First some background: I work in biomedical field, and have 2 US patents and 45 first-author papers. I submitted a self-prepared I-140 NIW petition recently with four reference letters (all from the same school). I did not use any lawyer for my petition as I believe my chance of success would be high with or without a lawyer.
Here are some key dates:
I-140 NIW (self-prepared) TSC; RD: 08/02/04; RFE date:03/23/05; RFE RD:04/15/05 (with form ETA750b); and I-140 AD:04/21/05 (email notification).
In my original application, I did not elaborate about my patents and papers except a long list. My reason for omitting the details was that my application might become too long and INS officers might not have the time to go through all. In the RFE letter, INS asked to address the issues that were outlined in NYSDT case (see www.twmlaw.com). In my reply, I highlighted my research achievements that are of national interest and scope, and that underline the intrinsic merit of my petition. This time, I included the patent records and reprints of my key publications. I also told them that I'd be happy to supply additional materials if required. Apparently, it worked.
Having just gained approval for a self-prepared I-140 NIW petition, I have collected a few after-thoughts (while my mind is still fresh), which I hope will be of value to those who may comtemplate to go through the process on their own.
1. If you have excellent records of achievements (eg, patents and publications) and decent command of English language, it may be a good idea to petition by yourself. Your chance of getting approved will be good even without the help of a lawyer, as long as you focus on the issues that have been outlined by NYSDT case (see www.twmlaw.com).
2. Collect and present as much evidence as possible. Try to highlight your achievements in relation to the national interest and scope as well as intrinsic merit of your petition.
3. References shall also center on the issues mentioned above.
4. As for RFE, although up to 12 weeks are given for a reply, it is prefereable to respond as soon as possible (the advantage of DIY is obvious under the circumstance).
5. Timewise, a self-prepared petition may take about two weeks.
6. As a test for your command of English language, if you can write a reasonably polished manuscript within two weeks of being given the experimental results, you will be ok to petition on your own. Otherwise, it is better for you to seek assistance for your NIW petition.