The Meaning of Extraordinary

The Washington Post has a fascinating article about Yiyun Li’s immigration woes:

In the summer of 2004, Li petitioned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to become a permanent resident of the United States. To approve her application for a green card, USCIS would need to agree that she was an artist of "extraordinary ability," defined in Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 204.5(h)(2) as "a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor."

To the upper echelons of literary publishing, Li looks like a slam-dunk to meet this definition. Not to the USCIS, however. A year after she filed it, her petition was rejected.

She has appealed. A USCIS spokesman says she is likely to get her answer in a few weeks.

"Things change a lot," as a character in one of Li’s stories says. "Within a blink a mountain flattens and a river dries up. Nobody knows who he’ll become tomorrow."

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