The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an employment based green card category. The NIW falls under the EB-2 category, which means that as a threshold requirement, each applicant must have an advanced degree or its equivalent (a bachelor’s degree plus 5 years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience in the profession) or demonstrate that they have exceptional ability. Additionally, to qualify for a national interest waiver the applicant must show that it is in the U.S. national interest for the government to waive the normal EB2 requirement of a job offer and labor certification. A labor certification requires testing the U.S. labor market to determine if there are any willing, qualified and available U.S. workers for a particular job. NIW applicants are able to self-petition, do not need a job offer and are not required to complete a labor certification.
To qualify for a National Interest Waiver, there are three prongs that must be satisfied:
- The foreign national’s must show that their proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
- The foreign national must show 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.
One common question is how to demonstrate that the proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance in the U.S. The evidence will change depending on your field of endeavor, but for any case it is a good idea to include letters from experts in industry positions (and possibly experts in government and academia), news & media articles from reputable publications and research & academic reports that explain the importance & value of the particular industry or field of endeavor and also why this field has national importance in the U.S.
Below are some examples of how to prove substantial merit and national importance:
- An applicant who was researching the design & development of propulsion systems that had potential to be used in military & civilian technologies successfully argued that this research could enhance U.S. national security & defense. Demonstrating that the research would help U.S. competitiveness in the civil space sector, assist national security and propel scientific knowledge forward proved that the endeavor had substantial merit. Additionally, expert letters from government, academic & industry professionals, media articles and proof of government interest in the applicant’s research area demonstrated that the research was important for U.S. strategic interests.
- An entrepreneur who formed a small consulting firm to work on projects focused on improving services to U.S. veterans was able to show that this type of consulting work had substantial merit and national importance. Supporting evidence included letters from future clients, a comprehensive business plan, news & media articles and research reports. These supporting documents outlined the difficulties faced by returning veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan and showed the value & importance of providing services to these veterans (substantial merit). Letters from experts & leaders in military, government, business & charitable institutions, news articles & evidence of the federal government’s own initiatives demonstrated the national importance of the applicant’s work in improving services and programs for U.S. veterans.
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