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Membership in Associations (EB-1-1, EB-1-2 and NIW)

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For individuals considering an EB-1-1, EB-1-2 or EB-2 National Interest Waiver application, the issue of “membership in associations” is an important one. The right kind of association membership can provide valuable evidence of an individual’s eligibility for any one of these employment-based classifications.

Unfortunately, the immigration regulations provide very little in terms of helping applicants determine how much weight U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“CIS”) will give a membership in a particular association. For example, the EB-1-1 “Extraordinary Ability” classification lists ten primary categories of evidence that CIS will consider in adjudicating these kinds of petitions. The category regarding association memberships states: 

“Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields”

Similarly, the EB-1-2 “Outstanding Professors or Researchers” classification (which only contains six primary categories of evidence) states:

“Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the academic field, which require outstanding achievements of their members”

With regards to the National Interest Waiver (“NIW”) category, there are no specifically listed groups of evidence as there are for the above classifications. Nonetheless, it is fair to assume that CIS would be willing to consider evidence of association memberships in an NIW case if the evidence provided meaningful verification of the individual’s ability.

It is clear, therefore, that CIS’ position regarding the evidentiary value of association memberships is an extremely important consideration. In approaching this issue, however, it is actually easier to work backwards. In other words, CIS has been fairly clear about what kinds of association memberships do not constitute meaningful evidence of someone’s ability.

For example, an association that only requires an applicant to pay a membership fee in order to join will clearly not be considered significant evidence by CIS. Similarly, associations that simply require that a person be “involved” or “interested” in the field will also not be considered noteworthy evidence.

The key, therefore, in determining the evidentiary value of a particular membership is the association’s selection criteria. In other words, what the association requires of its membership candidates will be a central consideration. For example, an association that requires membership candidates to have achieved a specified level of recognized accomplishment would likely be considered significant evidence.

It is also important, however, to differentiate between the various membership categories within the association. For example, a “full” membership in a particular association might have significantly higher selection standards than an “associate” or “student” membership in the same organization.

In summary, it is important to establish an association’s selection criteria if an applicant wants CIS to seriously consider their membership as meaningful evidence. Which specific associations constitute good evidence and what kind of documentation needs to be submitted is a case-by-case consideration. If you should have specific questions regarding a particular membership or association, please feel free to contact our office for a free evaluation.

 

 

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