As the Trump administration tightens immigration loopholes, athletes, trainers, and coaches in the Olympic-type, non-professional sports are finding it increasingly difficult to prove their "extraordinary ability" case for a green card, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"It is incumbent upon the petitioner — not the government — to show that the prospective beneficiary meets the requirements for eligibility under the law," according to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services spokesman Matthew Bourke, who acknowledged the threshold for attaining permanent residence status should be "extremely high," per the Journal.
The decline in "extraordinary ability" approval rate has been precipitous under the Trump administration, falling from 82.1% in the last full fiscal year of the Obama administration, to 69.4% in fiscal year 2018, to just 56.3% for FY 2019, according to USCIS data, per the report.
"I feel like we're living in the Twilight Zone," Florida immigration lawyer Ksenia Maiorova told the Journal. "'ESPN is not major media; European championships in swimming are not a major international competition' – they're questioning everything; it's just become absurd."
The USCIS question is pertinent, because the approval rate for "extraordinary ability" visa cases does go down when more information is requested, according to the report.
Evidentiary requests are "an additional opportunity afforded to petitioners to submit requisite evidence to avoid being denied," Bourke told the Journal.
Just 34.4% of requests in 2019 were approved when more information is requested, which is down from 37.3% in 2018 and 47.8% in the last year of the Obama administration.
"This alignment of the meaning of 'extraordinary' with reality is long overdue," Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian told the Journal. "The watering down of 'extraordinary' is just the grown-up version of the 'everybody gets a trophy' approach to children's sports."
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