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Can artists qualify for an EB2 NIW green card? What makes for a successful case?

An artist working on their art

Artists can qualify for the EB2 NIW green card if they present sufficient evidence to show their activities will “broadly enhance cultural or artistic enrichment” in the United States.

To meet the “national importance” criteria for an NIW petition, an applicant must prove one or more of the following:

  • Applicant’s work will have broader implications, or national or global implications, within a particular field.
  • Applicant’s work has significant potential to employ US workers.
  • Applicant’s work will have substantial positive economic effects.
  • Applicant’s work will broadly enhance societal welfare; or,
  • Applicant’s work will broadly enhance cultural or artistic enrichment.

This means it is possible for artists to qualify for an EB2 NIW green card, if they can show that their work has potential to impact their field as a whole, for example, by developing and disseminating original or new approaches that attract widespread attention in their field or significant interest from the public or from relevant government agencies.

What kinds of Proposed Endeavor for an artist are favored?

A common reason why NIW petitions for artists are denied is because the applicant presented insufficient evidence on how their specific proposed project would influence the field as a whole, as opposed to benefiting just the applicant’s immediate employer or clients.

For example, in a recent appeals decision, the AAO considered an NIW petition by a vocalist and music teacher, who proposed to work in the United States as a musical event manager and a vocal teacher. The applicant submitted articles about the popularity of classical music and the shortage of music teachers in the U.S. However, the government found this was only relevant to the importance of the classical music field, and did not support the importance of the applicant’s specific project in the U.S.

In short, the government found that the applicant has not established that the benefits of his proposed endeavor will extend beyond his own students or the specific attendees of his musical events to impact the industry or field more broadly.

For example, proposed endeavors that include industry-facing projects, such as the discovery and dissemination of new and advanced approaches to industry journals or conferences, or projects that have received significant attention from major industry actors or the public, may be more favorable in persuading USCIS that the applicant’s work will have a broader significance to the field as opposed to only benefiting the artist’s own students or clients.

How can I prove that I am well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor?

Provided that an applicant’s proposed endeavor has sufficient promise to influence the field as a whole, the following evidence can be helpful to prove the second prong in the NIW analysis, which requires that the applicant be “well positioned” to advance their proposed endeavor.

The case law discusses some types of evidence that could be relevant for an artist in proving they are well positioned to advance their work:

  • Authorship of scholarly articles
  • Judging prestigious musical competitions
  • Serving in lead roles in professional musician organizations
  • Receiving media recognition for applicant’s work.

In sum, case law confirms that an EB-2 NIW petition can be a viable pathway for a green card for artists, provided that they can show their work has the potential to broadly enhance cultural or artistic enrichment in the United States. The challenge, however, is to prove the impact of this work will be broader than the artist’s direct students, clients, or employer.

To learn more, check out our free resources below. You can also schedule a consultation at a time that’s convenient for you with our experienced lawyers, who can help assess the prospects of your case.

Click here to read the full AAO decision discussing the case for vocalist and music teacher. Click here to read the full AAO decision discussing the qualifications of a gymnastic coach.

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