EB2 NIW Requirements

Learn about the EB2 NIW Requirements for your self petitioned green card

The different legs of the EB-2 NIW application

Under the EB-2 NIW category an applicant must submit evidence that proves that their work will benefit the US as a whole, and that they are well positioned to advance that endeavor. In summary, the individual must prove that it is in the US best interest to waive the labor certification 

Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability

US or equivalent foreign advanced degree (Masters or higher) or US bachelor or equivalent foreign degree plus proven >5 years progressive experience, or
Prove exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business

Substantial Merit and National Importance

The applicant must prove that their work is aligned with a goal that has national importance. In other words, it is not geographically localized but applicable to the benefit of the whole nation

Well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

The individual must prove that they can contribute to the field of national importance by demonstrating their skills, their track record, plan for future activities...

On balance, the applicant demonstrates that it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirement of a job offer

EB2 NIW Requirements

Image of American flagThe EB-2 category is an employment-based category for Green Cards. However, an exception is the subclass NIW, or National Interest Waiver. Here, the applicant is requesting from the US government a waiver on the requirement of sponsorship from an employer.  

Of course, to get this exception the applicant has to provide a fair amount of evidence to fulfill certain requirements:

1. The applicant should hold an Advanced Degree OR demonstrate Exceptional Ability.

Advanced Degree:

Documentation showing that the applicant has an advanced degree (Masters or higher) or a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years of progressive working experience in the field. Note the word “progressive”. It means that you can demonstrate you have gone up the ladder over the years. If a doctoral degree is typically required in the field, then that would be the degree to show.

This requirement can be fulfilled using official academic records (diplomas, transcripts).

Exceptional Ability:

The applicant must document their exceptional abilities in sciences, arts, or business. The USCIS interprets this as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered”.

This requirement can be met with at least three of the criteria below

   – Official academic record of a degree, diploma, certificate, etc from academic institution relating to the area of exceptional ability

   – Letters from current or past employers documenting 10 years or more of full-time experience in the occupation

   – License/certification to practice profession or occupation

   – Evidence of having commanded a higher salary than peers in the field, therefore proving exceptional ability

   – Membership in professional associations

   – Recognition for achievements and contributions to the field by peers, government entities, professional or business organizations

   – Other comparable evidence

2. The applicant’s work has substantial merit and national importance

Substantial merit is a broad term that can mean a lot of things. For example, it can mean that the work of the petitioner can improve critical infrastructure. Alternatively, the applicant may work on medical devices, or create sustainable products… In summary, this is a very wide and generic requirement.

On the other hand, national importance is more restrictive. It means that the endeavor taken by the petitioner aligns with one or more goals of the United States. It does not necessarily mean that it needs to apply to all 50 states, but it cannot be geographically limited.

For example, the reduction of pollution levels is a goal aligned with US goals and not localized to a specific area in the country. 

3. The applicant is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

The person needs to demonstrate that they have a plan to advance the endeavor. In addition, they have to prove that they have made progress on it and that they have the necessary support. In this context, support can mean personal or financial support. 

4. On balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer, and thus the labor certification

In summary, this means that there are enough reasons to “forgive” the first step of the green card process (labor certification). Therefore, no employment sponsorship is needed. In other words, even if there is a US person ready to do the job the United States will benefit from the foreigner coming to do that job.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the USCIS official website! It’s all there 🙂 

Frequently Asked Questions about EB-2 NIW

The cost for the overall process is variable; we estimate it between $2,800 and $13,000 and up. The biggest factor to consider is if you use lawyers or not. If you do, you will be in the higher end of the range. If you opt for a do-it-yourself EB2 NIW application, you can trim the costs to the government fees. We wrote an article breaking down the costs – go read it!

The EB2 NIW processing time can be between 6 months and a few years. It depends on the case complexity and how long it takes to prepare it. In addition, it depends on the moment of filing as the backlogs can be longer or shorter. Finally, the country of origin of the petitioner dictates the wait times too. You can read all about the time it takes to get a green card here.

Yes! On January 2023 USCIS made Premium Processing available to EB2 NIW applicants. Premium processing is an optional choice that currently costs $2,805 and can speed up the I-140 step. USCIS will issue a decision or an RFE within 45 calendar days. Read all about it in this blog post.

Using Premium Processing to expedite the I-140 decision is a personal choice you should make based on a number of factors, such as your financial health and the current USCIS processing times. In this blog post I have provided the key aspects to help you make your decision.

The Visa Bulletin is released every month and helps understanding when you can file for an adjustment of status with form I-485. However, it can be confusing to interpret. If you want to read all about it, check this blog post where I go over it.

NIW, or National Interest Waiver, is a sub-category within the EB-2 green cards. The EB-2 category is for individuals with an advanced degree or exceptional ability. The NIW application needs to meet a higher bar than a regular EB-2 submission. In addition to the advanced degree or exceptional ability, the petitioner has to demonstrate that their endeavor is of substantial merit and it benefits the US, among others. 

To apply for a regular EB-2 green card, the petitioner must have an employer sponsoring the application. In fact, the first step of the process, before submitting an I-140 form, is to request a permanent labor certification from the US Department of Labor. Once this is obtained, the employer can sponsor the I-140 petition.

Under NIW sub-category, however, the individual can self petition and does not need an employer sponsoring them. In other words, the government does not require a labor certification. Although this is clearly a benefit from NIW with respect to regular EB-2, the NIW applicant must provide additional evidence to justify the waiver of the labor certification.

An RFE, or Request for Evidence, is just a letter in which USCIS asks the petitioner for additional documentation before making a decision on a case. This may be bad news, neutral news, or bad news, depending on the situation. On the other hand, an NOID, or Notice of Intent to Deny, is generally bad news for the petitioner. The USCIS officer thinks the case is very weak or too many pieces of evidence are missing. Read more about RFE and NOID in this article.

The approval rate for EB-2 NIW ranges from 70% to almost 100% depending on the quarter analyzed. USCIS releases statistics on a quarterly basis and I have presented this data in a recent blog post you can read here.

I-140 petitions under EB2 NIW category typically include recommendation letters. These letters are helpful to establish the applicant as a person of exceptional ability. In addition, they can help proving that the endeavor is of national interest. We made a very detailed blog post explaining how to find the best recommenders and how to draft the reference letters.

Absolutely, you can file EB2 NIW from abroad. The first step of the process will be common to everyone else (the I-140 petition), but then you will complete the second and final part of the process in a Consulate or Embassy Abroad. This is referred to as Consular Processing. In this blog post you can read all about it.