Skip to main content

How do you define a “professional association” in the NIW context? Exceptional ability criteria explained

A group of professionals in a professional associations

An applicant’s membership in a professional association is one of the six “exceptional ability” evidentiary factors that is relevant to meeting the EB2 NIW threshold criteria, which requires either that an applicant has an advanced degree (Masters or above) or its equivalent, or that the applicant has exceptional ability in their field.

In many cases, if the applicant has a Masters degree or has a Bachelors degree combined with over five years of progressive work experience in their field following their Bachelors, there is no need to rely on the “exceptional ability” factors.

However, in some cases – for example, where the applicant does not have a relevant Bachelors degree, or if they had not accumulated 5 years of progressive work experience following their Bachelors – it becomes an important exercise to ensure they qualify under the “exceptional ability” analysis.

Evidence of Membership in Professional Associations

Evidence of membership in professional associations is one of the six evidentiary criteria for exceptional ability, at least three out of which the applicant must meet. To qualify as a professional association, the membership body must be comprised with “professionals,” which is defined in the regulations as an occupation for which a Bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry in the occupation.

In a recent AAO appeals decision, the government found that a non-profit organization that required “a level of deep knowledge, by training and/or working time in the minimum of 10 years’ experience” to be selected as a member did not provide enough information to show the association required members to be professionals as defined in the regulations.

By contrast, for example, an association such as IEEE would qualify as a professional organization because an applicant needs to prove they are working as an engineer to earn membership, and an engineer is an occupation that requires a Bachelor’s degree.

Final Merits Determination and National Interest Waiver Criteria

In addition to meeting at least three out of six evidentiary criteria, the evidence as a whole must show that the applicant “has a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered” in their field.  Once the applicant meets the EB2 threshold through exceptional ability, the applicant must also provide evidence meeting the three-prong Matter of Dhanasar test for a National Interest Waiver: (1) substantial merit and national importance, (2) well positioned to advance the endeavor, and (3) on balance beneficial to the United States to waive the labor certification requirement.

Related posts:

More posts on the National Interest Waiver

How do you define “significant contributions to the industry?” Exceptional Ability criteria Explained.

FREE National Interest Waiver (NIW) Resources

Click on the buttons below in order to claim your free National Interest Waiver (NIW) Guide, sign up for our free National Interest Waiver (NIW) Webinar, or watch our National Interest Waiver (NIW) videos.

Download Our National Interest Waiver (NIW) Guide
Sign Up For Our National Interest Waiver (NIW) Webinar
Watch Our National Interest Waiver (NIW) Videos

Set up a National Interest Waiver (NIW) Consultation

For a dedicated one-on-one National Interest Waiver (NIW) consultation with one of our lawyers, click on the button below to schedule your consultation.

Schedule a consultation

This website and blog constitutes attorney advertising. Do not consider anything in this website or blog legal advice and nothing in this website constitutes an attorney-client relationship being formed. Set up a one-hour consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results are no guarantee of future results and prior results do not imply or predict future results. Each case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Leave a Reply