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I am a recent STEM Ph.D. graduate and a junior researcher. I have no publications or citations. How can I meet the “Well Positioned” requirement for an NIW?


An applicant in STEM whose proposed endeavor includes plans to conduct and publish research that advance scientific knowledge may have a leg-up for meeting the first prong, “substantial merit and national importance” for an NIW petition. But recent graduates and researchers relatively junior in their careers may be looking for creative ways on how to meet the “well positioned” prong, which usually requires an applicant to show a track record of success related to the proposed endeavor.

One may ask, “I have a Ph.D. degree in a STEM field. Isn’t that enough to meet Well Positioned?” Not really! In fact, the USCIS policy manual specifies, “A degree in and of itself [. . .] is not a basis to determine that a person is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.”

For researchers with an existing publication and substantial citation record, it is relatively straightforward to meet the well positioned requirement through showing that their previous related research has received substantial attention from other experts in their field. But a recent graduate or junior researcher without a publication and citation record must find alternative ways to present evidence in addition to their degree to meet the Well Positioned requirement.

Here are some possible forms of evidence:

  • Letters from interested government agencies or quasi-governmental agencies in the US (e.g., federally funded research & development centers) that provide relevant information about how well-positioned the person is to advance the endeavor.
  • Detailed expert letters from the person’s field, describing the person’s past achievements and providing specific examples of how the person is well positioned to advance the person’s endeavor.
  • Correspondence from prospective or potential employers, clients, or users related to the research project.
  • Evidence that the person’s work has otherwise influenced the field of endeavor.
  • Evidence that the person has received awards or grants (or non monetary support) from federal, state, or local government entities with expertise in research & development.
  • Evidence demonstrating the person’s work is being used by others, such as, contracts with companies using products that the person assisted in developing; documents showing technology that the person invented (or contributed to inventing) and how others use that technology.

Among the suggestions listed above in the USCIS policy manual, a particularly powerful form of evidence is a letter from interested government agencies or quasi-governmental entities in the U.S. (for example federally funded research & development centers). Such letters can support the first prong, “national importance,” in addition to supporting “well positioned.”

The USCIS policy manual specifically notes, “Detailed letters of government or quasi-governmental interest that provide relevant information about how well-positioned the person is to advance the endeavor are valuable for purposes of assessing the second prong.”

In fact, in Matter of Dhanasar, evidence of peer and government interest in his research, and consistent government funding of the petitioner’s research projects, played a significant role in strengthening the case for NIW approval.  Specific to the “well positioned” prong, the AAO relied on the petitioner’s education, experience, and expertise, noted the significance of his role in research projects, combined with evidence of sustained interest of and funding from government entities such as NASA and AFRL, positioned him well to continue to advance the proposed endeavor of hypersonic technology research.

In conclusion, the recent policy manual updates specific to STEM provides alternative pathways for recent Ph.D. graduates and junior researchers to qualify for a green card through the EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) category even if they do not have a substantial citation and publication record.

To learn more, check out the resources below. You can also schedule a consultation at a time and date that is most convenient for you.

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