This week the USCIS published a Statistics of its denial rates for Employment Based First Preference (EB-1) categories of Aliens with Extraordinary Ability and Outstanding Researchers categories. Extraordinary Ability is a self petition and has a higher standard than Outstanding Researcher which is petitioned by Universities and Research Institutions. The denial rate for Extraoridnary Ability has gone down. In 2010 for Extraordinary Ability was 38%, as opposed to 2008 when it was 53%. In 2009 it was 41%
However the denial rate for Outstanding Researcher has gone up. In 2010 it was 9% as opposed to an all time high in 2007 of 10%. In 2009 it was 7%
This is just statistics. It does not mean that Extraordinary Ability has become any easier. What’s astounding is the very high rate of denials. Many researchers who are young and thus haven’t risen to the level of Extraordinary Researchers, but were born in India or China, where an EB-2 National Interest Waiver takes forever; choose to file under Extraordinary Ability and gets denied. Their institutions do not want to sponsor them, so they self petition under Extraordinary Ability. Unless a researcher has discovered something extremely novel, which will help mankind, a post doc usually does not qualify under Extraordinary Ability.
Similarly I don’t think that Outstanding Researcher has gotten any more difficult. Many of those petitions are done by the International Affairs divisons of Universities, where they are not attorneys and produce poorly written petitions.
But as with grants for researchers, immigration law does not have the ability to see the young mind thinking of novel ideas. And going back to statistics again, most extraordinary research was done when the researcher was in their prime. (Think relativity) Young minds can challenge assumptions, and rebel against established thought to produce revolutionary new discoveries. Yet lots of them were squashed because of lack of funding and some leave for greener pastures in other countries, because the immigration process under EB-2 takes too long.