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What Is A National Interest Waiver Green Card? The complete Guide in 2022

Posted on September 7, 2022
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By Heather Beliles, M. Ed.

Any foreign national interested in getting permanent residency (a green card) can do so by petitioning for a National Interest Waiver (NIW), as this is a method of seeking employment-based permanent residency in the United States without needing sponsorship from an employer. In this post, we will cover all the details around the national interest waiver green card process.

As long as the applicant has an EB visa, he or she can get a green card by self-petitioning for the waiver, which saves valuable time. The reason for self-petitioning is two-fold:

  1. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ requirement for a concurrent job offer from a United States-based company would be waived. 
  2. There is no need to be sponsored by a U.S. company. Both reasons expedite the green card application process as the otherwise potential employer does not need to test the job market, nor do employers need to seek labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The key is to be able to prove to the USCIS that the applicant’s work is of national importance and that it serves as a national benefit to the United States in areas such as education, business, health, science, etc.

NIW Petition Requirements

In order for foreign nationals to qualify for the EB-2 waiver, they must satisfy the following four main requirements:

  • The applicant must qualify under the EB-2 visa category
  • The applicant’s proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance to the United States
  • The applicant must possess the ability to develop and/or proceed his or her proposed endeavor
  • The applicant must demonstrate how their work would be beneficial to the United States, therefore waiving the otherwise requirement that he or she must have already been extended a job offer, thus removing the labor certification process U.S. companies would otherwise undergo 

USCIS officers use specific metrics while determining the applicant’s potential, and whether their contribution truly is of national interest - they are as follows: 

  • The applicant’s higher education and knowledge
  • The applicant’s skills
  • The applicant’s past and current performance as it relates to their proposed endeavor
  • The applicant’s proposed endeavor itself 
  • any progress towards achieving your proposed endeavor
  • Any interest from potential clients, end users, investors, etc.

If the applicant qualifies first for the EB-2 visa category, he or she must also have an advanced degree or exceptional ability in their field.

Meeting the advanced-degree requirement, the applicant needs to have either a Master's degree, Ph.D., or another post-baccalaureate degree. If the petitioner only has a Bachelor's, the USCIS allows this, but he or she must also have five years of experience.

Meeting the exceptional ability requirement requires at least three of the following:

  • Official academic records of degrees, diplomas, certificates, or awards as they relate to the area of exceptional ability
  • Supporting evidence of full-time experience for at least ten years
  • License or certifications to practice the profession
  • Supporting evidence of the salary (or any other remuneration) for services, demonstrating exceptional ability
  • Membership in professional association(s), particularly ones requiring certain achievements for membership
  • Recognition for any achievements/significant contributions to the field by either peers, government entities, and professional or business organizations
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility criteria is also acceptable, to USCIS, however applicants would first be required to prove the inability to provide evidence from the above categories, as they are either unavailable or are not pertainable

National Interest Waiver Green Card: Self-Petitioning

When applicants take the traditional route, the process can be very long. Starting from looking for the right job from an employer who would sponsor their visa, to the employer being required to make good-faith efforts to recruit a U.S. citizen for the open position – and only then if one isn’t found, they would get a labor certificate from the Department of Labor. 

As previously mentioned, one of the main benefits in applying for the waiver is the ability to self-petition for permanent residency. Ultimately, this means applicants can petition on their own account and circumvent the process of Program Electronic Review Management (PERM). Hence there would be no need to search for a U.S.-based employer who would be willing to sponsor their petition.

Required Documents to Apply for a National Interest Waiver Green Card

Specific circumstances of your case will determine which documents the applicant should include, however a general list of National Interest Waiver requirements are the following evidences:

  • Biographical passport page
  • Educational degrees and foreign equivalent degrees (where applicable)
  • Evidence of exceptional ability
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Citation report
  • Publications or articles or books
  • Prizes or awards received
  • Published material about you/your field of endeavor
  • Works of others the applicant has acted as a peer-reviewer
  • Grants and/or patents
  • Testimonials from experts in the same field
  • Link to Google Scholar profile (if applicable)

Conclusion of What Is a National Interest Waiver Green Card

EB-2 foreign nationals can apply for a green card through a National Interest Waiver without needing a U.S.-based sponsoring employer. The National Interest Waiver waives a lengthy process. The main benefits are, saving valuable time, employers do not need to go through the expensive labor certification process, and applicants do not need job offers in order to apply for NIW petitions. 

The alien worker’s proposed endeavors must be of substantial intrinsic merit as well as national importance. Applicants may self-petition for a green card so long as he or she possesses certain skills or exceptional abilities in business, science, the arts, technology, etc., or in athletics. Such abilities are ones not ordinarily encountered.

The main objective of getting an NIW is for applicants whose work benefits the United States with both substantial merit and experience. This could be by helping the advancement of healthcare, working wages, working conditions, education, access to affordable housing, environmental climate, technology, business, or athletics.

As long as the petitioner can demonstrate how well-positioned to advance in his or her proposed endeavor they are, he or she is likely to gain permanent residence in the United States through qualifying for a national interest waiver.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Is a National Interest Waiver Green Card (FAQs)

How do I apply for an NIW green card?

Applicants should submit all relevant documents which demonstrate that his or her work is of national importance and therefore qualifies them for the National Interest Waiver, along with their I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, to USCIS.

How do I know if I qualify for an NIW green card?

  • Qualify under the EB-2 visa category
  • Proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance
  • Possess the ability to develop and/or proceed proposed endeavor
  • Work must be beneficial to the United States

Can I apply for a green card for my spouse and children?

Yes, EB-2 NIW green card applicants’ spouses and children are eligible. As long as the children are not married, and are under 21 years of age.

What is being waived for an EB-2 NIW green card?

The lengthy and expensive process which otherwise requires the prospective employer to sponsor the beneficiary’s visa through first testing the job market for qualified U.S. citizens. The process is a labor certification known as PERM. Since the applicant’s work is claimed to serve the interests of the U.S., the requirement for a job offer from the employer is also waived.

Which industries and fields qualify for a National Interest Waiver?

Typically speaking, it is work that is of substantial merit and serves as national importance to the U.S. These terms aren’t particularly defined in immigration law, but they can be found in professions such as business, education, technology, science, the arts, athletics, as well as economics.

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