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Case Study: Can a transportation researcher qualify for an NIW?

a researcher

Applicants with Masters or Ph.D. degree whose work involves research in a wide variety of disciplines are encouraged to consider the EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) as a fast-track pathway to a green card, without a need to secure a US employer sponsor and go through the time-consuming labor certification process. With premium processing now available for EB2 NIW petitions, a self-petitioner can receive a response from the government within 45 calendar days.

This post will discuss a case study of a transportation researcher which demonstrates the wide gamut of research areas and topics that can qualify for “substantial merit and national importance.” Matter of Dhanasar emphasizes the diversity of fields in which an applicant can qualify for an NIW – an endeavor’s merit can be demonstrated in a “wide range of areas” such as business, entrepreneurialism, science, technology, culture, health, or education. The national importance of the proposed endeavor is determined by its “prospective impact.” Endeavors that stand to advance a particular field is considered to have national importance.

1. Substantial merit and national importance

The petitioner had a Ph.D. in the relevant field in data science and was working as a research scientist focused on using big data to estimate demand for non-traditional mobility options (Uber/Lyft) and measuring energy demand as transportation fleets become electrified. Petitioner proposed to continue working as a researcher in the field of transportation, specifically to improve models to forecast accuracy of transportation demand. Specifically, Petitioner was involved in a project funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to develop a quick-response transportation demand forecasting model from passively collected data.

The Petitioner submitted expert letters discussing how this research could contribute to the advancement of available forecasting tools, and how this would make relevant modeling methodologies easier to apply and interpret for transportation planning professionals. This was linked to U.S. Department of Transportation reports emphasizing the importance of research and innovation in modernizing the nation’s transportations system. Additionally, Petitioner demonstrated the results from this research would be disseminated to other professionals through transportation journals and conferences. Based on this evidence, the AAO found that Petitioner’s proposed endeavor had substantial merit and national importance.

2. Well positioned to advance the endeavor

Petitioner’s possession of a Ph.D. and Master of Science degree in a field relevant to the proposed endeavor supported Petitioner’s expertise. Furthermore, Petitioner had already published and presented research previously, and had participated in research projects supported by federal and state-funded grants. Expert letters also discussed specific examples of how Petitioner’s research progress related to transportation modeling had affected this field. This record of success was further corroborated by a strong citation record and copies of articles that cited to Petitioner’s research findings. These pieces of evidence clearly demonstrated Petitioner was well positioned to advance this endeavor.

3. On balance, beneficial to the United States

Referring to the first prong, the AAO noted the “widespread socio-economic benefits” associated with research progress in transportation modelling and planning. Referring to the second prong, the AAO noted Petitioner’s past successes in advancing research related to transportation demand forecasting and publishing influential research findings. Based on this, the AAO concluded that Petitioner offered contributions of such value that, on balance, they would benefit the United States even assuming that other qualified U.S. workers were available.


Applying for a green card is a significant step. Attorneys at Scott Legal have deep experience assisting applicants throughout the journey, which can take multiple years, and provide well informed strategy, support, and guidance at every step. To learn more, please check out our free resources below. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers to discuss your case in more detail.


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