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Jun 24, 2024 | Nancy Chen

National Interest Waiver: Requirements For A Green Card Without Employer Sponsorship

The National Interest Waiver allows exceptional immigrants to request a green card through self-petition without an employer sponsoring them.

Certain highly qualified people who meet the National Interest Waiver (NIW) requirements can request a green card through self-petition without an employer sponsoring their green card. 

The NIW falls under the EB-2 visa category, which is for “aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability,” according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The standard process of an EB-2 visa requires an employer to sponsor the applicant by offering them a permanent job and testing the labor market to see if qualified U.S. workers are available instead, also known as PERM labor certification, according to Nolo, a legal publishing company. But the NIW means the applicant’s work is so important to the U.S. national interest that there’s no need to prioritize U.S. workers.

Also Read: Understanding Family and Employment Based Immigration Petitions

This article explains the eligibility for an EB-2 visa with NIW and the application process. As a newsroom devoted to covering immigrant communities, Documented has compiled a comprehensive guide for immigrant New Yorkers. This article is part of the guide. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact april.xu@documentedny.com.

What are the criteria for a National Interest Waiver green card?

The subcategories of EB-2 include “advanced degree” and “exceptional ability.” The former requires that you plan to work in a field requiring an advanced degree and you must possess such a degree or its foreign equivalent. You need to provide the following proof: 

  • An official academic record showing that you have a U.S. advanced degree or a foreign equivalent, or
  • An official academic record showing that you have a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent and letters from current or former employers showing you have at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in the specialty.

Exceptional ability requires you to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, where exceptional ability “means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business,” the USCIS writes on its website. You need to meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a university or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability
  • Letters from current or former employers documenting at least ten years of full-time experience in your occupation
  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation
  • Evidence that you have received a salary or other remuneration for services demonstrating your exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association(s)
  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations
  • Other comparable evidence.

If you want to apply for NIW, the USCIS will also consider the following criteria:

  • The proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance.
  • You are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.
  • It would benefit the U.S. to waive the requirements of a job offer.

For more details on the meaning of the criteria, you can refer to the third section, “National Interest Waiver Requirements,” on Ashoori Law’s website.

What documents do I need to submit?

The first form that needs to be filed is Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Depending on your circumstances, you can file the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status together with the Form I-140, while the Form I-140 is pending, or after the Form I-140 is approved (and remains valid). Please visit the USCIS website to see what other legal documents you should provide. 

You need to do an “adjustment of status” if you are now lawfully present in the U.S. and may file the two forms concurrently. If you currently are not physically present in the U.S. with a valid nonimmigrant visa, you need to first apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate or embassy outside the U.S.

Also Read: O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

Documents to prove your expertise may include: Copies of your educational degrees, evidence of exceptional ability (if applicable), CV, citation report, Google Scholar profile, your publications, articles or books, evidence of prizes, awards or grants/patents that you have received and that you have reviewed the work of others, published material about you or your field of endeavor.

How much does a National Interest Waiver cost?

Generally, the filing fee for Form I-140 is $715. The fee for Form I-485 is $1,440 for applicants over 14 years old, and $950 for applicants under 14. For more information on filing fees, please refer to the USCIS document.

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