To qualify as an alien of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, an individual must be able to demonstrate a level of expertise which indicates that he or she is one of the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. A petition for extraordinary ability must be accompanied by evidence that the individual has attained national or international acclaim and that his or her achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation. Extraordinary ability may be demonstrated by evidence of the alien’s receipt of a major national or international award (such as a Nobel Prize or Academy Award) or at least three of the following ten criteria:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;
  • Membership in associations in the field that demand outstanding achievement of their members;
  • Published material about the person;
  • Evidence that the alien is a judge of the work of others in the field;
  • Evidence of the alien’s original contributions of major significance to the field;
  • Authorship of scholarly articles;
  • Display of the person’s work at artistic exhibitions or showcases;
  • Evidence that the person has performed a leading or critical role for an organization that has a distinguished reputation;
  • Evidence that the person commands high remuneration in relation to others in the field; or
  • Evidence of commercial success in the performing arts.

Other comparable evidence may be submitted if the above criteria do not apply. Overall, the person must show that his or her work will “substantially benefit prospectively the United States.”

Neither a job offer nor a labor certification is required for those seeking classification as an extraordinary ability alien. However, if the individual does not have a job offer s/he must provide evidence that s/he will continue to work in the United States in his or her area of expertise. Such evidence may include:

  • Letters from prospective employers;
  • Evidence of pre-arranged commitments for employment, such as contracts; or
  • A description of how he or she will continue to work in the field in the United States.


For each of the ten criteria, we will consider carefully all types of evidence to be submitted. Overall, to build a successful application, clients are strongly encouraged to work actively to develop evidence to support the petition. Please present all information that may be useful for the petition. The petitioner must be prepared not just to provide information that is already available, but to assist our office in soliciting letters of support, or in procuring important documents for the benefit of the application.

For artists and athletes, the following are examples of useful pieces of evidence: employment contracts; programs or brochures of artistic or athletic exhibits or performances; receipts or copies of awards; media clippings, reports and other published materials about the petitioner; proof of high salary; proof of commercial success or sales of work; and letters by colleagues, current and former employers, and peers in the same or similar field.

For scientists: published journal articles; citations of the person’s work by others; patents bearing the person’s name; receipt of major awards (either in this country or from abroad); evidence of being a judge of the work of others (either, for example, as a referee for a professional journal, as an advisor for a dissertation, or other similar activity); proof of high salary; and letters of reference–especially from persons who were not direct colleagues or employers. The letters should address the petitioner’s national or international reputation in his or her field, and should also comment on the relevance or importance of the petitioner’s work.

For persons engaged in business and education: contracts for employment and information regarding the employer; details of the person’s employment and responsibilities; proof of major contributions in business; proof of high salary; and letters of support from peers–again, especially from persons who were not direct colleagues or employers. (Professors seeking appointments at major universities and colleges have additional guidelines, and such persons should consult further about regulations governing their cases.)