For most green card categories, an applicant requires a sponsor, whether that be a family member or an employer. The National Interest Waiver green card gives applicants the ability to self-petition, meaning they can petition as individuals. If an NIW applicant has the option to self-petition or have a company sponsor them, they should consider their future goals.
What does it mean to self-petition for a National Interest Waiver (NIW)?
The ability to self-petition means that an applicant does not need an offer of employment from a company to get the green card through the NIW. The NIW falls under the EB-2 green card category, which is an employment-based green card category available to individuals who are members of professions requiring an advanced degree or those who have exceptional ability. Without the NIW, the EB-2 category requires an employer to sponsor an applicant through the PERM process, where the employer must test the U.S. labor market to determine if there are any willing, qualified and available U.S. workers. To qualify for the NIW, the applicant still must have an advanced degree or exceptional ability and must also be able to satisfy three additional criteria:
- You must show that your proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
- You must show that you are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and
- There must be a showing that on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.
When is it better to self-petition?
Although the NIW gives the applicant the option to self-petition, there is still the option to have a company sponsor the applicant for the NIW. If your field of endeavor and future plans involve working for multiple employers, such as engaging in consulting work for a variety of public and private companies and government agencies, self-petitioning may work best for you, as it will give you the freedom to work anywhere in your field of endeavor rather than be tied to a particular company. Additionally, if you are an entrepreneur and plan to start multiple businesses, it may make more sense to self-petition as opposed to having a company sponsor you. Another benefit to self-petitioning is that if you are working for a particular employer and the employment relationship changes or ends, your petition will still be viable as long as you can show you continue to meet the NIW criteria.
When is it better to have a company sponsor me?
If you are working for one company or organization and plan to do so for the foreseeable future, or if your proposed endeavor is closely tied to work you will only do for one specific organization (such as medical research) it could be more advantageous to have the company sponsor you.
Additionally, if you work for a very large, prestigious or well-known company, this could bolster the credibility of your application. Another potential benefit of having a company sponsor you is that they may be willing to pay for the legal and filing fees related to your green card process.
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