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Case Study: Can a Soccer Coach Qualify for an NIW? Top 3 Lessons Learned

A soccer coach with their team

A recent AAO case affirming the denial of a national interest waiver (NIW) to a youth soccer coach provides valuable lessons on how to strategize NIW case preparation to maximize chances of approval, especially for more challenging types of cases, such as in non-traditional fields such as athletics or the arts.

1. To prove national importance, applicant needs to show their work will reach a broad enough audience to show a broad impact at a nationally important level.

The applicant had a job offer to work at a US soccer development academy as a soccer coach, where he would be responsible for coaching and training athletes on soccer techniques, developing training curriculums, among other duties.

The applicant argued that his work will serve U.S. national interests, because he would contribute to producing enough talent so that the U.S. can be fully equipped to complete in the World Cup and other international tournaments. In support, the applicant showed he was a well-respected youth soccer coach who had success in identifying and developing players, who were then recruited to play on Major Soccer League Teams or at the collegiate level.

However, this did not establish that these coaching activities – on their own – have national or global implications in the field of soccer. The government looked for proof that the prospective number of players the applicant may reach through is work would be large enough to support national importance. Alternatively, the applicant could have shown his particular coaching or player development methodology, which was replicable, that he intended to disseminate through the industry on a larger scale, commensurate with national importance.

In short, the lesson is that the scale of applicant’s activities must be larger than individual players and coaches the applicant would directly work with.

2. It may help to present letters from relevant government agencies specifically addressing their plans to collaborate with the applicant, and suggesting his methodologies would reach a broader audience.

The government noted that the applicant could have provided letters from relevant government agencies, such as the U.S. Soccer Federation or the Major League Soccer organization expressing interest in the applicant’s endeavor or seeking to collaborate with the applicant in a way that would result in applicant’s coaching methods to reach a broader audience, commensurate with national importance.

This brings home the lesson that evidence of interest from US government agencies in the applicant’s specific project – in the form of correspondence, letters of interest, support letters, or grants – play an important positive role in strengthening an NIW case.

3. Evidence supporting the importance of soccer’s impact on public health, without more specific evidence on the proposed endeavor, will not by itself meet national importance.

The applicant submitted articles, reports, and publications describing the need for U.S. soccer development, the economic benefits of successful teams, the economic demand for coaches, and the national importance of soccer’s impact on social health and cultural enrichment.

However, the government found that these sources only supported the national importance of the soccer industry overall, not the importance of the applicant’s specific proposed endeavor.  As such, these sources did not establish that the applicant’s project itself would have national importance.

In conclusion, it is certainly possible for a soccer coach to qualify for an NIW, but care must be taken on how to build up the case to show that the applicant’s proposed activities would directly impact to the progress of the industry as a whole, beyond the applicant’s immediate students and cohort.

Attorneys at Scott Legal have profound experience strategizing NIW petitions for professionals in a variety of fields and would be happy to help you assess and frame your case in the most persuasive light.

Related posts:

More posts on the National Interest Waiver

Strategizing NIW – Substantial Merit and National Importance

What is the difference between Substantial Merit and National Importance?

How to prove your work is of National Importance?

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