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UHLC student Billy Gillis-Harry secures approval for her immigration petition

Deborah Billy Gillis-Harry J.D. candidate ‘25

University of Houston Law Center student Deborah Billy Gillis-Harry (J.D. candidate ‘25)

May 21, 2024 — University of Houston Law Center student Deborah Billy Gillis-Harry (J.D. candidate ‘25) recently received approval for her EB-2 National Interest Waiver under the Exceptional Ability category. Gillis-Harry's journey to this achievement began with extensive legal research to determine her eligibility for the visa, based on her future potential as a lawyer.

Originally from Nigeria, Gillis-Harry's family of nine immigrated to the United States in the early 2000s. However, upon turning 21 years old, she could no longer fall under her parents' legal immigration status.

“This reality created an enormous burden on my personal identity as well as my career trajectory due to navigating the U.S. immigration system,” Gillis-Harry said. “Regardless of these challenges, I knew that I was destined to one day become the attorney I wish I had as a child.”

Undeterred, Gillis-Harry began the strenuous process of researching the laws behind the EB-2 NIW visa. This visa grants lawful, permanent residence in the U.S. to its recipients.

Gillis-Harry dedicated months of her time to researching this immigration petition, reviewing numerous statutes and more than 100 Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) decisions. After she felt confident this visa applied to her, she meticulously crafted and submitted a 275-page document which included a legal brief, an exhibit list, and multiple pieces of evidence “that demonstrated my exceptional abilities in the legal industry and beyond.”

Her efforts paid off with the approval for her EB-2 NIW visa, which will allow her to work as a lawyer in the U.S. after graduation and engage in pro bono immigration cases to aid others.

“As an immigration attorney who has done these cases, I can tell you that type of case is extremely difficult,” said Rehan Alimohammad, UHLC professor of practice and contract attorney for the Immigration Clinic. “For a non-attorney to navigate it and receive an approval is very impressive. We are lucky to have her at UHLC.”

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