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NIW Case Study for a Developer of a Social Welfare App

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An AAO decision on October 20, 2023 discusses an EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) green card application filed by an sole proprietor who proposed to develop a social welfare app. Valuable lessons can be learned from this case on what kinds of proposed endeavor is favorable to meet the “national importance” requirement, and what evidence the applicant should prepare to successfully pass the “well positioned” requirement.

The EB2 NIW is an attractive fast-track pathway that allows certain professionals to self-petition for a green card without a US employer sponsor, but poses the enigmatic challenge of persuading the government that one’s work in the US is of the “national interest.” To qualify for the NIW, the applicant must provide sufficient evidence that:

The petitioner in this case had a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering and over five years of progressive work experience in the field. The petitioner proposed to set up a sole proprietorship and work to develop and distribute a mobile app intended for users with disabilities.

“Potential for broadly enhancing social welfare” can be a basis to find national importance.

The Petitioner’s case successfully passed the first prong, “substantial merit and national importance.” The Petitioner’s proposed endeavor was to develop and distribute a smartphone application (app), with the purpose of assisting individuals with cognitive or neurological disabilities with medical issues such as scheduling appointments, filing prescriptions, and tracking medical records. The app would also help the people with disability easily find medical services, jobs, schools, maintain medical and health records, and more.

The AAO found that this endeavor had substantial merit and national importance. Notably, the finding was not based on substantial positive economic impact, but based on a different ground; that the endeavor “presents the potential for broadly enhancing societal welfare,” as the Petitioner sought to improve the quality of life of people with physical and intellectual disabilities, noting that, in principle, millions of people could download and use the app, and the app would improve access to important and essential services to this population.

To meet the “well positioned” prong, the plans must have sufficient traction, or the applicant must have previous experience in directly relevant projects.

Although the AAO found the Petitioner’s proposed endeavor had national importance, the AAO ultimately denied the petition on the ground that the Petitioner was not sufficiently well positioned to advance the endeavor.

The first issue was that there was insufficient evidence of potential interest from customers, users, investors, or other relevant industry or government entities in Petitioner’s project. Petitioner submitted three letters of intent from relevant local businesses in the welfare field in using Petitioner’s app, but USCIS found this an insufficient level of interest.

The second issue was that the Petitioner had no previous work history directly related to his proposal to develop a mobile app. Petitioner’s past education and work experience was specific to the biomedical engineering sector, and Petitioner’s roles were limited to repairing and maintaining  medical laboratory equipment. The AAO found that this experience did not relate in a significant way to the proposed endeavor, which was running a company to develop and market a smartphone app.


From cases like this one, applicants can see that “national importance” can be met in a variety of ways, including an endeavor that has the potential to “broadly enhance social welfare” through distributing a smartphone app to a multitude of users of a disadvantaged group in society, who may find it easier to access important medical and social services.  This case also clarifies the importance of ensuring the proposed endeavor is sufficiently aligned with an applicant’s past work and education to meet the “well positioned” requirement.

Related posts:

Strategies on meeting the National Importance requirement

How to meet the Well Positioned requirement as a recent graduate

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