Applying for an employment-based green card can be tiresome and time-consuming, mostly due to the intricate labor certification process. However, you might be able to bypass it if you can prove your admission to the United States is in the national interest. This provision is known as the National Interest Waiver (NIW).

Under NIW, you can self-petition for a US permanent residency (green card) if you are found eligible. So, in this article, we will review EB-2 NIW requirements, eligibility criteria, the application process, documentation and evidence, costs, tips, and anything else you should know to help you achieve your NIW green card.

Do you need legal advice regarding your green card application? Consult with our experienced immigration attorney in Orange County, California for free.

What Is the National Interest Waiver or NIW?

The US National Interest Waiver is a provision in the employment-based immigration system that makes it easier to achieve a US green card for those who are qualified. These foreigners can become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPR) without the need for a labor certification or an employer sponsorship. This kind of green card is usually referred to as EB-2 green card.

Read on to find out if you are qualified for an EB-2 NIW or not.

EB-2 Visa Types

Like EB-1 Visas, EB-2 visas are also available for foreigners who wish to work in the United States. They are considered second preference workers (EB-1 visa holders are the first priority) and they need to be professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities.

There are three types of EB2 visas.

  • EB-2A Visa

Foreign individuals with advanced degrees, including master’s degrees or higher, can apply for this visa type.

  • EB-2B Visa

Foreign individuals with exceptional ability or skill might be found qualified for this US employment visa.

Both EB-2A and EB-2B applicants need an employer sponsorship with a valid ‘Permanent Employment Certification’ (PERM). PERM is a labor certification that allows an employer to hire foreign individuals permanently. Obtaining a PERM from the Department of Labor is complicated and time-consuming.

  • EB-2C or EB-2 NIW

For this third type of EB-2 visa, you must be able to prove that your knowledge, skill, and work benefit the U.S. society. In other words, you need strong evidence to show your work is in the national interest and you deserve this waiver. Your work has to make a significant impact on the economy, education, science, healthcare, etc.

This waiver means that you can get an employment-based green card without the need for an American employer to petition for you. And even if you already have an American employer, you can still petition by yourself. This also means that you or your employer do not need a PERM when applying. These are the main NIW benefits compared to other EB-2 visas.

In addition, with an EB-2 NIW, if your employment changes, you will not lose your green card.

NIW Requirements

NIW eligibility criteria not only include the basic requirements for all EB-2 visas but also some additional evidence to prove your intrinsic value and benefits for the United States.

To qualify for an EB-2 visa, you should meet at least three of the criteria below.

  • An official record that shows your significant contribution to your field.
  • Proof of membership at a professional association.
  • A license or certification for your profession.
  • Evidence to show you got a salary for the services related to your profession and expertise.
  • A degree, certificate, diploma, or award from an institution/college/university to prove your knowledge and skill.
  • Letters that can serve as evidence for your experience in your field of expertise. This must prove a minimum of 10 years of full-time practice in your profession.

The NIW specific requirements include

  • An advanced degree. Or a minimum of 5 years of experience plus your Bachelor’s degree.
  • State your reason for applying for an NIW. This reason must be of national importance.
  • You can carry out your plan or project.
  • Your project and your expertise will benefit the US and therefore you are qualified for a job offer waiver.

NIW Application Process: How to Self-Petition for an EB-2 NIW

To apply for an EB-2 NIW, you need to fill out Form I-140 and file with the USCIS. You have to send all the evidence and documents to the addresses provided here by the USCIS.

If your application is approved, then you can apply for an adjustment of status to get your green card. To see when you can apply for permanent residency, you can check your I-140 submission date in the Visa Bulletin.

If you are applying from abroad, you must also file Form DS-260 (learn more about this form here) to the US Consulate or Embassy you are applying from.

What to Do If Your NIW Application Is Denied

If your EB-2 NIW application is not approved, it is time to seek your NIW attorney’s advice. There are a couple of possible ways to deal with this situation.

  • Your NIW lawyer might recommend making a motion to reopen your case.
  • You might be able to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).
  • You are usually allowed to request the USCIS officer to reconsider your case if you have new evidence and documents.

If all the above fails, your immigration lawyer will suggest other options you have to obtain your green card.

EB-2 NIW Required Documents

Below is a list of documents and evidence you are required to send when applying for an EB-2 NIW.

  • Form I-140,
  • Evidence of exceptional ability/advanced degree/experience,
  • Recommendation letters,
  • Proof of any awards, achievements, etc.,
  • Evidence to show your expertise and experience, 
  • Affidavits from other experts in your profession,
  • Your resume,
  • Form I-485 (This is a form to apply for adjustment of status or permanent residency),
  • Form DS-260 (This is for those who are applying for a green card from outside the US),
  • Any other NIW supporting documents and records to support your case.

Some Tips Regarding Preparing Your EB-2 NIW Documents

Besides collecting and organizing all the documents properly, make sure you are not including any original documents. Needless to say, if you are specifically asked to provide the original document, you must certainly do so.

Another point to mention is that any foreign language documents must be translated to English and you must submit the certified translations. This means that your translator must verify that the translation is accurate and complete.

Above all, avoid any inaccurate information or claims that you cannot support by evidence. Otherwise, your case will be denied.

Do you need legal advice regarding your green card application? Consult with our experienced immigration attorney in Orange County, California for free.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver?

Some fees must be paid when applying for an NIW or adjustment of status. These fees can include the following.

  • Filing Form I-140: $700
  • Filing Form I-485: $1,140
  • Biometrics: $85 (Not everyone is required to take it.)
  • Filing Form DS-260: $230 (If you are applying for permanent residency from outside the United States.)

In addition, collecting the required documents and evidence might cost you as well.

What Is the Average NIW Processing Time?

The average EB-2 NIW processing time at the USCIS is 3 to 9 months. However, if you get a Request for Evidence (RFE), which means providing more evidence to support your case, the processing of your application will take longer.

The National Interest Waiver Approval Rate

On average, the NIW success rate is about 93%. The number of applications that are approved every year depends on the total number of applications filed that year. So, the approval rate can vary slightly every year. According to the USCIS, it ranges from 83% to 96%.

NIW Challenges and Pitfalls

Although you can guarantee an expedited process of your green card application under the National Interest Waiver, some complexities can lead to an unsuccessful application. To make a compelling case and increase your chance of approval, you should know about the potential issues below.

  • You should be able to make a convincing argument that states how exactly your work is going to be of national interest.
  • Providing strong and comprehensive evidence to support your case or prove that you meet the EB-2 NIW eligibility criteria can be demanding.
  • As the National Interest Waiver is case-specific and subjective to some extent, there are no clear guidelines to help the applicants. That is why without having an accomplished NIW lawyer to help you through the process based on their experience, your chance of success would decrease greatly.
  • Any incorrect information, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and lack of evidence usually lead to denial or RFE.

Therefore, one thing that is certain in this process is that you will need professional assistance in pursuing an EB-2 National Interest Waiver green card.


Let’s go over some of the main concerns and questions regarding the National Interest Waiver.

Can I Self-Petition for a National Interest Waiver Green Card?

Yes. Under EB-2 NIW, you do not need an employer to petition on your behalf. You can file it yourself.

What Should I Do When My NIW Application Is Approved?

Your next step is to apply for an adjustment of status for permanent residency. For this, you do not need an employer or a labor certification.

What Can I Do If My NIW Application Is Denied?

Upon denial, you can provide more evidence and ask the officer to reconsider your case. If it is not an option, then your immigration lawyer might be able to reopen your case by making a motion. Besides, you can also appeal to the Administrative Appeals Office.

The best thing to do first is to consult with your NIW attorney.

How Long Does a National Interest Waiver Application Process Take?

Normally, between three to nine months. If you are required to provide more evidence in the middle of the process, it will take longer.

Can I Apply for a National Interest Waiver from Outside the United States?

Yes. The application and all the documentation are sent via mail to the USCIS. You might be asked to take biometrics which can be done in any US consulates or embassies.

Do you need legal advice regarding your green card application? Consult with our experienced immigration attorney in Orange County, California for free.

Hire an NIW Lawyer to Increase Your Chance of Approval

We tried to discuss the NIW evaluation factors, application, and requirements as simply as possible to help you gain a sufficient understanding of the whole process. Still, to ensure you are eligible, your argument is compelling, and your evidence is strong enough to support your case you are highly recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

The Law Office of Tuan Le in Orange, CA not only offers you great professional help in every step of your National Interest Waiver application, but also a 30-minute free consultation to discuss your case or ask your questions. Give us a call at (714) 877-5840 or fill in the form below, and we will get back to you.

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