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Can My Family Apply for the NIW Green Card with Me?

A happy family of 3

My family lives outside the U.S., can they apply for the NIW green card with me?

The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an employment based green card in the EB-2 category. Spouses and children who are under 21 can apply for the green card with the NIW applicant. If the NIW applicant’s family is outside the U.S. when he/she applies, they may be able to use follow to join benefits.

What is the National Interest Waiver green card?

The National Interest Waiver is available to applicants who either have an advanced degree or exceptional ability and can meet the three NIW requirements to show that they merit a waiver of the normal job offer and labor certification requirement for the EB-2 green card category. The waiver part of the name is based on the fact that this green card is granted based on a waiver of the job offer and the labor certification (PERM) process. The national interest part of the name is based on the requirement that the waiver can only be granted if it is in the national interest of the United States.

In order to demonstrate that they qualify for the National Interest Waiver, applicants must show that their proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; that they are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and there must be a showing that on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

Can my family apply with me?

Yes, your spouse & any children who are under 21 can apply with you as dependents on your NIW green card application. If your family members are with you in the U.S. on a valid visa status and visas are available in the EB-2 category, you can each submit Form I-485 to adjust status from within the United States.

What if I am in the U.S., but my family still lives outside the U.S.?

If your family lives outside the U.S. and does not plan to join you in the U.S. and file for an adjustment of status with you, they can apply for the green cards at a later time at a U.S. consulate abroad through follow to join benefits.  There are two requirements that need to be satisfied for your spouse or children to be eligible for follow-to-join benefits.

  • You must have been married/you must have had children at the time your green card application was approved and the relationship must still exist. After your child turns 21 or after your child marries, he or she is no longer able to follow to join you.
  • You must have received an immigrant visa or adjusted status in a preference category. The NIW EB-2 category is an employment-based preference category which means dependents are eligible for these benefits.

The way to apply for these benefits is to file Form I-824. Please note that the I-824 cannot be approved until your green card application is approved. Additionally, even if your green card is already approved, it can take several months for Form I-824 to be approved and then your dependents will need to submit their green card applications to the Consulate, so you should plan for this timing, particularly if you want your children to get the green cards before they turn 21.

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