What is an EB-2 NIW Immigrant Visa?

The EB-2 NIW category makes it relatively easy for many startup founders and researchers to obtain a Green Card. With the ability to self-petition, flexible criteria, no labor certification requirements, and recent expansions of premium processing, it is one of the fastest options for Permanent Residency in the U.S.

Who is eligible for an EB-2 NIW Green Card?

There are two routes to the EB-2 NIW Green Card. One is through a sponsoring employer, and the other is through self-petition. To qualify for this category, the beneficiary must have either:
  • “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business – defined as possessing knowledge and expertise that is far above and beyond what is typical in those fields. You need to satisfy at least three of the six criteria of the exceptional ability criteria,
  • OR at least a master’s or a bachelor’s degree, along with a minimum of five years work experience.
NIW petitions require extensive and compelling documentation written in terms that non-experts in the field can understand. Successful NIW petitions must demonstrate that:
  • the work the foreign national will do has “substantial intrinsic merit”,
  • the work yields a significant national benefit,
  • the foreign national doing the work provides a far greater benefit to the national interest than a U.S. worker doing the work.

Is employment a requirement for the EB-2 NIW?

Not necessarily. The EB-2 NIW Green Card can be filed by a U.S. sponsoring employer or through self-petition. Your proposed work in the U.S. must be in the “national interest” of the U.S. Those seeking a national interest waiver are requesting that the job offer, and thus the labor certification, be waived because it is in the interest of the United States. The endeavors that qualify for a national interest waiver are not defined by statute.

How to demonstrate “National Interest”?

The individual pursuing an EB-2 NIW needs to satisfy the following requirements:

Advanced Degree

You are a member of your profession that holds an advanced degree or foreign equivalent degree. You must possess a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, with at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate degree experience.

Exceptional Ability

You must provide proof of at least three of the following:
• Academic record
• 10 years of full-time experience
• License or certification to practice the profession
• High salary
• Membership
• Original contributions

National Interest

Your occupation and endeavors are in the national interest, such as improvements to the U.S. economy, healthcare, environment, employment, housing, or education.

What is the estimated timeline to obtain an EB-2 NIW Green Card?

As you petition for a Green Card, we want you to understand what to expect, in order to give yourself the best chance of success. The EB-2 NIW Green Card process consists of two steps, and takes anywhere between 12 months and 3 years.


File a successful immigration petition (I-140)

Apply for an EB-2 NIW category. This is when we prepare and file your Immigrant Petition, more commonly known as Form I-140. Because you are pursuing an EB-2 NIW Green Card, you do not need Labor Certification or an employer to sponsor your petition. The typical processing time for USCIS to adjudicate NIW (National Interest Waiver) applications ranges from 6 to 15 months under regular processing. However, you can request premium processing, which guarantees that your case will be adjudicated within 45 days.


Get a Green Card

Once your I-140 petition has been approved, you can either submit Form I-485 (A), which allows you to apply for an adjustment of your non-immigrant status to a legal Permanent Resident OR if you are outside the U.S., you can apply for an immigrant Visa through your U.S. consulate (B).

Adjust your status to Permanent Resident
(I-485 Stage).

At this stage we need to submit financial and civil documents for each of your family members. The average timeline for preparation is about 3-4 weeks, depending on the timely submission of supporting evidence. After submitting your I-485, the processing can take anywhere from 3 to 8 months before you receive your Green Card. The advantage of this option is the potential to obtain employment authorization after just 4-6 months. You need to be physically present in the U.S. at the moment of submission, and you should not leave the U.S. until you have received a travel permit from the USCIS.

Apply for an immigrant Visa through the U.S. Consulate in your home country.

Adjusting your status is only an option for those already present in the U.S. under a different Visa category (such as the O-1). If you are currently outside the U.S., you must undergo consular processing. This means that you will need to complete the DS-260 online immigrant Visa application, and make an appointment with the U.S. consulate in your home country. The timeline for the consular processing depends on the consulate that you use. It can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months.

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PassRight has maintained a high success rate for this category, with an overall Approval Rate of 100%. According to the USCIS data, the I-140 approval rate for this employment-based Green Card category oscillates between 83% and 96%

Each year, thousands of foreign professionals gain Permanent Residency through the EB-2 NIW. A person applying for this category must show that their qualifications are significant enough to prove prospective national benefit”. This category is favorable towards foreign nationals with advanced degrees, progressive work experience, or noteworthy past accomplishments, especially for those working in STEM occupations. If you meet the general criteria, the chance of success depends mainly on how your case is presented.

It depends. The priority date for EB-2 NIW Visas is not current for people born in these two countries, which means that it may be several years before they can apply for a Green Card. The best option for people from China or India is the EB-1A category, where the priority date is current for all nationalities. If you do not qualify for this option, you may apply for an EB-2 NIW to secure your priority date and request an H-1B extension.

No, the EB-2 NIW approval does not give you any sort of work authorization. If you are in the U.S., you need to make sure that you have a valid work Visa such as an O-1, H-1B or E-2. You may also concurrently file for an adjustment of status to obtain work authorization within 5-6 months. Talk to our team to find out which option would work best for you.

Yes, after your I-140 was submitted and approved, your family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can apply with you for an adjustment of status or immigrant Visa.

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