One of the major difficulties of securing permanent residency in the United States is finding an employer sponsor and going through the complex PERM process which also can be a lengthy process. However, the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) category offers a “fast-track” pathway to a green card without the need for an employer sponsorship or labor certification.
The key to obtaining a green card under the NIW category is to persuade the government that an individual’s contribution to their field through their work has a broad enough impact to have “national importance.” Not everything under the sun will make a compelling case for such importance. So careful planning, extensive documentation, and a thorough understanding of the criteria used by USCIS is key to positioning the best case for approval in this elusive category. This post will outline the 4 steps of building a successful NIW case which applies to all fields.
1. Meeting the Advanced Degree Threshold
To be eligible for a green card under the EB2 category, an individual must first demonstrate either they are an “advanced degree professional,” defined as possessing a Masters degree or above in their specialty, which can also be met by having a Bachelors degree and over five years of progressive work experience, or have “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business, defined as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered.” To be considered an “exceptional ability” individual, the applicant must show at least three out of seven evidentiary criteria, which include evidence of recognition for achievements for significant contribution to their industry or field, such as awards.
2. Evidence of National Importance
To qualify for a green card under the NIW category, applicants are expected to demonstrate their work has “national importance.” National importance depends on whether the applicant’s work has a broad “prospective impact.” The applicant must present evidence that shows how their work not only benefits their immediate employer or clients, but will impact the field more broadly, for example by fostering technological progress or advances in scientific knowledge.
Broad, industry-wide impact can be shown in any field, not only science. For example, an entrepreneur was approved for the NIW for a project to develop innovative programs to improve veterans’ services and wounded warrior care, filling gaps in existing programming in the field of philanthropy and improving the lives of numerous veterans as a result. The important consideration is the capacity of the applicant’s project to spark progress in their fields in a way that serves the public interest.
3. Expert opinion letters
A critical aspect of building a successful NIW case is obtaining opinion letters from experts in the field that provide concrete examples and explanation on how and why the applicant’s work stands to impact the field as a whole, and how the applicant has a record of success that has already positively impacted their field. Expert letters are typically endorsed by academics or prominent leaders in the industry with decades of experience, who are familiar with the applicant’s work and can recognize and explain the applicant’s contributions in sufficient detail.
4. Track record of success
To qualify for the NIW, not only does an individual’s proposed work in the United States need to have national importance, but the individual must prove they are well positioned to advance this endeavor. The government interprets “well positioned” to mean the individual has a “track record of success” in their field of endeavor. A successful petition will often include records from one’s previous employment history, which may involve collaborations with prestigious organizations or government agencies, experience leading projects that received significant public interest, attention, or widely commercialized, or research projects that produced publicly disseminated outcomes such as a patent or paper. For entrepreneurs, a record of business growth through revenue growth, hiring, third-party investments secured, incubator or accelerator admission, can also constitute a track record of success.
Building a successful case for a green card under the EB2 National Interest Waiver category is a comprehensive process that involves extensive document preparation and careful strategy in case presentation. By following the four steps outlined above – meeting the threshold, proving national importance, expert opinion letters, and proving a track record of success – you can increase your chances at obtaining the green card under the NIW pathway. An immigration attorney with broad experience in NIW cases can provide you with invaluable guidance and support throughout the process.
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