the petitioner] in the field of polymer-turbulence
interactions where polymer stretching imparts a drastic effect on quenching
turbulence. He also obtained new, important and unexpected results regarding
the exponential tail for the decaying two-dimensional turbulence. These
results shed a new light on the physics of final stage of a vortex

“During [the petitioner’s]  PhD studies, he made outstanding
 He succeeded in using soap film to investigate for the first
time in the world two dimensional thermal turbulence. He reported new series
of data on velocity distributions that challenged theorists. He discovered
the coexistence of Boganio and Kolmogorov scaling laws and performed for the
first time in the world simultaneous measurements of thermal and mechanical
powers in a turbulent system. . . .”

“ His work was very significant because he developed new experimental pathways
for the study of two-dimensional turbulence in complex situations, a
phenomenon of particular relevance in the evolution of the climate. His work
will provide extremely valuable guidance for the elaboration of complex
numerical codes aiming at modeling the climate.”

Substantive Information Should be Included in the NIW (National Interest Waiver) Reference Letter

A good NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter should point out the high level of unique expertise the applicant possesses via making specific examples. AAO cases on NIW (National Interest Waiver) have pointed out the USCIS will regarded the recommenders’ words groundless if no specific examples are given.
If it is a NIW (National Interest Waiver) recommendation/reference letter from an employer or professor of the applicant, it should specify the work the foreign national is responsible for and the requirements of the job.  Although a job offer is not required for priority workers, a recommendation/reference letter from an employer can cite to such a position to establish that very few individuals can fill the offered position (i.e., only top individuals in the field or those with exceptional ability can perform the duties required for the position) and the petitioner is one of these few individuals.
As previously discussed, a good NIW (National Interest Waiver) reference letter should avoid empty compliments but include substantial information backing up the compliments. Recommendation/reference letters that briefly discuss the petitioner’s activities and described him or her as a knowledgeable individual, but lack specific information regarding how the petitioner’s contributions had significantly and consistently influenced the field are insufficient.
For example, in establishing a foreign national’s exceptional ability for NIW (National Interest Waiver) purposes, the recommender must pay close attention to the criteria specified in the regulations; the recommender may cite to the types of evidence listed in the regulations. The mere cite to public policy is not a substitute for documentation of extraordinary ability. In addition, the government has made it clear that merely submitting types of documentation from the categories listed in the regulations is insufficient; the evidence must ultimately establish that the beneficiary is qualified for NIW (National Interest Waiver).  Let’s see some good examples of substantive information provided in NIW (National Interest Waiver) reference letters:

“[The petitioner] submitted printouts from citation databases and copies of citing
articles and book chapters, establishing 73 citations of his work. About 90% of
these citations are independent rather than self-citations by the petitioner or
his co-authors.”

“[The petitioner’s] research has been well received and lauded in the fields
of membrane structure and function and membrane bioenergetics, as evidenced
by more than 100 citations of his papers by other researchers in these

“[The petitioner] has made a highly distinctive and invaluable contribution
to a research field that is vital to human health and the development of
sustainable and renewable energy resources.”

Surely, the amazing number of times (100) his publications have been cited
by other scientists in the last few years reinforces my personal opinion
that [the petitioner] is a prominent young scientist of extraordinary
scientific capabilities and outstanding accomplishments.”

“ [The petitioner] joined my research group in September, 2006. I
hand-selected him out of 12 high-qualified applicants for his impressive and
strong educational and research experience and skills in traditional plant
breeding, molecular biology and statistics. “

“  [The petitioner] is a key scientist in my corn breeding and genetics
laboratory. He is responsible for discovering drought and heat tolerance
genes, identifying new physiological traits contributing to drought
tolerance, and developing molecular breeding tools for genetic improvement
of stress tolerance. The accomplishment of this project would
significantly contribute to the crop production under water stressed

“ [The petitioner] played a critical role in my research projects.
During his time in my laboratory, he published a total of four peer-reviewed
papers and has already submitted a paper for publication from his
post-doctoral research. [The petitioner’s] papers attracted international
interests. I am sure that these results will become cited
worldwide in the next few years. [The petitioner] discovered
quantitative trait loci [QTL] for soybean resistance to soybean cyst
nematode (SCN), the first major pest in soybean. His discoveries
enhanced our understanding in development of SCN-resistant cultivars.”

“Although I do not know [the petitioner] personally, I am familiar with his
research since he worked in a field closely related to my own. There
is only a relatively small number of researchers working in the specific
area of thermal convection. Because of this, their papers get cited only by
a small number of people, and large numbers of citations should not be
expected. The relatively small number of citations does not in any way imply
a low level of importance of the work, and the real contributions to
scientific knowledge must be measured by other means.”

This step-by-step introduction of reference letter drafting is intended to give people seeking or in the process of filing NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition a general idea about NIW reference letter. If you need assistance on recommendation letter drafting, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are experts on NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition and provide the most comprehensive and guaranteed service on NIW (National Interest Waiver) application.

About NIW (National Interest Waiver) Recommendation Letter

Strong reference letters are key to a successful NIW (National Interest Waiver) case. Our firm has realized the significant role reference letters play in the success of an NIW (National Interest Waiver) approval and we therefore draft reference letters for our clients to individualize each letter without extra charge. We are of the opinion that drafting a good reference letter requires a good understanding of the immigration law and USCIS regulations and these cannot be replaced by templates.

Filing an NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition is a significant step and should not be taken lightly. Don’t file an NIW petition just to “Give it a shot!” Due to the recent prolonged processing time, reckless filing will substantially delay the time you receive a green card. Moreover, although the law does not preclude the possibility of repeated filing under the same category, if you file anther NIW petition after the rejected one without having significant improvement of your credentials, your case will very likely be rejected again.

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