Foreign nationals may live and work permanently in California with what is colloquially called a “green card,” but eligibility may actually be through a number of different types of immigration visas. One type is the EB-1, which gives permanent lawful residency to an individual who can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” within their particular occupation.

This was the classification Hockey Western New York LLC, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, sought for one of their trainers. The team’s head strength and conditioning coach comes from the U.K., and according to a lawsuit filed by an attorney for the Sabres, he is at the top of his field, with numerous peer-reviewed papers to his credit. Furthermore, his research is used for training in the NBA, NFL and other leagues. Due to his work, some professionals have changed their approaches to the tracking and monitoring of lower body strength and power.

Despite all this, federal immigration officials denied the visa, saying that the references provided failed to demonstrate that his work was original and significant enough to constitute “extraordinary ability.” The team and its attorney say the visa was wrongly denied and have filed a lawsuit against federal immigration officials.

The subjectivity of demonstrating “extraordinary ability” can make it challenging to determine what the parameters might be. Other challenges associated with employment immigration include ensuring that all documentation is accurate and staying on top of law changes, which can happen quickly. Companies that want to hire foreign nationals may want to work with an attorney to determine what visa category is most appropriate. Legal counsel could also help them and the potential employee throughout the process.