The outstanding professor or researcher category is an excellent method for academic institutions and companies who have invested in key personnel to lead the company’s innovation to secure personnel long-term. 

Which employers qualify to petition on behalf of an outstanding researcher or professor?

There is a significant limitation on which employers may petition for an outstanding researcher or professor in this category.  ‘A qualifying employer' is either: 

(1) a U.S. university or institution of higher learning offering the person a tenured or tenured-tack teaching position in the foreign national's academic field;
(2) a U.S. university or institute of higher learning offering the foreign national a permanent research position in his or her academic field; or
(3) a department, division, or institute of a private employer offering the foreign national a permanent research position in his or her academic field.

In the instance that a department, division, or institute is the employer, the employer must demonstrate that it employs at least three people full-time in research positions and that the employer itself has achieved documented accomplishments in an academic field.

Type of job offer needed

The employer must make an offer of permanent employment to the foreign national.  This means that the offer must be for a position that is either tenured, tenured-track, or for an indefinite or unlimited duration in which the employee would ordinarily have an expectation of continued employment with the employer.

Labor Certification Application not needed

Although a job offer is required, a qualified employer is relieved for the burden of the labor certification application.  The law instead allows an employer to petition US Citizenship & Immigration Services directly for the desired employee.  This is not to suggest that the petition process lacks complexity.  Rather, it means that a narrow group of employers is exempt from having to test the labor market before making an offer of permanent employment to a targeted employee.

Who qualifies as as an outstanding researcher or professor?

The employer must demonstrate that that the professor or researcher is recognized internationally as outstanding in his or her academic field.  Superficial acknowledgement is not sufficient for this level.  The petition must establish convincingly at least two of the following:

a. Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement in the academic field;
b. Membership in association in the academic field which require outstanding achievements of their members as a condition of membership;
c. Others writing in published material in professional publications about the employee’s work in the academic field;
d. Evidence of the employee’s participation, either individually or on a panel, as the judge of the work of others in the same or an allied academic field;
e. Evidence of the alien's original scientific or scholarly research contributions to the academic field; or,
f. Evidence that the employee has written scholarly books or articles in scholarly journals with international circulation in his or her academic field.

There is also a time component.  The professor or researcher must have at least three years of experience in teaching and or research in the academic field before the date of the petition. Experience that the employee gained while pursuing an advanced degree is acceptable only if the person  actually receives the degree.  If the person’s experience was in teaching, then he or she must have had full responsibility of the classes taught.  Working as a teaching assistant often does not qualify.  If the person’s experience was in research, then others must have recognized the research as outstanding in the person's academic field.

Difference from Extraordinary Ability petitions?

The primary difference is that the outstanding researcher and professor category requires an employer to petition on behalf of the alien.  The degree of acclaim needed is not as significant as the extraordinary ability category.  It is nonetheless still much more than fulfilling a routine role.  

Wilson Law Group helps academic institutions and research facilities secure the vital personnel needed to remain leaders in their pursuits.  We welcome the opportunity to help you assess whether this path to residency or another option is a sound strategy for you.