I recently received a request from a postdoctoral associate working at another institution to "write a support letter" for his residency application. I put the statement in quotes because the candidate in question has already written out the letter and is asking me only to put it on official letterhead, sign it, and return it.

Is such behavior considered acceptable for the US permanent residency application? Is there a difference in appropriateness if the applicant knows the recommender well?

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    I get these all the time for former students who worked with me. I hear the letters are drafted by specialist lawyers, not the candidate themselves FYI . – ff524 Aug 19 '16 at 20:37
  • The ones I have been asked to sign are basically factual statements of what the student did and what skills it entails, not personal judgements of their ability or impact of their work or anything else that is personal or subjective. Is the request you've received similar? – ff524 Aug 19 '16 at 20:43
  • I got such a request a few years ago from a mathematician I had worked with for a few years by email. I took the sample letter, and adapted it to include comments relating to my own interactions with the candidate. That person is now working in the US, so the application must have succeeded. – GEdgar Aug 19 '16 at 20:58
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    @ff524: Yes, it is an assessment of technical capabilities letter. However, unlike the ones you've received for former students, this individual does not know me and has never met me in person (at least not that I can recall!). – aeismail Aug 19 '16 at 21:38
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    A key factor in this process is that you have to be an expert on the subject and you have to know the applicants work. If the letter you've been given overstates the candidates ability or overstates your interaction with that person, then don't sign the letter. – Brian Borchers Aug 20 '16 at 1:15

For me, the key criterion is "do I know the person through shared endeavor" e.g. having studied or worked together for a reasonable period of time.

If there has been no previous contact i.e. a stranger, I would NOT respond at all to a request for a support letter.

As a possible comparison, a stranger asks you to guarantee a bank loan for them ... most people can see where that one will lead...

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