I am planning to apply for green card for which I need recommendation letters from well known researchers/professors. In February 2019, I had contacted one professor and one industry based researcher to write the letters for me. Both these people know me through my research and have frequently cited my paper. At first I did not get any reply from them. A week later I reminded them while copying my PhD advisor in the mail. My advisor knows both of them. I got immediate reply from them that they would be happy to write the letter if I could given them an initial draft. I think it is OK to copy your PhD advisor while asking for recommendation letter from independent people who don't know you personally but only through research and papers.

Anyways, A month later i.e. in last week of March, I gave them the draft. Since then, I have sent 3 reminders to them but have not heard back from them. I am getting anxious and don't know what to do. Does no response after 3 reminders and 2 months mean they backed out? Is it ethical?

I have all the documents ready for filing my application and I am just waiting for them to give me the letter. Since there is no deadline to apply for green card application, I can't even provide them a deadline. But I have tried to convey my feelings about the delay using mild language.

3 Answers 3


You need to move on and find new references, people who actually know you.

Realistically, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to write an LOR for someone they've never met and know only as a name on a paper they've cited. But then you further poisoned the relationships by waiting a month to respond to their requests for a draft (of the letter you want?) and CC'ing your advisor on your requests, as if to "report" them for not responding quickly enough. And who knows what you put in your draft or your "reminders".

If someone did that to me, I'd permanently ignore them. I certainly wouldn't waste my time recommending them.

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    You wouldn't even have replied to them to say that you weren't going to write the letter? Commented May 26, 2019 at 15:12
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    @NateEldredge I think Nicole's point is that if the OP can wait for a month on an urgent letter, they can assume it could not have been that urgent, and now the OP is getting, to put it his way, even a bit pushy. They probably wouldn't explicitly say no anymore, just silently drop the contact. They may have realised that it was not the smartest thing of them to agree to the reference, and perhaps the draft was not to their liking, but do not feel they can back out explicitly without starting an argument. No, it's not nice, but probably that's what happened. Commented May 26, 2019 at 15:23
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    @NateEldredge Captain Emacs is correct in his reading of my remarks. If someone waits a month to respond to me, it can't be too urgent. But also, it's not obvious what was said in either the initial requests or the responses; the responses may have been more conditional than represented by the OP, e.g., "Okay, I might be able to help you. Tell me exactly what you need, perhaps with a draft, and I'll consider it." Commented May 26, 2019 at 15:29
  • @NateEldredge But to answer more directly, yes, if I was not going to write the LOR for whatever reason, I personally would tell them to go away, then ignore them. Commented May 26, 2019 at 15:37
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    @NicoleHamilton Green card recommendation letters are completely different to academic recommendation letters. Firstly, they need to be from people that know your research but have not worked with you, otherwise USCIS may assume that they are biased. Secondly, these letters need to be extremely positive -- unreasonably so. It's not logical, but US immigration is not logical. Remember, it is bureaucrats evaluating these letters against bizarre legal requirements. Please don't judge the person requesting letters by the unreasonableness of the system they're trying to navigate.
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 22:34

I would disagree with the above answers somewhat and say that it's worth another try. My understanding is that for a green card one needs recommendations from prominent people. So if these are prominent people in your field, their letters may be worth a lot. And if they agreed to write a letter for a green card, it would be irresponsible of them to not follow through. Some people are just terrible at answering emails and meeting deadlines (thinking of Reviewer #2 here).

One thing to be sure of is that you sent them a high-quality draft. There's nothing worse than receiving a poorly drafted recommendation letter.

So I would maybe copy your PhD advisor again on a follow-up email and if that doesn't work, follow up one more time, letting them know you will pursue other recommenders.


No response after 2 months AND that they never met you personally means very likely yes. If you don't know someone in person, how could you objectively recommend him. Without this condition there would be a "recommendation letter industry" where everyone tries to get the best letters from the most prestigious recommenders and looks a bit like cheating?! Ask someone less known you really worked with/had contact with, in best case co-authors or supervisors.

The point of a recommendation letter for the people examining you is to get independent objective opinions on you as a person (ambition, work style/experiences,...) than reading short redundant letters (with similar, by you drafted, content) of "big names", who are unlikely to have worked with you due to very different location/field not appearing in your CV. If these letters look strongly copy/pasted and the persons are not willing to invest the time to write 2-3 pages, it's really better to look for less "known/influential" persons which had a topical and local relation with your work (post-docs, assístant/associate profs.). Some fields of research are very small, it is rather important to be cited by someone who is very active in research/publications than older/well-known researchers, especially if they never met you, to stress this again.

  • Unfortunately, this is not how green card recommendation letters work. You assume they are being read by reasonable people who understand how academia works. But, actually, they are read by bureaucrats with no understanding of academia, who are evaluating them by bizarre legal standards.
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 22:43

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