NIW (EB-2) qualification requires work in an area deemed to be in the national interest AND individual contribution in that area.
For researchers and academics who have not yet reached the status of being at the very top of their field, the National Interest Waiver (EB-2) category is usually their best option. But note that this option applies primarily to applicants who can prove that they will substantially benefit the U.S. national interest in the areas of economic growth, education, health, and the environment. Merely working in an area of national interest does not automatically warrant a finding of national interest qualification.
According to the USCIS Texas Service Center, national interest qualification requires that the emphasis rest on the overall value and potential of the researcher’s individual contribution to the U.S. – not the fact that the field they are working in is deemed to be of top national interest. A researcher may also qualify for a national interest waiver if she is found to be a critical member of a team if it can be shown that the team function would be severely impaired without this member. Similarly, it is the individual contribution of the team member, and not the field the team is working in, which will determine if the individual qualifies for a national interest waiver. Many graduate students apply for a national interest waiver based upon the claim that their area of research is so potentially cutting edge or so significant that it must be in the national interest. However, many of these students have not had enough time or experience as a researcher and have done little work outside that required to complete their degree. Hence, it is very difficult for a graduate student to qualify for a national interest waiver and the USCIS Texas Service Center acknowledges that this class is not designated for all graduate researchers.
USCIS examiners look for realistic evidence of substantial prospective benefit to a national interest item or agenda which specifically sets the individual apart from others in the field. With that being said, the USCIS Texas Service Center highly recommends the submission of improved testimonial endorsement letters from substantial, recognized national or international organizations, institutions, and government agencies with the expertise to definitively say that the work or contribution of the individual truly is in the national interest. The authors of these third-party testimonial letters should clearly state how they came to be familiar with the alien’s work. The Texas Service Center has stated that time will be saved and RFE’s will be reduced when national interest waiver petitions are accompanied by these improved testimonial letters. The Texas Service Center also recommends placing the testimonial letters with the attorney/petitioner summary letters at the front of the petition, directly beneath the Form I-140. This will eliminate examiner time spent wading through academic articles, field surveys, general reports, and other evidence which the Texas Service Center states adds minimal weight to bolster the claim for an individual’s specific achievements or national interest potential.
For additional tips on filing NIW self-petitions, enter “NIW” in The VisaGeek blog search bar.