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EB1A - Evaluating Your Lesser Prizes or Awards

Updated: Feb 2

Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence

One highly-desirable path to a green card in the United States is the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability petition. USCIS explains that to qualify for the EB-1A you must possess sustained national or international acclaim and either provide evidence of a one-time achievement or meet at least 3 of 10 criteria. Even if you meet 3 of the 10 criteria, USCIS still uses what is referred to as a “two step review” where they first evaluate if you meet the criteria then perform a final merits determination as outlined in Kazarian v. USCIS.(Kazarian v. US Citizenship & Immigration Servs. - 596 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2010)). Building an EB-1A case that not only satisfies 3 of the 10 criteria but passes the subjective final merits determination is critical to good EB-1A filings.

In my experience, most EB-1A applicants don’t have an Olympic Medal, Oscar, Pulitzer, etc. Instead, they pursue this benefit by arguing that they possess at least 3 of the 10 criteria USCIS lists.

The 10 possible criteria for an EB-1A applicant are as follows:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence

  • Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members

  • Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media

  • Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel

  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field

  • Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media

  • Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases

  • Evidence of your performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations

  • Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field

  • Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts

The purpose of this post is to provide tools that help you evaluate whether you could make an argument that you satisfy the 1st of the 10 criteria, that you possess evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.

In all honesty, this criteria is not one that I frequently use in EB-1A filings. A lot of candidates I have personally filed for don’t possess awards needed to satisfy this criteria. It just isn’t as common for someone to have a bunch of national or internationally recognized awards compared to someone receiving high compensation, working in a critical position, publishing papers, judging the work of your peers, or even having articles published in news media about you or your work.

That said, if you do possess awards related to your field of expertise, they can really strengthen your eligibility for the EB-1A. All evidence that shows you are exceptional and have risen to the top of your field should be carefully considered to be used in support of your EB-1A application. Winning an award can be especially helpful since it takes the guesswork out of the petition for USCIS officers. If you have won an award, they cannot really say that you didn’t deserve it. You won it, therefore you were extraordinary enough to beat out all of the other amazing applicants for your prestigious prize.

USCIS adjudicators may ask a variety of questions when evaluating the legitimacy of your awards and prizes to determine if they fall within the lesser-known award category. For example, they could ask questions such as the following:

  • What standards were used to endow the prizes or awards?

  • What is the notoriety of the reviewers granting the prizes or awards?

  • How new is the award?

  • Does the award have a strong history of being granted to extraordinary individuals?

  • Who has received the award or prize in the past?

  • Is the award recognized nationally or internationally?

  • How is the award or prize significant?

  • Who were the applicants for the award?

  • How were applicants selected?

  • How many prizes or awards are given?

  • Who can apply?

  • How is the award or prize related to your area of expertise?

Thus, it will be important that you gather evidence answering these questions. For example, you could provide evidence such as the following:

  • Copy of prize or award

  • Photos of you receiving award

  • A letter from the award committee stating the criteria for receiving the award

  • Information about the reputation of the reviewing panel or organization

  • A statement regarding who applied for the award and where they are geographically located

  • Evidence of funding from established venture capital firm or angel investor

  • Judging criteria from a website, leaflet, rulebook, etc.

  • Media coverage of the award or prize and the events surrounding the award

  • Evidence regarding past winners

  • Evidence of how many awards or prizes have been given each year and for how long

  • Evidence proving prize is recognized nationally or internationally

  • Proof that the award or prize is important to your field

  • Etc.

Oftentimes, when clients provide a list of their awards they include scholarships, grants, fellowships, best posters, travel grants, and other student awards. This information is helpful and can be used in the EB-1A petition, but local student awards from your university typically don’t satisfy the lesser-known award criteria. This evidence is more helpful for original contributions and final merits considerations. This is the case because central to this criteria is the fact that the award has national or international recognition. Student awards typically carry less weight than awards won as a professional.

There are types of student awards which potentially do satisfy this criteria due to their national or international recognition. For example, a Fulbright Scholarship, external fellowship, or award that has applicants from multiple universities spread across the nation or world could qualify.

Other things to consider include the reality that team awards are less significant than individual prizes. If utilizing a team award, you should be prepared to present evidence regarding your contributions to the team. In some cases a taking 2nd or 3rd place or a nomination may be considered an award if that alone could be considered an award or prize with significant national or international acclaim and prestige in your field. If using a nomination or 2nd or 3rd place prize, you will need to show a large pool of applicants and national or international recognition and prestige.

Gathering the correct evidence for your EB-1A application is critical to your success. Your goal should always be to make it so whoever is reviewing your petition knows you are extraordinary and doesn’t have to guess or find more evidence of your achievements. This is one reason why we suggest hiring an attorney to help you present your case. In some cases, you may not even be aware that you qualify for this benefit. Consulting an experienced attorney can help you determine if you qualify for the EB-1A category and if not, they can help you determine other options based on your qualifications and unique circumstances.


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1 Comment


K P
K P
Jan 18, 2023

Thanks it is very helpful.

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