A Brief Introduction to the National Interest Waiver

If you want to apply for permanent residence in the United States, you may be eligible if you fall into one of the employment-based (EB) immigration categories. The EB-2, or second preference visa, is reserved for three types of applicants: those who have an advanced degree; those who demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business; and those seeking a national interest waiver (NIW). The NIW applicants are essentially making a request to waive labor certification because it would benefit the United States on a national level.

NIW applicants do not need an employer to sponsor them and there is no requirement for a job offer. They can self-petition with USCIS. They do need to prove that they have exceptional ability and that their employment in the US will benefit the nation.

Because “national interest” is a vague term with no set definition, USCIS evaluates NIW requests using a three-prong test. It considers the following factors:

  • Are you looking to work in an area of “substantial intrinsic merit”? Demonstrate the strong importance and potential impact of your work.
  • Does your work create a benefit that will be “national in scope”? Show that your work will benefit the whole country rather than a limited region.
  • Would you serve the national interest “to a substantially greater degree” than an available US worker with the same minimum qualifications? Prove how you offer substantially greater national benefits compared to your colleagues, and that you have a high level of distinction in your field.

USCIS will look at many other factors to assess your overall eligibility. For instance, does your work benefit the economy? Does it improve wages and working conditions for US workers? Will it help create more affordable housing, improve the environment, or enhance health care? Your application will discuss your experience, your skill set, your achievements, the importance of your work, and your level of influence within your field, among others.

You must also show that others—from employers to colleagues to other experts in the field—acknowledge your merit in written testimonials. You will need to provide letters, articles and other published media, contracts, copies of grants, licenses, and other documentation to support your claims.

The application process for the NIW is lengthy and strict, but it does allow you to bypass the job offer and labor certification requirement, which is highly advantageous. Once your NIW is approved, you can generally adjust your status to permanent resident if you are lawfully present in the US. If you are thinking about filing an application, you should first consult with an attorney. Saleh & Associates can guide you through the US immigration process with insightful legal counsel. Call us to get the effective assistance you need to submit an impressive NIW petition.


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