First Preference – Outstanding Professors and Researchers

Posted on: May 21st, 2013
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Last week we discussed the first subcategory within the first preference employment-based immigration category, aliens of extraordinary ability.  This week we discuss the second subcategory, outstanding professors and researchers.


What evidence is required for this category?

The evidentiary requirements for this category are as follows:

  • International recognition as outstanding in a specific academic field
  • At least three years teaching or research in the field.  The teaching or research experience can be gained while in pursuit of an advanced degree, but only if the alien had full responsibility for the courses taught, or the research is recognized as outstanding.
  • An offer of employment.  There are three forms this offer can take:
    • A tenure or tenure-track teaching position or a comparable research position, or
    • A research position with no fixed term in a position where the employee would generally have the expectation of permanent employment, or
    • A research position with a private company if the employer has at least three full time researchers and has documented research accomplishments in the field.


Unlike aliens in the extraordinary ability subcategory, aliens in the outstanding professor or researcher subcategory must have a job offer.  However, as with all first preference employment petitions, no labor certification is required.


How can an applicant prove him/herself to be outstanding?

An alien demonstrates that their work has been recognized as outstanding in the international arena by presenting evidence similar to that required to show extraordinary ability.  Two of the following types of evidence are required:

  • Receipt of a major international prize or award for outstanding achievement in the academic field,
  • Membership in associations that require outstanding achievements of their members,
  • Material in professional publications written by others about the alien’s work,
  • Participation as a judge of the work of others in the field,
  • Original contributions in the field, or
  • Authorship of scholarly books or articles in journals with international circulation.


There, of course, are types of evidence that are more useful than others.  A book published by a vanity press will not be given much weight, nor will mentions of the alien’s work without evaluation.  Strong evidence includes peer-reviewed publications and participation as a peer-reviewer.  As always, one of the strongest types of evidence is the submission of letters from academic peers.

Also, the alien must submit letters from past employers documenting at least three years of teaching or research experience.


How can I prove that I’ve been offered a job?

Along with the petition, the potential employer must submit a letter outlining the employment offer.  The letter must include the basic terms of employment, including the salary offered.  More difficult is describing the position.  If the position offered is a tenured position, or a tenure-track position, then it is simple.  However, few research positions are tenured.  Qualifying research positions, therefore, can include positions that do not have a fixed duration but are the sort of position in which the alien can expect permanent employment.


Are there different requirements for private employers?

Private employers face additional requirements.  The employer must show that they employ three full-time researchers and that research conducted by the employer has resulted in documented accomplishments.  INS rules provide no information on how a private employer can document research accomplishments.  The best evidence possible should be submitted, which would include any patents issued to researchers at the institution, and articles published by employees.