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Case Study: Can an EB2 NIW petition be approved for a junior researcher?

Researcher conducting research

Contrary to popular belief, applicants relatively junior in their careers playing a supportive role in research projects can also be found eligible for a green card under EB2-NIW (National Interest Waiver), regardless of their publication or citation record.

In a recent AAO case study, a junior researcher of medical psychology was found eligible for a green card under the EB2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) based on his critical supporting role on a longitudinal epidemiological study funded by U.S. government agencies.

The applicant was an assistant research scientist, currently employed in H1B status at the Child Psychiatric Department of a university, who had worked since 2016 on a decades-long longitudinal epidemiological study assessing mental health in a community sample of Puerto Rican youth in the United States and Puerto Rico. The NIW petition was submitted by the applicant’s employer, the university.

1. How the applicant proved substantial merit and national importance

The applicant proposed to continue working as an assistant research scientist for an ongoing longitudinal study at a university, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Environmental Influence on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.

Although the applicant was not the named principal (lead) investigator (PI) for the project, the applicant obtained a detailed reference letter from the principal investigator, who confirmed the applicant’s integral roles for the success for the project and the importance and potential impact of the study to advance the scientific community’s understanding of mental health among Puerto Rican youth in the US and abroad. For example, the principal investigator described how the applicant’s work managing the longitudinal research database will farther the advance of scientific research into gambling and impulsive behaviors, mental health and early cardiovascular risk, and will reveal new insights regarding substance abuse, depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviors, and intergenerational transmission and contribute to improving the Puerto Rican community’s mental health in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The AAO agreed that the applicant’s work will lead to improved medical knowledge and practices, which has national or even global implications within the field of medical science, finding the proposed endeavor had substantial merit and national importance.

2. How the applicant proved well positioned

The petitioning employer, the University, provided a statement with a detailed explanation of the applicant’s unique experience relevant to the study, which can’t be easily found in the general body of researchers, including designing and maintaining the electronic research database for the study, and generating study reports to monitor field activities and fulfill Institutional Review Board and other reporting needs, and coordinating various teams for systemic data screening and cleaning.

In addition, extensive detail was provided by the Principal Investigator for the study regarding the knowledge required to fulfill the applicant’s role, citing specific systems, statistical tools, and various data extraction techniques in which the applicant was “uniquely expert,” noting:

[The Beneficiary] has an intimate and global familiarity with the data accumulated over a period of more than twenty years in the . . . study, which positions him to assist our researchers needing access to the . . . data in a meaningful format. There is literally no other data researcher with the credentials he holds regarding the . . . data systems and materials.”

The AAO relied on the material discussing the work of the research foundation, the principal investigator’s credentials, and other information regarding the applicant’s participation in multiple other research projects and studies related to mental health, involving children and families, in finding that the applicant was indeed well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

3. How the applicant proved on balance, it was beneficial to exempt the applicant from the labor certification requirement

The AAO found that sufficient urgency was demonstrated by the record that merited exemption of the labor certification process. For example, the letter from the principal investigator, the research organization, and the project’s importance as part of the National Institute of Health’s ECHO program demonstrated the potential of the research project, the first of its kind, to benefit the United States on a national scale. Furthermore, the letters proved that the applicant’s specific role in database management was integral to the seamless continuance of the project.

Based on the applicant’s research history, unique qualifications in data management for this longitudinal study, and significance of this work to advance U.S. scientific public health interests, the government concluded the applicant offered contributions of such value that, on balance, they would benefit the United States even assuming other qualified U.S. workers are available.


Related posts:

The 4 steps of building a successful NIW case in any field

Recent Ph.D. graduate, no publications or citations, how can I meet Well Positioned for NIW?

How can I prove my work will impact my field more broadly to support National Importance?

How specific does my proposed endeavor need to be?

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