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Can a lawyer qualify for an NIW? Key considerations

A lawyer standing in front of legal books on a bookshelf

Yes, it is possible for a lawyer to qualify for an EB2 NIW (national interest waiver) green card, provided the applicant can prove their work has national or global implications in the field of law. This post will analyze a recent case study that provides helpful insights on what to avoid and what to look for.

In a recent December 2022 decision, the AAO considered a petition by an attorney and social responsibility expert, who proposed to set up a business in Florida to distribute educational programs to promote social responsibility and volunteerism. The business plan indicated the company would generate income through selling books, providing education courses, counselling and professional services, radio and TV shows, conferences and speeches, and social media activity.

In support of his plans, the attorney submitted letters from senior executives from his prior employers who described the petitioner’s creation of a project to provide pro-bono advice on legal and security matters to communities, and discussing his active participation in volunteerism.

The AAO found that Petitioner’s proposed endeavor had substantial merit in the area of culture. However, the proposed endeavor did not rise to the level of national importance. The main issue was that the nature and target of the Petitioner’s proposed services were too vague, and there was insufficient documentary support regarding the importance and expected impact of his work. Moreover, the lawyer had no previous experience as an entrepreneur or educator. Given this, AAO found he was not well positioned to advance his proposed project.

To the extent Petitioner had distributed similar educational programs in the past, he could have provided evidence such as sales or other measures of success. In addition, Petitioner could have shown evidence of the interest of potential investors, clients, or other relevant individuals or entities in the proposed endeavor, which may have helped the case.

Here, a more precisely defined and developed proposed endeavor, including data-based, detailed projections of expected impact and well-documented support from potential partners and clients would have strengthened the case.

To prepare a strong NIW case for a lawyer, the most relevant question is whether the lawyer’s activities have resulted in, and would result in, broader benefits to the field of law as a whole as opposed to only benefitting the lawyer’s direct clients or partners.  A lawyer who has developed original insights about a particular area of the law and has presented those insights in industry conferences, publications, and through media features, for example, could make a good argument their work has national or global significance to the field of law.

To learn more, check out the below related posts and our free resources below. To discuss your particular case in more detail, you can schedule a consultation with our experienced lawyers at a time that is convenient for you.

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