65th Place at the Olympics not Good Enough for “Extraordinary Ability” Visa to U.S.

Saturday, November 17, 2012
Afshin Noroozi (photo: outpost81.com)

A federal judge has ruled that an Iranian table tennis player was not “extraordinary” enough to be granted a U.S. visa.


Afshin Noroozi, 27, the first table tennis Olympian from Iran, sought to remain in the U.S. through an “extraordinary ability” work visa.


Under the Immigration Act of 1990, employment visas can be given to those possessing “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Noroozi sought the visa claiming to be a top international player. He finished tied for 65th and last place at the 2008 Olympics, having lost his only match. He was ranked 284th in the world.


But Judge Paul A. Engelmayer sided with the Citizenship and Immigration Services in denying Noroozi the special visa. Engelmayer wrote that Noroozi’s game was “impressive and commendable, and surely bespeaks years of dedication and practice.”


However the judge added that the immigration service was “well within its discretion to conclude that Noroozi’s standing fell short of making him ‘one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.’”


Noroozi certainly has the right to feel frustrated by the decision, considering that just last June Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard of Canada was awarded an extraordinary ability visa. Although Bechard starred in one feature film, the main indication of her “extraordinary ability” would appear to be the fact that she started the Twitter phenomenon of “Frisky Friday,” in which participating women post risqué, but non-nude, pictures of themselves on Twitter.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Athlete Is Short of ‘Extraordinary’ in Visa Bid (by Jeré Longman, New York Times)

Playboy Playmate Gains “Extraordinary Ability” Visa (by Matt Bewig, AllGov) 


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