Iranian Athlete Denied “Extraordinary Ability” Visa

The Immigration Act of 1990 created a category of work visas for individuals who show “extraordinary ability” in the field of science, arts, education, athletics or business, and receiving such a visa requires a high level of prestige, like winning a Nobel Prize. However, when Afshin Noroozi, Iran’s first table tennis Olympian, applied for an extraordinary ability visa, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his case, according to Jere Longman’s recent article in The New York Times.

Noroozi sought the visa based on his status as a top international player, which is usually sufficient for preferential entry of this kind. While Noroozi is the best table tennis player in Iran, he finished 65th at the 2008 Olympic games and is ranked No. 284 in the world. The court’s decision has experts questioning what credentials an athlete must hold to be granted a visa.

“Hopefully the government will change its stance and be more liberal in attracting talent,” John Assadi, Noroozi’s lawyer, told the source. “Even if he is not first or second in the world, he would be able to contribute in the United States. Why they want to keep him out, I don’t know.”

USCIS cited many reasons for denying Noroozi’s application. Officials claim he did not establish himself as a singular talent or demonstrate his leading or critical role in Iranian table tennis, and his achievements were not sufficiently reported by major news publications. In his application, Noroozi was unable to prove how his presence would potentially benefit the United States, the source reported.

If the court does not repeal the decision, Noroozi and Assadi will consider filing an appeal.

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