Over the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, I found myself in San Francisco for the first time. While there are (so I’ve heard) a multitude of Irish bars and ex-pats in the city to be able to fully immerse oneself in the activities of a traditional celebration, this was not the reason I found myself there. Rather, I was in town to attend and present at the 10th Annual Meeting of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).
Our law firm works extensively with scientists and researchers on their visa issues, and we have been associated with the NPA for some time in various capacities. One aspect of this has led to our role in presenting numerous educational legal seminars at Universities and other institutions across the country. Generally, our focus has been making sure these seminars are educational and informative for the attendees for purposes of expanding their knowledge on the visa front. However, at the meeting last weekend, my workshop (held in conjunction with two scientists who have navigated the visa process) was able to focus on both the visa and career issues facing foreign born scientists in the United States. And you know what? There are remarkable similarities and cross over in how these subjects come together.
As my colleagues and I were preparing our presentation, and we had the opportunity to discuss the different aspects of our work, it became apparent that as you prepare an application for certain visa applications (I’m looking at you here Extraordinary Ability and National Interest Waiver), the manner in which you structure and organize your case to USCIS bring up evidence, documentation, and information that you can utilize to “sell yourself” in the job market.
The Extraordinary Ability and National Interest Waiver visa categories are both highly restrictive. Applicants must be able to show a high level of accomplishment and achievement in their respective fields. As we discussed the types of evidence required to pursue such an application, my colleagues noted that as they had navigated the permanent residence process themselves, they spent a lot of time researching their accomplishments. By better understanding what was actually out there about their own career accomplishments, they were able to better organize and structure a strong application to USCIS.
In turn, by reviewing this information a clearer picture began to emerge, not only how accomplished they were, but how they could sell their credentials to any prospective employer. It was clear that they were both accomplished and marketable. Instead of researching findings for the lab, they were essentially researching themselves. Examples of what they found include having been cited in a book that was now being sold on Amazon, and that their work was being utilized by others in a manner they had not perhaps not fully realized.
In addition to the evidence and documentation that reflects an individual’s overall body of work, another important aspect of an immigration application is to obtain strong letters of support, which we term ‘expert opinion’ letters. While certain letters can and should be authored by experts with whom you collaborated, it is important to also obtain independent letters – letters from those with whom you have no direct collaborative or research connection. In reviewing this, it became clear again that in terms of career advancement and networking (as well as these letters), having the ability to have a good professional working relationship with those outside your immediate circle is important, and something that reflects well on a candidate in both the immigration and career side of things.
So, as you prepare yourself for a possible application for permanent residence in the United States, you may find that you begin to explore aspects of your overall background that will allow you to market yourself more effectively from a career standpoint. A successful application with USCIS will separate you from others in the field, and allow for your level of accomplishment and expertise to shine through. Sounds a bit like a job interview, doesn’t it.
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