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What Professions Qualify for the EB2 National Interest Waiver (NIW)?

EB-2 visas are a second preference employment visa.  Many foreign nationals find these visas attractive, as they are a path to permanent residency, allow them to bring their spouse and children to the United States, and can be obtained relatively quickly.  However, a standard EB-2 visa requires a job offer from a U.S.-based employer.  This employer must file the petition on behalf of the foreign national and undergo the Labor Certification process.  As an alternative, many foreign nationals choose to self-petition through the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) process.

What Is the EB-2 National Interest Waiver Visa?

 The National Interest Waiver visa recognizes that it may be in the “national interest” of the United States to waive the job offer and Labor Certification process for some foreign nationals.  In these cases, an applicant can self-petition for an EB-2 NIW visa.  These visas are often approved more quickly than standard EB-2 visas because the applicant does not need to go through the lengthy Labor Certification process.  However, because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) often scrutinizes these applications more closely, any foreign national considering an EB-2 NIW visa should consult with a seasoned NIW lawyer.

Who Qualifies for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver Visa?

 EB2 visas are generally available to foreign nationals who have an advanced degree or the equivalent in professional fields, or to those who have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, business or athletics.  For purposes of an EB-2 visa, an advanced degree is any degree above a bachelor’s degree, or the foreign equivalent.  Alternatively, a bachelor’s degree combined with at least five years of progressive experience will be sufficient to meet the requirement of having an advanced degree.  To show exceptional ability, an applicant must have a degree of expertise above that ordinarily encountered in his or her field.

A foreign national who meets these criteria — holding an advanced degree or having an exceptional ability — may qualify for an EB-2 visa.  To obtain an EB-2 NIW visa, the foreign national can either self-petition, or an employer can petition on his or her behalf.

 Is the EB-2 National Interest Waiver Limited to Certain Professions?

 A professional in any field may qualify for an EB-2 NIW visa.  The key is to meet the qualifications set forth by USCIS.

For foreign nationals holding an advanced degree, the applicant must have either a U.S. academic or professional degree or an equivalent foreign degree that is above a bachelor’s degree, such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D.  Alternatively, five years of experience combined with a bachelor’s degree may be substituted.  However, for certain professions that customarily require a doctoral degree, the applicant must have a U.S. doctorate degree or the foreign equivalent.

For aliens with exceptional ability, an applicant must document at least three of the following to show that he or she qualifies:

  1. An official academic record showing that the foreign person has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of exceptional ability;
  2. Evidence in the form of letters from current or former employers showing that the foreign person has at least 10 years of full-time experience in the occupation;
  3. A license to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;
  4. Evidence that the foreign person has commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrate exceptional ability;
  5. Evidence of membership in a professional association; or
  6. Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities or professional or business organizations.

Once a foreign national meets one of these two tests, he or she must then meet the three prong test set forth by USCIS in Matter of Dhanasar.  This requires him or her to prove the following:

  1. The proposed endeavor is of substantial merit and national importance;
  2. The foreign national is well-positioned to advanced the proposed endeavor; and
  3. On balance, it would be beneficial to the U.S. to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements of the EB-2 category.

Any foreign national who meets these qualifications may apply for and be granted an EB-2 NIW.  While the visa process is intended for those with advanced degrees and/or exceptional abilities, it is not limited to certain professions.  Anyone who meets the criteria for an EB-2 visa and the National Interest Waiver may be eligible for this type of visa regardless of the profession.

Accordingly, there are a wide variety of occupations that can be utilized for the NIW if the criteria are met including (but not limited to) the following: researcher, scientist, artist, animator, musician, singer, physician, dentist, pilot, entrepreneur, engineer, designer, lawyer, therapist, economist, professor, business person, veterinarian, nurse, pharmacist, urban planner, consultant, manager and architect. While this is by no means an exhaustive list it also must be noted but merely because an applicant works in one of these roles they are not necessarily eligible for the EB-2 NIW. Instead they must demonstrate their unique position and how it serves the national interest.

Work with an Experienced EB-2 NIW Lawyer

 At Colombo & Hurd, we are committed to work with our clients to achieve their immigration goals.  With decades of combined experience, we have in-depth knowledge of immigration law and process.  Many of our legal professionals are immigrants themselves, giving us a unique perspective on the system and the experience of our clients.

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver visa represents an opportunity for foreign nationals to live and work in the United States.  Contact our Orlando office today at (407) 478-1111 or our Tampa office at (813) 444-1114 to schedule a confidential consultation, or contact us online at any time.

Rusten Hurd

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