To obtain a National Interest Waiver, a petitioner should provide the evidence to fulfill the requirements. Under EB2 NIW the US government waives the need for a job offer to get a green card. However, one must prove to hold an advanced degree or show exceptional ability. Furthermore, the applicant should clearly explain why their endeavor is of substantial merit and is of National Importance.
The applicant writes a cover letter to guide the USCIS officer through all the documentation that supports the case. These documents are typically enclosed in the petition as Exhibits. Therefore, the EB2 NIW cover letter should be effective in providing a narrative to support the case for a National Interest Waiver. An effective cover letter should:
- Be easy to understand without being an expert in the field
- Reference all the important documents attached
- Highlight the most critical aspects that support the case
- Be organized according to the requirements for NIW for easy review
How to write an effective EB2 NIW cover letter
Plan before you write
Even before writing anything, as the petitioner, you should think about the case you want to make. In other words, dedicate some time to strategize about your I-140 petition. In the post about EB-2 NIW processing time I mentioned that 1 to 2 weeks is the time to dedicate to this planning stage.
What you want to do first is to update your CV with all your experience and skills. This will help you understand your own profile better. Then, focus on those items you think the I-140 petition should highlight. Consequently, you will understand what evidence you need to gather to support your case. In addition, you will better understand what evidence you need to collect through letters of recommendation. Typically, you leverage those letters to obtain evidence hard to substantiate through other means.
For example, imagine you are a scientist working in a private company and you could not submit papers for publication, so your organization did not lose intellectual property opportunities. In this case, you can have at least one recommender from your company describing in layman’s words what contributions you made.
What language to use in a EB2 NIW cover letter
…and I am not talking about English (duh!). Use very easy language that anyone can understand. You may be a nuclear physicist, an expert in virology, or perhaps a neurosurgeon. It does not matter how complicated your field is. You need to write about your endeavor and your achievements in a way that even your family could understand. Think that the USCIS officer may not an expert in any technical field! (Other than in green card applications, of course).
In addition, remember that the officer has limited time. You should make his or her life easier by going to the point and avoiding unnecessary repetition. Just put yourself in their situation: imagine you are slammed by a multiple hundred-page package to review in a limited time. The EB2 cover letter should really be quick to go through so all the evidence is well articulated and a decision can be made relatively fast. By not helping the officer and making the document too long, you are hurting your own case! He or she may get bored and lose interest, or perhaps think that if you are repeating the same things over and over you do not have the qualifications that you claim to have.
Quotes and Exhibit references
Remember that the cover letter is only a guide for the USCIS to understand your case effectively. You will provide all the evidence as Exhibits. In the cover letter, you will quote excerpts from letters of recommendation, or other documents, as needed.
Structure of EB2 NIW cover letter
The following structure for the cover letter can be helpful to articulate the case in an effective way:
- Letter Introduction – very short summary of each section in the cover letter
- Table of Contents – an index with page numbers
- Chapter 1: Advanced Degree or Exception Ability Section
- Chapter 2: Substantial Merit and National Importance
- Chapter 3: I am Well Positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
- Chapter 4: It would be beneficial to the USA to waive the Labor Certification
- Petitioner’s nonimmigrant status
- Petitioner’s dependents status
1. Cover Letter Introduction
In this section, you will address the USCIS offer and introduce them to your petition. This section contains basic information on the top, such as:
- USCIS address (check the right USCIS address in the official website)
- Subject line, for example “RE: EB-2 Immigrant Petition for Permanent Residency with National Interest Waiver”
- Petitioner name, type of submission (Original submission), classification sought (Immigration and Nationality Act 203(b)(2)(B))
Then, you can write a short letter to the officer introducing yourself. First, you can simply state you are pursuing approval for the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (I-140) as a self-petitioner/beneficiary and that you would like to demonstrate your fulfillment of the EB-2 National Interest Waiver requirements and provide evidence to support it.
Next, you can tell the officer that you are eligible for EB-2 classification as either an Advanced Degree Holder, or due to your Exceptional Ability. Here you can cite Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. §1153(b)(2) as the regulation of reference. You can specifically state what Advanced Degree you hold, or what three criteria you fulfill for exceptional ability. You can reference Chapter 1.
In the next paragraph, you can state that you will be providing further evidence to demonstrate that a waiver of the labor certification is in the national interest, pursuant to the precedent case Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016). Interim Decision #3882. You can reference Chapter 2.
Finally, you can provide three short paragraphs, each one addressing Chapters 3, 4, 5. These are the justifications for why the proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance, why you are well-positioned, and why it would be beneficial to waive the labor certification. In each paragraph, you can reference the appropriate Chapter.
You can remind the USCIS officer that there are Exhibits under the letter, and can provide them as a bulleted list.
2. Table of Contents
The table of contents is exactly what the name suggests: and index with Chapter titles and subsections with page numbers.
3. Chapter 1 – Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability Section
If you are an advanced degree holder this will be a very quick Chapter. You only need to state what type of degree you hold (M.S., or Ph.D., for example), the institution, and reference to the appropriate Exhibit number. It is wise to provide a short explanation of how this degree is related to the endeavor you are going to be discussing later in the document.
If you do not have an advanced degree, you will state that you are a person of exceptional ability and provide the reasons. Then, create subsections to address each of the (at least three) categories that you meet. For each of them, remember to refer to the appropriate Exhibit containing the evidence. This evidence may be Letters of Recommendation, educational degrees, or proof of membership in professional associations, to name a few.
You can finish this Chapter with a statement saying that you qualify for EB-2 classification as either a member of the professions holding an advanced degree or a person who has exceptional ability.
4. Chapter 2 – Substantial Merit and National Importance
In this chapter you will explain in detail what endeavor you will pursue as a worker in the United States. In addition you will specify why this endeavor is of substantial merit and of national importance. First of all, remember that endeavor is not just a general occupation. USCIS restricts the definition as the details of what this occupation involves specifically.
Second, substantial merit is a broad term that could mean multiple things; anything of intrinsic merit. Third, national importance is more restrictive. This is because you need to prove the endeavor is relevant for the US as a whole. In other words, it cannot impact only part of the country! We covered this in a separate blog post about how to qualify for National Interest Waiver.
You should start this chapter by clearly identifying the endeavor and the impacts on the United States. In addition, specify the type of work you do to advance this endeavor. Then, you can break down this chapter into subchapters to explain the benefits of the endeavor for the US. For example, in my case, I used “Bioprocessing to generate biofuels and bioproducts” as my endeavor. Then, I had different subsections:
- Brief introduction to the field
- Impact on Food Safety and Security
- Impact on Energy and National Security
- Summary of benefits to the nation
In each of these sub-sections, I used quotes from the Exhibits to prove substantial merit and national importance. These quotes were taken from the recommendation letters and from documents from the US government. Typically, you want to demonstrate National Importance using published documents from Congress, or the White House, or some government agency. You want to connect the dots between your experience (and endeavor) and what the US government considers strategic. This makes your case very strong! In the post about how to qualify for NIW I gave a few links that may be useful for this. Alternatively, you can also find references in the scientific literature that speak to the dimensions of a certain problem you can help solve. Finally, excerpts from reference letters can help bring these points home.
Example from sample EB2 NIW cover letter
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5. Chapter 3 – I am Well Positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
This is another central section of the cover letter, in which you must describe your achievements in detail. This is because you need to establish how you are well-positioned. You have to do it in a methodical way and always reference the documents attached as Exhibits. Remember that every claim needs supporting evidence. Below is the structure I used for my third Chapter. Each of the bullet points were sub-headings in my cover letter.
[Please keep in mind that this is just a sample letter structure, and you can use a different structure if it fits you better. There are no guidelines by USCIS on how to do this. You may have additional (or less) qualifications or experience that may need a different approach.]
- Background and achievements.
- Summary of qualifications. After reminding the officer about my advanced degree, I went on to provide additional qualifications. You can provide proof of being a member of professional associations, peer-review publications, and citations (for scientists), and quote certain relevant passages from recommendation letters.
- Specific exceptional contributions to the field. I broke them down by project I worked on. I included specific evidence showing the impact my work had had in the broader field. Since I am a scientist I provided evidence of the publications that my work produced (including the number of citations) and statements from the reference letters.
- Project 1
- Project 2
- Project 3…
- Evidence of the influence of my research. This is more specific to scientists, but other professions can use a similar sub-section adapted to the field. For scientists, you can use your Google Scholar profile to show your publications and how many citations you received.
- Review work from peers in international journals. This one is also specific to researchers. But other professions may have alternative ways to demonstrate that they judge the work of others. For example, you may have participated in competitions as a judge, may have been a member of hiring panels, or may have overseen the work of others and participated in their performance reviews. Be creative in finding evidence that shows you are a reputable member of the profession.
- Commanding a higher salary. You may choose to include this as part of your demonstration of exceptional ability, which may help establish how you are well-positioned in the field. A good way to demonstrate this is to compare your salary/compensation with those shown in CareerOneStop, a portal by the US Department of Labor, for similar positions. Additionally, you can use other sources of information.
- Conclusions to Chapter 3. A short statement reiterating that you are well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.
For this chapter, you can include a Personal Statement letter as an Exhibit. Alternatively, if you are an entrepreneur, you may provide a Business Plan (you can find examples here). These are especially useful if you are not currently working in the United States. You can use this letter for Chapter 3 (proving you are well-positioned) and for Chapter 4 (waive the Labor Certification). We will cover Personal Statements in a different blog post. But until then, you should know that this type of statement may be a 1 to 4 page letter where you briefly describe your background and spend most of the letter explaining plans for your work once in the United States.
6. Chapter 4 – It would be beneficial to the USA to waive the Labor Certification
In this Chapter, generally shorter than the previous two, you can explain why the US should waive the Labor Certification. You can do this in different ways.
First, you can remind the USCIS officer that a labor certification considers only minimum requirements but not exceptional abilities. Here, you can briefly reiterate why your achievements are exceptional. You may refer to previous Chapters and even bring new quotes from reference letters to convey the message.
Second, if you are already working in the United States, you can provide evidence that your organization needs you. Consequently, by extension, you are needed in the country. You can briefly explain again that your work is critical for the nation and finding another professional in the field with similar contributions is extremely difficult.
In addition, you can literally state that your exceptional skills and track record of achievements cannot be articulated in a labor certification process. This is because this process would lead to choosing a person with weaker skills and experience than you have. During this section, it would be immensely helpful if someone in your organization had provided a letter of recommendation, that can be quoted.
If you are not currently working in the US, you refer to a EB2 NIW Personal Statement letter or a business plan, to help argue the need for waiving the labor certification.
7. Petitioner’s nonimmigrant status
In this section, you can briefly describe your current status as a nonimmigrant in the United States. Of course, this applies only if you are already in the US and not if you are applying from abroad using Consular Processing. Remember to attach the pertinent documentation to the Exhibits section. This includes copies of visas, EAD cards, passport, I-94…
8. Petitioner’s dependents status
Even though the I-140 petition is centered on you, it is necessary to mention that you have dependents if that is the case. This is because in case you are granted a green card, they will also be eligible for it. In this section, you can describe what is their nonimmigrant status and reference the appropriate Exhibit where their documentation is.
This section is self-explanatory. In approximately one page, summarize all the Chapters of the EB2 NIW cover letter and wrap it up with a final call for the USCIS officer to consider your petition. Remember to thank them for the time they put into reviewing your case! Tip: Adding your signature in ink at the bottom makes the letter look more formal.
After the writing process: proofread
As for every part of the I-140 petition, you should invest a considerable amount of time going through what you wrote. This is a central part of the petition and you want to make sure there are no grammar issues, typos, or errors referencing the Exhibits. For grammar checks, I use the tool Grammarly. They have a free plan that integrates well in apps like Microsoft Word. Additionally, you can upgrade to a paid plan for extra functionalities. In addition to using this type of tool, you may share your cover letter with a friend or colleague to get a second review. They can even provide feedback on how easy it is to understand, especially if they are outside your professional field.
How long should the EB2 NIW cover letter be?
There are no official rules about how long the EB-2 NIW cover letter should be. Typically, letters of 10 to 40 pages are common. Considering the amount of evidence that an EB-2 NIW case includes, it is hard to think shorter letters can be effective. It is likely that the USCIS officer misses some evidence because the content was condensed too much. On the opposite side, a cover letter that is too lengthy may be repetitive and boring. My EB-2 NIW cover letter was 22 pages long. In hand sight, I think I could have made it a bit shorter by avoiding unnecessary repetition.
The EB-2 NIW cover letter: closing comments
In this blog post we went through what the cover letter is and how to write a successful one. Remember that this is the guide for the USCIS to navigate your petition. Invest time on planning it and drafting it. Follow a structure that matches the requirements for this green card category, so it is easy to review for the USCIS officer. Use language easy to understand and avoid repetition. Finally, remember to double check references to Exhibits and correct all grammar and typos you can find.