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NIW for STEM professionals: How to showcase your contributions to the field

STEM professionals

The NIW (National Interest Waiver) is a popular option for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professionals to self-petition for a U.S. green card. NIW does not require a job offer from a US employer, and an applicant can directly submit an I-140 petition at any time, even if they are currently outside the United States. Once approved, the applicant can move forward to either adjust status to a green card holder or apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate.

In 2022, USCIS updated its policy manual to add a specific section on STEM applicants, which emphasized the importance of advancing STEM technologies and research. In addition, premium processing is now available for all NIW I-140 petitions, which makes it possible to receive a decision within 45 calendar days. Overall, these updates present a great opportunity especially for petitioners who have an Masters or Ph.D. degree in a STEM field.

This blog post will discuss some approaches STEM professionals can use to persuasively showcase their contributions, to best position their profiles for a NIW approval.

1. Publish or Present your Research.

Publishing research studies in academic journals and presenting your research at industry conferences are both excellent ways to showcase your contribution to your field. Not only does this demonstrate you have a high level of expertise in your field, but this also helps to establish the national importance of your work by showing that your insights can benefit the work of other experts who encounter them through journals and conferences. In an NIW application, it can be a great idea to include excerpts of papers and copies of conference programs that showcase some of these contributions.

2. Contribute to patents (even if your name is not mentioned).

In many cases for professionals active in STEM fields, there may be R&D projects the applicant worked on that resulted in the development of a new technology that was ultimately patented. Contributions to development of technology that resulted in the publication of patents can be a great form of evidence to illustrate the impact of an applicant’s work, even if the applicant’s name was not personally mentioned in the patent. Expert letters from the organization that applied for the patent or the named inventor confirming the applicant’s contributions may help fill the gap.

3. Showcase all awards, recognitions you received from the industry.

If you have received any form of award or recognition from the industry, include evidence of this in your application. This is not limited to personal awards, but also covers situations, for example, where a product the applicant played a leading role developing has been shortlisted for an industry conference in recognition of its cutting-edge features. These awards can support that your work has generated positive discourse in the industry and that they can be seen as significant contributions to your field.

4. Case studies of major projects you have played a leading role in.

Finally, case studies of major projects can be a great way to strengthen a STEM applicant’s NIW application, because it shows the applicant’s unique expertise or technological insight has been utilized in real life and have been sought-after by commercial actors. Proof of projects with recognized “big name” players (think Google, Meta, Samsung, Microsoft) can be especially helpful. In your NIW application, you can include evidence you participated in a leading role in these projects (both through contracts and expert letters to clarify your role) and work product you generated for projects, such as internal/external reports or even powerpoint presentations. If the results of such project were commercialized, include information on how many units were sold, how many users reached, and how much revenue generated.

In sum, the EB2 NIW green card is an excellent option for professionals in STEM fields who can show they have made significant contributions to their field. The challenge is how to establish that the applicants’ work will result in broader benefits to the nation. Showcasing your research, contribution to patents, awards and recognitions, and previous projects in industry settings can help.

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