EB-2/National Interest Waiver Overview
A National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition falls in the employment-based, second-preference (EB-2) immigration category. For most EB-2 applications, petitioners need a permanent job offer and an approved labor certification. However, an NIW requests these requirements be waived for the sake of the “national interest of the United States,” thus allowing an applicant to apply for this status without a labor certification or a job offer from a U.S. employer.
To apply for an EB-2 NIW petition, a beneficiary or applicant must have an “advanced degree” or “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business. The beneficiary must also persuasively demonstrate that his or her proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; that he or she is well-positioned to advance this endeavor; and that it would therefore be beneficial to the United States to waive the standard requirements of a job offer and labor certification. While each NIW case is adjudicated on its individual merits, the burden of proof is always on the applicant or beneficiary to establish that exemption from labor certification will be in the national interest of the U.S.
Even if the beneficiary has no employer, he or she may file an NIW petition on behalf of him- or herself. Alternatively, a U.S. employer can file an NIW petition on behalf of an alien.
Advanced Degree Documents
In order to qualify for an NIW, you must first satisfy requirements for an EB-2 petition. Possessing either an Advanced Degree or Exceptional Abilities qualifies you for an EB-2. In sum, you must possess at least one of the following minimum requirements:
A U.S. master’s degree or higher (or its foreign equivalent), or
- a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent plus at least five years of progressive experience in your profession (combined, this is considered the equivalent of a master’s degree), or
- exceptional ability, which means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in your profession
After the applicant meets the above requirements for an EB-2, the applicant must additionally satisfy the requirements of a three-prong test to show that he or she can benefit the national interest of the United States. The applicant must provide evidence that:
- the applicant’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
- the applicant is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and
- on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.
Exceptional Ability Documents
Ultimately, the applicant must show how he or she will serve U.S. national interests to a substantially greater degree than could a U.S. worker with the same qualifications. The most important components that should be included in supporting documentation are:
- Letters of recommendation from experts in the field. Experts may include:
- Editors of journals in which the petitioner has published;
- Researchers citing the petitioner’s work;
- Researchers who commercialized the petitioner’s research;
- Researchers who work for the government or for any other recognized agency; and/or
- Advisors of the petitioner’s research.
- Tangible evidence of the petitioner’s valuable contributions. For instance, the petitioner could provide documentation showing his or her successful track record in a specific project in the field, along with descriptions of the crucial role he or she played in the project’s execution and success. The more consistent the track record is, and the more important and recognized the job position or project is, the more weight USCIS will give the evidence. Examples of tangible evidence include:
- Number and rankings of publications that the applicant authored or coauthored
- Number of citations for papers that the applicant authored or coauthored. This information may be obtained through Google Scholar or Web of Science
- Independent citations are given considerably more weight than are self-citations because the latter cannot clearly show that the petitioner has influenced the field as a whole or that the petitioner’s work is distinguished from that of other researchers. Independent citations demonstrate the response of other researchers in the field, and thus the impact of the petitioner’s work.
- Proof that the petitioner has already turned around a business, improved the economy, etc.
- Requests for reprints or further information about the petitioner’s research in the field
- Acknowledgment or invitation letters from recognized journals or organizations
- Copies of awards, honors, certificates, or other mementos of recognition for excellence in the field, with documentation of the selection criteria involved
- Membership in associations that demonstrate a requirement of outstanding achievement for members, as judged by recognized experts in the field
- Membership on a panel that judges the work of others in the field
- Copies of media reports about the petitioner and his or her work
- Major, internationally recognized achievements and awards in the field (e.g. a Nobel Prize)
- If in the performing arts, evidence of commercial success through box office receipts, sales, records, etc.
- High number of online downloads of the applicant’s publications, i.e. if the applicant’s work does not have many citations but has been downloaded with a high degree of frequency
- Licensing or implementation of the applicant’s patent(s), if any
- Any relevant comparable evidence
How to Successfully Meet The Requirements
Note that not all of the evidence above is necessary, and no evidence by itself is conclusive. In general, the more evidence there is, the better. However, and unsurprisingly, it’s the quality of evidence that USCIS emphasizes, not just the quantity.
Our office is highly experienced in developing these cases in the meticulous manner that is required. The office spends significant time working with individual clients to develop unique qualifications of the individual and to ensure that they are put into letters that are presented. We also ensure that the petitioner collects as much of the corroborating evidence as is possible.