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NIW vs. Employer Sponsored Green Card: Which One Is Right For You?

Explore your options

Self-petitioning for a green card under the EB2 NIW category is increasingly becoming popular among professionals with advanced degrees. At the same time, obtaining a green card through employer sponsorship, also known as the PERM process, remains the most common and most broadly applicable option of obtaining a green card through employment.

This post will compare these two options and discuss which circumstances may be best suited for either option.

No job offer from US sponsor? Consider EB2 NIW

EB2 NIW is a green card category that allows self-petitioning, which means you don’t need a US company to act as the petitioner and file the I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker, on your behalf.  EB2 NIW can be an ideal option for professionals who had developed their careers in a foreign country and have difficulty securing a US job offer and finding a US company that is willing to go through the immigrant petition process for them.

Self-employed? Entrepreneur? Want more freedom in work arrangement? Consider EB2 NIW

In a similar vein, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals cannot avail themselves of the traditional employer sponsorship route, because entrepreneurs typically have significant ownership interest in the entity where they work. For this reason, EB2 NIW offers significant advantage in allowing applicants to self-petition.  EB2 NIW is also popular among individuals who have a job offer but personally want more control over the immigrant petition process and want the option to continue with the green card process even if they decide to leave their current employer.

No advanced degree? Lesser skilled position? Consider PERM

The main advantage of PERM is it opens up immigration options for all kinds of positions, not only for the EB2 category, for jobs that require a Masters degree or above, but also for the EB3 category for jobs that do not require degrees, such as truck drivers. A common myth is that truck drivers would qualify for a green card under the EB2 NIW category because the US has a shortage of truck drivers. In fact, truck drivers are not an advanced degree profession under the EB2 category, so employer sponsorship in the EB3 category is the appropriate pathway. If there is indeed a shortage of truck drivers in the particular region, it shouldn’t pose a difficulty for the employer to get the labor certification approved. Though the process would take a bit longer than a NIW would, an employer may very well be willing to look ahead and make the investment to fill long-term shortages in their workforce by sponsoring foreign workers.

Nature of work primarily benefits employer? Consider PERM

Employer sponsorship may be the most straightforward way to apply for a green card if the nature of an employee’s work primarily benefits the employer but does not extend much further to the industry as a whole. For example, a lawyer in a law firm who focuses on providing good services to the firm’s direct clients, but does not actively offer innovations to the field of law as a whole, may be a great case for a PERM but a weak case for an NIW. The NIW would only work for a lawyer if, for example, the lawyer was recognized as being a thought leader in the academic community through authorship of papers or presentations in conferences, making it reasonable to expect the lawyer’s work would impact the field of law more broadly. In other words, the NIW would only work if the lawyer would contribute novel insights to the field that can inform and benefit other experts in the field of law.

In conclusion, the EB2 NIW and PERM are both popular options for foreign workers who seek a U.S. green card through employment. The EB2 NIW and PERM are designed for very different classifications of applicants, though, and fill different needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for immigration, so the advice of an immigration attorney can be very helpful for you to get a full picture of all the options available to you according to your particular circumstances.

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