Known as a cover letter or petition letter it is the backbone of your application, used to compile your evidence and present a complete and compelling image of your extraordinary career. Formatted correctly it simplifies the adjudication of your application and can increase your chances of approval.
The petition letter should be factual, written to support your extraordinary ability/achievement case to the USCIS. This is the legal argument portion of your application. Your petition letter is your opportunity to present and prove the relevance of your career achievements, linking them in ways to best suit your petition. It will be submitted along with the I-140 form, fee and extraordinary evidence.
The structure is as follows:
short top sheet letter
- Full return address
- Subject line with the name of visa you are applying for
- If on a current visa explain status or detail if you have had previous visas
- Thank the officer for their time
- Mention any stage names you have worked/work under
- List of forms and fees included
- List any ‘Special Considerations’
- Signed by you if self sponsored
- the O-1 petition should be signed by your sponsor(petitioner) and have their name and address but you listed as the beneficiary
Then the longer continuation known often as the Memorandum in Support of a Petition
- Short biography where you factually present your career
- Mention any stage names you have worked under
briefly chat about accolades
- Add snippets from recommendation letters and reviews if appropriate
- Each criterion that you are submitting under is then argued bolstered by the evidence you are providing, recommendation letters and upcoming work. *Each criterion should be argued separately
- Short conclusion
All your claims in your petition letter should be backed up with your evidence (newspaper articles etc.), ‘extensive documentation’ as the USCIS calls it, your petition letter is best presented with an Index of Exhibits. This helps the examiner quickly find the referring evidence. The key to any government application is providing thorough and methodical support material.
The key to a successful petition letter is to keep it factual and succinct. This is not a prose exercise – your examiner doesn’t have time for flowery language. It’s not necessary to use the thesaurus. Keep it simple and assertive.
This is not a time to be shy either – as this is a paper application, the USCIS never look at the quality of your work as a critic but rather through the eyes of your peers and critics that you present in your case. You will never submit a ‘portfolio’ only the requested evidence. It is an explanation letter that tells the story of who you are as an artist, each chapter a criterion.
You can choose to write the EB-1 letter in the first person or third person. All O visa letters, however, should be written in third person as they are sponsored visas.
Yes, make it easy for the USCIS officer to approve you buy allowing them to check off their boxes but don’t make it easy for them to deny you, too. A short conclusion will mean the examiner will be required to read your application rather than skip to the end.
In your story you can add pertinent information eg if applying as an actor but previously you had a career as an engineer you can mention that in passing but if you won an engineering award you shouldn’t submit that under ‘Awards’ as it is not within the field that you intend to earn a visa in. Try keep your application relevant to your specialty.
If you enjoyed this article you will love our guides! We have decoded the petition letter formulas and provide samples of petition letters in our guides – two in our EB1 and two in our O1 visa guides. We analyze the criteria further to inspire you when building your own. Many artists are successfully living and working in the USA because of them. Understanding exactly what the USCIS needs to see is the key, especially if you are DIYing your application. We give you everything you need to self file.
If you are applying using an attorney we beg that you read your petition letter before it is submitted on your behalf – you will certainly find our guides helpful.
If you qualify under the “One Time Award” your petition letter should be no more than 5 pages. If you are satisfying more than 3 criteria, for the experience of artists using our guides the petition letter average page length is 12 – 22.