The EB-2 NIW is a second preference employment-based visa category for specialized professionals who seek to live and work permanently in the United States — to further their endeavors. The fields generally represented in NIW petitions include, though are not limited to athletics, entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), arts, culture, health, and education.

But how hard is it to get an EB-2 NIW visa?

Though the EB-2 subcategory typically otherwise requires a job offer and a labor certification, in order for applicants to be eligible, the NIW does not. This makes obtaining an EB-2 NIW somewhat easier than a standard EB-2. It is also easier to get than an EB-1 visa, provided the petitioner meets the eligibility criteria.

EB-2 NIW Visa

The NIW is a path for a green card, which is valid for 10 years, though it can be renewed after five years. Ultimately, if all the conditional requirements are met, NIW beneficiaries can apply for U.S. citizenship. 

Here are the three factors the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers for NIWs:

  • The proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance
  • The applicant is well-positioned to advance his or her proposed endeavor
  • It would benefit the U.S. to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements

Check out our article about how to apply for an EB-2 NIW for more information on the application.

Eligibility Criteria for an EB-2 NIW

In order to be eligible for an EB-2 NIW, applicants must submit documentary evidence of each of the following:

  • Demonstration of being qualified for an advanced degree or exceptional ability EB-2 visa
  • Demonstration of a proposed endeavor of substantial merit and national importance (you may need to submit an EB-2 NIW business plan)
  • Demonstration of being well-positioned to advance their proposed endeavor 
  • Demonstration that it is in the best interest of the United States as a whole to waive the job offer and labor certification process requirements

Advanced Degree

The job must require an advanced degree, and the petitioner must hold that degree or its foreign equivalent.

The required evidence can be documented by providing the following:

  • Official academic record(s) of a U.S. advanced degree or its foreign equivalent
  • A U.S. baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent
  • A U.S. doctorate or its foreign equivalent
  • Letters from current or past employers which include five or more years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in the specialized field

Exceptional Ability

The NIW petitioner must be able to provide evidence of exceptional ability of expertise, significantly above that which is ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts or business.

The required evidence can be documented by providing three or more of the following:

  • Official academic record(s) relating to the petitioner’s area of exceptional ability, by way of a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a higher education institution
  • Letters from current or past employers which include 10 years of full-time experience in the specialized occupation
  • A license or certification to practice the profession or occupation (when applicable)
  • Evidence of a salary or other remuneration which demonstrates exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association(s) related to the specialized occupation
  • Prizes, awards or other recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the specialized field or industry, by peers, government entities, professional, or other business organizations
  • Any other evidence which would be considered comparable

Difficulty in Proving EB-2 NIW Eligibility

Here is a cursory overview of the three-pronged approach USCIS officers use when determining EB-2 NIW eligibility:

  1. The proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance

Petitioners are required to provide the details of what their occupation normally entails and the specific types of work they propose to undertake within their occupation. This document would include goals, the area of occupation and relevant projects, which exceeds any basic list of responsibilities the petitioner would have. 

Additionally, the petitioner’s proposed endeavor should have the potential for significantly impacting the U.S. economy, though it is technically not an absolute requirement. 

To increase eligibility probability, foreign nationals would need to at least provide the rationale for potential prospective impact within the U.S. For instance, implications on a national or global scale where there are major process improvements, medical advances or job creation for U.S. workers.

Lastly, the petitioner’s proposed endeavor would potentially enrich culture or art, enhance the  welfare of society or it may contribute to technological advancements in the U.S.

  1. The person is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

Petitioners are required to provide the details of how they, on a personal level, are well-positioned to advance their proposed endeavor.

Meaning, they must include documentary evidence of the following:

  • Higher Education degree(s)
  • Skill set relevant to their occupation
  • Knowledge
  • Record of success in their field, or in otherwise similar efforts
  • Development, or contribution to the development, of their proposed endeavor’s future activities
  • Progress towards achieving their proposed endeavor
  • Interest or support acquired by potential customers, users, investors, or other pertinent constituents 
  • Past achievements and projected corroborations related to their proposed endeavor
  • Feasible plans for financial support
  • Licenses
  • Letters from government entities
  • Contracts 
  • Patents
  • Other components apropos to the cause

It is worth mentioning, even if you aren’t perfectly well-positioned to advance your proposed endeavor, due to lacking the ability to demonstrate that it is most likely to succeed, you are still encouraged to apply. Especially if you meet all the other criteria. USCIS officers are required to take into consideration the totality of your circumstances in a level of individuality.

A detailed list of evidentiary types can be found on the USCIS EB-2 NIW website.

  1. It benefits the U.S. to waive the job offer and permanent labor certification requirements

USCIS officers won’t begin the third prong determinations until petitioners meet the first two. Therefore, it is important to be exhaustively detailed in each evidentiary document within the first two prongs shown above.

Petitioners are required to provide the following favoring factors:

  1. The waiver outweighs the job offer and labor certification requirements 
  2. The waiver will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. workers

Therefore, foreign nationals should provide evidentiary documentation of at least one of the following Matter of Dhanasar factors:

  • A labor certification would be impractical
  • Though other U.S. workers were available, the petitioner’s contributions would potentially benefit the U.S. 
  • The petitioner’s contributions are urgent to the nation’s interest
  • Requiring a labor certification might otherwise prevent an employer from hiring someone possessing a unique knowledge or skill set, which exceeds the occupational standard’s minimum requirements
  • Foregoing the labor certification process is warranted based on public safety or public health
  • The petitioner’s proposed endeavor can potentially generate considerable revenue for economic revitalization
  • Their endeavor would potentially create jobs for U.S. workers

A more succinct guidance on EB-2 NIW visa eligibility can be found on the USCIS EB-2 NIW website.

In addition to providing evidence of the above requirements, the NIW process is a lengthy one. Though it seems an NIW would be quite difficult to obtain, it can be achieved with more ease than an EB-1 visa.

If you aren't sure if you qualify for the EB-2 NIW, read our blog to learn what the difference is between the EB-2 and the EB-2 NIW visas.

Advantages to applying for an EB-2 NIW

Petitioning for an EB-2 NIW is easier on otherwise potential sponsoring employers because there is no need for employers to petition on foreign nationals’ behalf. 

Additionally, employers are not required to test the job market for a ready, willing and available U.S worker to fill the role. This means the employer is also not required to apply for a permanent labor certification, or Program Electronic Review Management (PERM), issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which can take more than a year to complete and receive. Foregoing this process is certainly more cost efficient for U.S. employers as well. From fees related to the petition, to the testing of the job market, to the conduction of countless interviews.

The probability of an EB-2 NIW petitioner gaining an approval is therefore significantly higher than that of standard EB-2 petitioners.  

Processing Times of EB-2 NIW Forms

The Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (Form I-140) processing times take between six months and two years, though it highly depends from where the petitioner is filing their application. 

Upon the receipt of a Notice of Action regarding the petition’s approval (Form I-797), the petitioner would need to check the Visa Bulletin on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) website. There, petitioners can ascertain whether the visa is available. When it is, they will need to begin the permanent residency application process.

The Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) processing times currently take about two years.

If the petitioner believes they have a strong case, they are encouraged to file Forms I-140 and I-485 concurrently to reduce wait times. 

To expedite the processing of Form I-140, within the scope of an EB-2 NIW petition, petitioners can opt for Premium Processing, which reduces the adjudication time down to 45 calendar days.

Notedly, foreign nationals with previously submitted NIW petitions can check the status of their case online, on to the USCIS website.

EB-2 NIW Costs

Certainly! Below is the data in a tabular format:

EB-2 NIW ServiceFee
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition$700
I-907, Premium Processing (this is an optional service)$2,500
Form I-485, Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status$1,140
Biometric Services Fee$85
table showing how much each EB-2 NIW service costs the applicant

Frequently Asked Questions About How Hard Is It To Get an EB-2 NIW Visa?

Is it difficult to get an EB-2 NIW?

Yes, obtaining an EB-2 NIW is difficult. This is because petitioners must show the United States government that they and their proposed endeavor within the U.S. has substantial merit, and is of national importance. It is more difficult than obtaining an EB-3, but it is easier than getting an EB-1 and a standard EB-2 visa. 

How Do I Qualify for an EB-2 NIW?

A petitioner of an NIW is required to demonstrate that it is in the United States’ interest for him or her to gain lawful U.S.permanent residence — in order to simply further their proposed endeavor. First by obtaining an EB-2 visa. Then by petitioning for an NIW, including documentary evidence that their degree(s) and abilities are exceptional. Lastly, by adhering to the Matter of Dhanasar factors outlined in this article above.

Is an EB-2 NIW an employment-based green card?

Yes, beneficiaries of an NIW receive an EB-2 visa, and after adjusting their status to permanent U.S. resident (a green card). It is valid for 10 years, can be renewed and is a path to U.S. citizenship.

Conclusion of How Hard Is It To Get an EB-2 NIW Visa?

If you are a non-U.S. citizen, and possess either an advanced degree or exceptional ability in your occupation, and desire to contribute to the betterment of the United States, the EB-2 NIW may be a great option for you. If you meet the criteria, obtaining an NIW will not be too hard for you.

Unlike standard EB-2, where you would otherwise be required to secure a U.S.-based job offer and a labor certification from a sponsoring employer (and DOL, respectively), the EB-2 NIW is a moderately easy option to permanently live and work in the U.S. while furthering your endeavor.

While it certainly depends on your knowledge, skill set, field of endeavor, and potential to impact the U.S., you as an NIW petitioner can be assured that the process is the faster and more cost effective option (than an typical EB-2 visa). Especially if you file your application forms concurrently, and opt for premium processing.

The difficulty of obtaining an EB-2 NIW lies mostly in the burden of proof. Consequently, you will need to provide evidentiary documentation of your proposed endeavor, as well as substantiation of your claim — in that your endeavor is of national or global importance. Though this visa subcategory is more difficult than an EB-3, it is easier than an EB-1 and conventional EB-2.