We all know that obtaining an employment-based green card can be a long and intensive process that usually requires job offers, labor certifications, petitions, and long waiting periods. Each different preference level has its benefits as well as its disadvantages. Fortunately, there are two types of green cards that circumvent both the labor certification and job offer requirements by allowing you to self-petition.
The national interest waiver (NIW) is a powerful option for certain highly qualified people to get a green card to the United States through self-petition. With an approved national interest waiver, someone can get a green card without having a job offer.
What Is Being Waived?
Normally, an EB-2 category green card process requires an employer to sponsor someone by offering a permanent job and “testing” the labor market to see if qualified U.S. workers are available instead.
This process, known as labor certification, involves advertising the job through a rigid series of steps. It’s a process that can be lengthy and expensive. The government agency reviewing the case may reject or deny it if it finds that the company identified a suitable U.S. worker but refused to hire that person or if there were inconsistencies in the application process.
On the other hand, with the national interest waiver, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides that the person’s work is so important to the U.S. that there’s no need to prioritize a U.S. worker. It will thus “waive” or set aside the requirements of employer sponsorship and labor certification.
Benefits of NIW
1. Ability to Self-Petition.
As mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of the EB2 national interest waiver is the ability to self-petition for your green card. Through the national interest waiver, you do not need to go through the hassle of finding a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your immigrant petition. Another benefit is that you can avoid the labor certification process altogether through the national interest waiver.
Another primary benefit of the national interest waiver is the speed of the process. Through a traditional employer-sponsored green card, the process can be very long. The employer has to undergo various recruitment activities and obtain an approved labor certification from the Department of Labor. This process alone can take several months to complete. However, the benefit of the EB2 national interest waiver is that there is no need do go through the labor certification process. You can file your immigrant petition directly, which saves a tremendous amount of time.
National Interest Waiver Requirements. There are 4 main requirements to qualify for EB2 NIW:
1. You must qualify under the EB2 immigrant category
2. Your proposed endeavor in the U.S. must have substantial merit and national importance
3. You must be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
4. You must show that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirement that you have a job offer and that a U.S. company undergo the labor certification process.
You must be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
To qualify for a national interest waiver, you must demonstrate that you are well-positioned to advance your proposed endeavor. When determining whether you satisfy this requirement, USCIS is looking to see your potential to contribute to the national interest based on your prospective work in the field.
Here are some factors USCIS uses to determine whether you satisfy this requirement:
● record of success in related or similar efforts
● model or plan for future activities
● any progress towards achieving your proposed endeavor
● interest from potential customers, users, investors, or other relevant entities or individuals
Required Documents to Apply for a National Interest Waiver
There are many different types of documents that should be included in your application for a national interest waiver. The documents that you will include will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Before making any decisions regarding what documents to submit with your case, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.
Here is a general list of some of the documents that may be included:
● Copies of your educational degrees
● Evidence of exceptional ability (if applicable)
● Curriculum Vitae (CV)
● Citation report
● Link to Google Scholar profile
● Publications, articles, books that you have authored
● Evidence of prizes or awards that you have received
● Evidence that you have reviewed the work of others
● Published material about you/your field of endeavor
● Evidence of the receipt of grants/patents
● Copy of the biographic page of your passport
● Testimonials from experts in your field
National Interest Waiver Process
Step 1. Consult with an Immigrant Lawyer
The first step in the NIW process is to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. An experienced immigration lawyer can review your credentials and provide you with an analysis regarding the likelihood of approval of your case.
Step 2. File Form I-140 with USCIS
The Form I-140 is also called the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This is the initial form that must be filed with USCIS to apply for a green card under EB2 NIW.
Step 3. Either Adjustment of Status or Visa Processing
Once your Form I-140 is approved, and a visa number is available for you, the next step will be to either do an adjustment of status or to undergo immigrant visa processing.
National Interest Waiver Fees
Here are the USCIS filing fees for each step of the EB2 NIW process:
-Filing Fee for Form I-140: $700
-Filing Fee for Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status): $1,225
-Premium Processing Fee: Optional $2,500
National Interest Waiver Processing Time
The overall processing time to receive your green card through EB-2 NIW will depend on multiple factors. Please see below for the different scenarios.
1. Concurrent Filing of Form I-140 and Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status)
If you are lawfully present in the U.S. in valid non-immigrant status, and if a visa number is available, you may be eligible to concurrently file your Form I-140 and Form I-485. In this case, you should receive your work authorization (EAD) and travel permission (advance parole) within 7-10 months, depending on current USCIS processing times. You should receive your green card thereafter, depending on USCIS processing times.
2. Immigrant Visa Processing with Current Priority Date
If you are not lawfully present in the U.S. and wish to do immigrant visa processing abroad, you will first have to file the I-140 with USCIS. Once the I-140 is approved, you can then undergo immigrant visa processing. The I-140 takes about 7+ months to get approved, depending on current USCIS visa processing times. Once the I-140 is approved and assuming a visa number is available (current priority date), you can then begin immigrant visa processing which takes an additional 7-9 months. So, the total processing time would be about 14-17 months, again, depending on current USCIS processing times.
3. Priority Date Note Current (Visa Backlog)
There is a very high demand for visas under the EB2 category for countries like India and China. The demand is higher than the number of visas available, so there is visa retrogression (visa backlog). This means that, for certain countries, there is a wait list for people to get a visa under the EB-2 category. Suppose you were born in a country that has a visa backlog. Once your I-140 petition is approved, you will have to wait for a visa number to become available (wait for your priority date to become current) before you can apply for your immigrant visa or adjustment of status. If this applies to you, the total time it takes to get your green card can be many years.
The EB2 national interest waiver is a great option for getting lawful permanent residence (a green card) in the United States without a job offer. Through the EB2 national interest waiver, you can self-petition for your green card and apply for your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old.
The EB-2 NIW has a high standard that you must meet to get your case approved. Therefore, it is very important to work with an experienced lawyer to prepare and file your application.
If you have any questions regarding any of the information in this guide, or if you’re interested in hiring Direct U.S. Immigration to handle your immigration case, feel free to email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a consultation.