Obtaining a green card under current U.S. immigration law is a lengthy process that usually requires a labor certification or sponsoring employer, as well as job eligibility or a job offer. However, the National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an avenue by which a foreign national can circumvent the labor certification process that establishes eligibility for employment-based immigration.
In order to qualify for the NIW, the applicant must meet several criteria that establish that their unique abilities are of vital importance to national interests. However, qualifying for NIW status does not by itself establish the qualifications necessary to obtain a green card. For the foreign national seeking more information on the process, it is helpful to have legal guidance in the Los Angeles area to determine if this is a feasible avenue for obtaining permanent residency.
What are the eligibility requirements for the NIW?
There is a three-pronged test to determine eligibility for the NIW:
- the applicant works in an area or field that has substantive intrinsic merit;
- the work has national scope;
- the applicant’s qualifications and proven contributions to this area or field justify waiving the labor certification requirement, prioritizing the waiver over preserving job opportunities for U.S. workers.
The applicant must be able to show that they have exceptional abilities that are of vital importance to national interests, and that these abilities will better serve national interests than those of a U.S. worker with similar qualifications.
With the NIW, the foreign national does not need a sponsoring employer in order to begin the complicated and lengthy green card process. They can instead sponsor themselves, or self-petition, when filing the I-140 form, or Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
For what visa categories can the applicant seek a NIW?
A foreign national can seek the NIW through two main employment-based immigrant visa categories:
- Employment First Preference (E1), for priority worker and persons and extraordinary ability. This category includes persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education business or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; multinational managers or executives.
- Employment Second Preference (E2), for professionals holding advanced degrees and persons with exceptional ability.
Part of the application process for the NIW petition to demonstrate eligibility may include advanced degrees, a body of work that demonstrates substantial contributions of national interest, letters of recommendation from peers, awards and a record of government grants and publications.