How much experience is needed to qualify for a National Interest Waiver?
The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an employment-based green card that allows self-petitioning. Applicants must have an advanced degree (or equivalent) or be able to demonstrate exceptional ability in their field of expertise. There is no specific amount of experience an applicant must have to qualify for the NIW, but applicants should have an impressive background in their field.
What are the requirements for the National Interest Waiver?
A threshold requirement for the NIW is that the applicant have either an advanced degree or its equivalent (meaning a bachelor’s and at least 5 years of post-baccalaureate progressive experience) or the applicant must have exceptional ability in the field of expertise. Exceptional ability can be demonstrated by showing the applicant meets at least three of the following criteria:
- Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability
- Letters documenting at least 10 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 commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates 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 of eligibility is also acceptable.
Once the EB-2 threshold requirement is met, the applicant must demonstrate that they meet the following three prongs to justify the waiver of the job offer requirement:
- The foreign national 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
- They must show the benefits of their proposed endeavor to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer, and thus of a labor certification (PERM).
Do I need a certain number of years of experience to qualify for the NIW?
If you are applying for the NIW using a bachelor’s degree, then you will also need to show five years of progressive work experience that was completed after your bachelor’s degree to meet the threshold requirement. For the NIW part of the application there is no specific amount of experience required to show that you are well positioned to advance the endeavor. However, the NIW is meant for applicants who are accomplished within their field and are working in an area of substantial merit and national importance. Being able to show a track record of success in your field will significantly strengthen the application. If you are someone who has just graduated from an advanced degree program, but you have not yet worked professionally in your field, it would be beneficial to wait until you have more work experience to apply for the NIW.
While you gain that work experience, you should also take steps to strengthen your application by working towards high level achievements in your industry, such as obtaining prestigious grants, publishing relevant articles within your field, seeking out professional memberships in prominent industry organizations, interacting with the media to discuss your professional accomplishments and connecting with experts within the field to build collaborative professional relationships.
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