Reuben S. Seguritan

Judo Athlete Qualified for EB-1 Extraordinary Ability

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The employment-based first preference visa (EB-1) is granted to persons of extraordinary ability. They don’t need a job offer and they may self-petition. It is one of the fastest ways to get a green card.

It is usually reserved for outstanding scientists, artists and professors. But recently, a judo athlete was able to successfully qualify under the category. In a decision reached by the Administrative Appeals Office, the self-petitioner, a judo expert from Korea was granted EB-1 status so he can teach future judo athletes here in the US.

A foreign national applying for EB-1 visa must demonstrate sustained national or international acclaim and give extensive documentation of his achievements.  This claim is best evidenced through a one-time achievement of a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, an Oscar Award or an Olympic medal. However, it can also be proven by submitting evidence falling under at least three out of the ten regulatory criteria. 

These ten criteria are the following: (1) receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence; (2) membership in associations in the field that demand outstanding achievement of their members; (3) published material about the alien in profession or major trade publications or other media; (4) evidence that the alien has been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or in a panel; (5) evidence of original contributions of major significance to the field; (6) authorship of scholarly articles; (7) display of the alien’s work at artistic exhibitions or showcases; (8) evidence of performance in a leading or critical role for organizations that have a distinguished reputation; (9) evidence of high remuneration in relation to others in the field; and (10) evidence of commercial success in the performing arts.

He was able to demonstrate that he satisfied three of the ten regulatory criteria discussed above. He showed records that he won first place in national and international competitions. He also showed that his professional or athletic accomplishments were made the subject of an article published in Seoul Yonhap News, Korea’s largest news organization. The piece featured his performance in various rounds of tournaments. He also presented that he has a position in the national judo team which is effectively the most difficult association membership for a judo athlete to obtain, especially in Korea. Even his membership in the national team suffices to show one of the ten criteria because only those with the highest level of performance make the cut.

Because he was able to satisfy three of the ten criteria, the next is for the adjudicator to look at the evidence in totality and find out whether the foreign national meets the required level of expertise for the category. His level of expertise must be that of a small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor, and that he has sustained national or international acclaim and his achievements have been recognized in his field of expertise. 

Here, the petitioner was able to satisfy the board that he has a long, successful and recent career as a judo athlete. From 2000 to 2012, he was a member of the Korean national team that sweeps awards in the sport in the Olympics, World Championships, Masters, Grand Slam and other prestigious international competition.

According to the EB-1 visa program, the foreign national must seek to continue working in the same field of endeavor and that his entry will substantially benefit prospectively the U.S. 

The petitioner seeks to establish a judo academy and train promising athletes and eventually coach the American judo team in the Olympics. Given all that he has demonstrated, the USCIS was convinced that petitioner may transition from athlete to coach and remain in his field of expertise.


(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, log on to or call 212-695-5281)

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