EB1A - Evaluating Your Memberships
Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
The purpose of this post is to provide tools that help you evaluate whether you could make an argument that you satisfy the 2nd of the 10 EB-1A criteria, that you possess one or more membership in an association in the field which demands outstanding achievement of their members.
Like lesser awards and prizes, this criteria is not one that I frequently use in EB-1A filings since the standard for memberships seems to be higher than some of the other bullets. A lot of candidates I have personally filed for don’t possess memberships needed to satisfy this criteria. Proving that you meet this category is an uphill battle that many applicants are unable to climb.
If you have a membership in a prestigious organization or association in your field, you should carefully think about whether the organization or membership qualifies for this EB-1A bullet from the EB-1A category. Satisfying this criteria to an USCIS adjudicator could make all the difference for your case. A qualifying membership in an EB-1A application will likely make the rest of your EB-1A application fairly straightforward as memberships often require evidence that could be used to satisfy other EB-1A bullets. Like receiving an award, a membership that satisfies this difficult bullet makes it so an officer cannot really say that you didn’t deserve it. You were invited to be a member and were considered extraordinary enough in your field that experts and other extraordinary individuals invited you to be a part of their exclusive club.
Again, this is a difficult criteria to satisfy. USCIS adjudicators may ask a variety of questions when evaluating the legitimacy of your memberships to determine if they actually demand outstanding achievements from their members. For example, they could ask questions such as the following:
WHAT ARE THE MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS?
They will ask this question and answering it is key. The membership requirements must show that you were selected to join the organization or association due to outstanding achievements.
Are the membership standards high enough?
What are the qualifications of the individuals granting the membership?
What qualifications do other members possess?
How exclusive is the membership?
How is the membership related to your area of expertise?
Were you invited to join the association or organization because you are extraordinary?
What is the right of passage to become a member?
USCIS adjudicators are not familiar with all of the organizations you could be a member of. For that matter, attorneys are not familiar with all of the organizations out there. Clients reach out to me representing a wide variety of industries and fields. Thus, it is vital you provide convincing evidence that your memberships rise to the standards of an organization that selects individuals with outstanding achievements.
For example, you could provide evidence such as the following:
Documentation that you have been invited into elite membership
Documentation of the prestige of the organization, guild, or association
Documentation of membership standards/criteria
Proof of your membership (card or screenshot)
Evidence that membership is related to outstanding achievement in your area of expertise
A letter from the membership committee stating the criteria used to select you for membership
Information about the reputation of the reviewing panel or organization showing they are recognized as national or international experts in their disciplines or fields
Listing of other impressive members and their achievements
Media coverage of the organization
Exclusivity membership evidence
Evidence proving membership comes from a national or international pool
Exam or license used to determine membership
Evidence of organization, association, or guild structure
Evidence which describes the organization or association’s goals or mission
Of note, you don’t need to necessarily be invited to a membership for this category to work. You can apply for membership in organizations or clubs as long as they possess strict vetting requirements. Do remember though, passing an exam, paying dues, or having experience in a given field alone likely won’t help a membership in an organization rise to the standards of this bullet alone. Your membership must be based on outstanding achievements you accomplished. For example, I am a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). In my opinion, AILA is probably the most prestigious membership organization for immigration attorneys. That said, you just have to be a lawyer and pay to be a member. Thus, the prestige wouldn’t be determinative for an association like AILA. The EB-1 membership category has higher standards than dues-based membership alone.
Some organizations have levels of membership and lower levels wouldn’t work for this EB-1A criteria because they are dues-based or not exclusive, but the more senior levels may qualify. If this is the case, you should be prepared to provide evidence showing your level of membership is exclusive and based on your outstanding achievements.
On that note, here are some memberships that probably won’t really work for EB-1A purposes (because they don’t show outstanding achievement):
Memberships based on employment or activity in field
Memberships based on fixed amount of education
Memberships based on fixed amount of experience
Memberships based on test scores or GPA
Memberships based on colleague or member recommendations
Memberships based on payment of dues
Association that determines membership at the local chapter level
In some cases, when a membership doesn’t qualify, we have included evidence of the membership to show the candidate is contributing to their field and providing original contributions to their organization or association. Thus, other memberships may still be helpful even if they don’t rise to the standards of bullet 2.
There may be organizations, guilds, associations, or clubs you could become a member of based on your outstanding achievements that you are not currently associated with. Ultimately, you are the expert on your field of expertise. Part of bolstering your EB-1 resume could include seeking membership in these elite organizations. You can consider making this a part of your EB-1 strategy and plan.
Please remember, USCIS adjudicators complete a 2-part review in evaluating these petitions. If an officer believes you satisfied 3 out of the 10 criteria, the applications must then be judged to decide whether you are extraordinary. In practice, this means that what worked for your friend might not work for you and sometimes what didn’t work for a friend might work for you. I constantly hear people say that they were told by a friend that their achievement wouldn’t work because it didn’t work in their case. Sometimes, it is just a matter of getting your case before the right adjudicator on the right day. Because of the second level of review determining if you are extraordinary using Kazarian standards, there is a higher percentage of RFEs, NOIDs, and denials in this category. The reality is, USCIS has an extremely high standard for EB-1 visas.
Lastly, our firm won’t charge you just for reaching out! We are offering free consultations through the end of January 2023 for aspiring EB-1 and NIW candidates. If you would like your qualifications evaluated (to see if you qualify or to get ideas on what you can do to improve your EB-1 or NIW resume) please contact our firm at email@example.com with answers to the following questions:
What is your area of expertise (in 2-5 words)?
What nationally or internationally recognized awards in your field of endeavor have you received?
What memberships in associations in your field do you possess that require outstanding achievements from members?
Have you or your work been featured as published material in trade publications or other major media? If so, who published your work?
Have you judged the work of others (i.e. peer review of journal articles, judge at competition, dissertation committee member, peer review for government funding program)? If so, how many times?
Has your work been used by someone to make money (commercialized)? If so, explain:
Have you obtained any patents or similar achievements because of your research? If so, explain:
Link to Google Scholar (if not available, researchgate could work):
Have you been employed in critical capacity? If so, where and in what capacity?
*For more information regarding what could work for the membership bullet in EB-1A applications, you could visit https://www.uscis.gov/administrative-appeals/aao-decisions/aao-non-precedent-decisions. Once on this website, you can search “membership”, “membership in organizations”, or “membership in associations”. Then you can read AAO opinions regarding memberships. Remember, these cases may not inform or determine the outcome of your application. They are mostly useful as an educational tool to help inform your filing strategy as the AAO denies most appeals.