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Expert: "Too Bad" it Takes Litigation to Get a Visa

February 28, 2020 (2 min read)

Sinduja Rangarajan, Mother Jones, Feb. 27, 2020

"The EB-1 green card is meant to be a fast track to residency status for “aliens of extraordinary ability” who are on the top of their fields. It has been issued to Nobel Prize winners and nuclear scientists as well as athletes and actors. It’s one of the few visas that does not require the applicant to have an American employer or sponsor. Recipients include Yugoslav tennis champion Monica Seles, British singers Sarah Brightman and Craig David, and the late Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. John Lennon and Yoko Ono received a form of this visa in 1972. In 2001, future First Lady Melania Trump received an exceptional ability green card for her work as a fashion model, one of five granted to Slovenians that year. ... [Andrey] Chursov joined the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, working on an H-1B temporary visa. Chursov has two pending patents and has co-authored eight articles in major journals. Distinguished professors and top researchers from Harvard, Yale, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have praised his contributions to genetics and biotechnology as “original” and “innovative.” Sherman Weissman, a professor of genetics at Yale School of Medicine, describes Chursov’s work as “entirely new” and “novel.” Chursov and his immigration lawyers thought he had an excellent chance of getting an extraordinary ability green card. He applied for one in July 2017; USCIS rejected his application three months later. In April 2018, he sued USCIS to dispute its decision. Federal Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York ruled in his favor, finding that the agency’s “failure to adequately consider the totality of the submission was arbitrary and capricious.” Castel wrote that USCIS had disregarded Chursov’s reference letters from Ivy League deans while it “excessively focused” on things like how many citations he had on Google Scholar. Castel ordered USCIS to reevaluate the application and awarded Chrusov nearly $25,000 in attorney’s fees. ... Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University, also reviewed materials from Chursov’s application. “This was a strong case,” he writes in an email. “It is too bad that Mr. Chursov had to go to federal court to win. In prior administrations, this case would have been a slam-dunk approval.” USCIS has reopened Chursov’s application and has asked for more evidence of his professional qualifications. “I feel really devastated and distraught,” he says of the two-and-a-half-year process. While Chursov waits for a new decision, he is working on a temporary work permit. He hasn’t visited Russia because he worries about difficulties getting a new visa to return to the United States. He hasn’t seen his family in three years. He choked up when he talked about missing his grandmother’s funeral."