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

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 Recognition for Achievements and Significant Contributions to the Industry or Field by Peers, Governmental Entities, or Professional or Business Organizations.

Evidence of recognition for significant contributions to the industry or field is one of the six evidentiary criteria for exceptional ability, at least three out of which the applicant must meet. To meet this criterion, the applicant must show that their work has had an impact beyond [their] employers, clientele, and their specific projects at a level indicating a significant contribution to the industry or field.

In a recent AAO appeals decision, the applicant submitted a letter from a local City Council official praising that the applicant was “quick to perform tasks and with extreme professionalism,” along with letters from business associates praising the applicant’s business understanding and skills and the impact his work made on specific clients’ businesses. However, this was not enough to show that his work an impact beyond his immediate employers, clientele, and their specific projects. As a result, the government found he didn’t meet this criterion.

By contrast, if an applicant has made original discoveries in their industry or field and has shared their unique insights through presentations at industry conferences, being featured in media, and through publication of papers and patents, evidence of such activities would be helpful towards showing that the applicant’s work impacted the field more broadly, as opposed to the benefits being limited to their immediate employers and clients.

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.

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How do you define “professional association” in the NIW context? Exceptional Ability criteria Explained.

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