By Attorney Farhad Sethna © 2016
In Matter of K-S-Y-, the Administrative Appeals Office of the USCIS held on March 9, 2016 that an individual who applied for classification as an alien of extraordinary ability, namely, as a judo coach, had met his burden of proof.
As background, the alien himself had competed at the national and international level in the field of judo. He has represented his country on numerous occasions, and was highly regarded within his country by fellow professional members of his judo team.
He retired from professional judo competition in 2013, but promptly thereafter, signed a contract with the government of India to help coach their judo team both for the Asian games as well as for the Olympics.
He applied for classification as an alien of extraordinary ability, and met the requisite three out of ten criteria for such classification. The Administrative Appeals Office indeed cited the three criteria that he met, as well as its analysis under Matter of Kazarian v. USCIS, 596 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2010), which is discussed elsewhere on this blog.
The District Director of the Texas Service Center denied the petition, determining that the beneficiary did not meet the three of the ten criteria or had not demonstrated the evidence of a one-time major achievement, in order to qualify as an alien of extraordinary ability.
On review, the Administrative Appeals Office overruled the denial. The AAO, first found that the beneficiary had indeed qualified under three of the ten regulatory grounds, namely
Documentation of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes;
Published material about the alien (a lengthy newspaper article showing the alien’s photograph published by one of the leading news organizations in Korea was deemed to be adequate proof); and
Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements of their members:
It is interesting in regard to this last criterion that the beneficiary was not a former member of any kind of association, but rather associated with his national judo team, for a number of years from 2000 through 2012. He also submitted letters in support from fellow judo professionals who spoke highly about his work, his contributions, and his skills.
The issue then became whether an individual who was not going to continue as a judo competitor might still qualify as an alien of extraordinary ability as a judo coach. The law requires that the alien “continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability”. The issue is whether coaching is a continuation of the beneficiary’s expertise in the area of judo.
The Administrative Appeals Office held that since the beneficiary had retired from professional competition only in 2013, and had filed the instant petition on May 16, 2014, within seven months of his last major competitive achievement, he did qualify as continuing to work in the area of extraordinary ability. Furthermore, as evidenced by his contract with the government of India, he had clearly continued to retain the intent to practice in his area of endeavor.
Consequently, the AAO determined that the petitioner’s extraordinary ability and sustained acclaim as a judo athlete extended to his work as a judo coach.
If an alien is attempting to obtain classification in the area of extraordinary ability, it is necessary therefore not only to meet three out of the ten criteria or have an award that demonstrates sustained national and international acclaim, but also the alien must continue working in the field of his or her endeavor.
Ensure that the beneficiary should not have a significant hiatus (delay or gap) between his or her prior career and the new career that he or she is now going to practice.
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.