If you are a highly skilled professional seeking to work and live permanently in the United States with a green card, the EB-2 Visa could be the path for you. The EB-2 Visa is an employment-based visa that is designed for individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in their field.

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver, or NIW, makes it possible for you to pursue permanent residency (a green card) in the United States without the need for employer sponsorship or labor certification. This waiver is granted to professionals whose work is considered to be of national interest to the US. Let’s explore the benefits of this unique pathway.

EB-2 NIW Green Card Benefits

No need for labor certification or sponsorship

One of the most significant benefits of the EB-2 NIW green card is that it bypasses the traditional labor certification process. Unlike other employment-based green card categories that require sponsorship from a US employer, the NIW allows you to self-petition. This means you don’t need an offer of employment or labor certification, simplifying and expediting the application process.

Family eligibility

Under the EB-2 NIW category, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be eligible for green cards. It means your immediate family can accompany you on the path to permanent residency.

Path to citizenship

Once you obtain a green card (permanent residence status) through the NIW, you will become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. As a permanent resident, you can live and work in the country indefinitely, and also, after meeting certain residency and other requirements, you may be eligible to apply for US citizenship.

Quick processing

The National Interest Waiver has a quick processing time, compared to other employment-based permanent residence (green card) categories. Since January 30, 2023, premium processing has been available for the EB-2 NIW category, which reduces the processing time to 45 days.

Overview of the EB-2 NIW

The EB-2 NIW falls under the employment-based, second preference (EB-2) category, which is intended for professionals holding advanced degrees or individuals with exceptional ability in their respective fields. Here, we’ll delve into the criteria for qualification and explore the differences between the EB-2 NIW and the EB-2 PERM processes.

Who qualifies for EB-2 NIW?

To be eligible for the EB-2 NIW, you must demonstrate that your work is in the national interest of the United States. The process is reserved for individuals with exceptional ability or advanced degrees who can significantly contribute to the country’s well-being.

Differences from EB-2 PERM

The standard EB-2 PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) process requires you to have a valid job offer from a US employer. Additionally, the employer will need to obtain a labor certification from the US Department of Labor. This entails proving to the Department of Labor that there are no qualified US workers available for the position and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of US workers.

The NIW waives this labor certification requirement and allows self-petitioning, eliminating some time consuming steps and streamlining the process for highly skilled individuals.

EB-2 NIW Requirements

Advanced degree

To qualify under the EB-2 NIW as an individual with an advanced degree, you must meet the official criteria defined by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It means you must have an advanced degree or its foreign equivalent (a baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience in the field).


You must present documentation, such as an official academic record showing that you have a US advanced degree or a foreign equivalent degree, or that you have a US baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree and letters from current or former employers showing that you have at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in the specialty.

It is important to note that the degree (and other qualifications in your official academic record) and/or work experience must be relevant to the work you will be doing in the United States.

Exceptional ability

You must be able to show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, according to the USCIS official criteria, defined as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.”


eb 2 visa usa advanced degreeYou must present at least three of the following requirements:

  • Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability
  • Letters from current or former employers documenting at least ten years of full-time experience in your occupation
  • A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation
  • Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association
  • Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, or professional or business organizations
  • Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

The more evidence you can provide to demonstrate your expertise, the more convincing your National Interest Waiver case will be. There are many ways to prove your case, and each requires gathering specific documentation as evidence. Our experts at Global Citizen Solutions will be able to guide you and provide the best strategy based on your personal experience. If you’re interested in receiving advice our guidance, please contact one of our specialists.

National Interest Waiver: Balancing Factors to Determine Waiver’s Benefit

In order to determine that your work and your set of skills are of national interest to the US, you have to fulfill the three main criteria used by the USCIS.

in performing this analysis, USCIS may evaluate factors such as:

Whether, considering the nature of the petitioner’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the petitioner to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification;

Whether, even if other qualifying US workers are available, the US would still benefit from the petitioner’s contributions;

Whether the national interest in the petitioner’s contributions is sufficiently urgent to warrant foregoing the labor certification process.

In each case, the factor(s) considered must, taken together, indicate that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirements of a job offer and, therefore, of a labour certification.

The three main criteria are as follows:

Substantial merit

Your proposed endeavor must have the potential to bring significant benefits to the United States. The endeavor’s merit can be shown in various fields like business, entrepreneurship, science, technology, culture, health, or education.

While it’s good to have proof that the project could have a significant economic impact, it’s not mandatory. The project’s worth can still be proven without a direct or measurable economic effect. To meet the substantial merit requirement, you must show that it will have broader effects that go beyond just one company or organization.

National importance of the proposed endeavor

Your work should be in an area that holds importance to the nation’s well-being and advancement. To decide if the project has national importance, USCIS looks at its possible future impact.

To meet this requirement, you must demonstrate the “potential prospective impact” of your work. For instance, you can explain how your future work will influence your field or how the endeavor will have broader effects on the field or the US economy.

Well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

You must demonstrate that you are well-positioned to carry out the proposed work successfully. You need to provide evidence showing that the US would benefit more by waiving the job offer requirement for an EB-2 visa.

“On balance” simply means that the benefits of waiving the job offer outweigh the benefits of not waiving it.


Here are some examples of work that may qualify:

  • Scientific research: If you are engaged in groundbreaking scientific research that contributes to advancements in areas such as medicine, renewable energy, or environmental conservation, your work could qualify for an NIW.
  • Economic impact: If your work has a direct positive impact on the US economy, such as creating jobs, promoting innovation, or attracting foreign investment, it may meet the NIW criteria.
  • National security: If your work is related to national security and helps protect the United States from potential threats, such as developing advanced cybersecurity systems or contributing to defense technology, it could qualify for an NIW.
  • Healthcare: If your work is in the healthcare field and addresses critical healthcare needs, such as developing new treatments or medical devices, improving healthcare delivery systems, or conducting research in public health, it may meet the NIW requirements.
  • Cultural or artistic contributions: If your work involves significant contributions to the cultural or artistic landscape of the United States, such as renowned artists, musicians, or performers, and it enhances the nation’s cultural heritage, it may qualify for an NIW.

These examples are not exhaustive, and each case is unique.

Step-by-Step Process

Prepare your application

Send Form

Receive Notice of Approval

Apply for Green Card

Interview and biometrics

Receive your Green Card

  1. Prepare your application, gathering evidence to demonstrate your qualifications, such as academic degrees, awards, publications, letters of recommendation, and any other relevant documentation. Write a personal statement explaining how your work benefits the US national interest and why you qualify for the NIW.
  2. Complete the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140), and submit it to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), together with the supporting documents.
  3. Once USCIS approves your Form I-140 petition, you will receive a Notice of Approval. This indicates that your petition has been accepted.
  4. Now there are two options: if you are already in the US with some valid non-immigrant status, apply for an adjustment of status (Form I-485). If you are abroad, apply for your green card at a consulate or embassy (Form DS-260).
  5. Attend your green card interview, and provide biometric information, such as fingerprints and photographs.
  6. Once your application is approved, you will receive your green card, officially known as the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).

Document checklist

When preparing your EB-2 NIW petition, it is essential to include all the necessary supporting documents. While the specific requirements may vary depending on your case, here is a general document checklist:

  • Academic degrees, certificates, or licenses
  • Publications, research papers, or patents
  • Letters of recommendation from experts in your field
  • Evidence of professional achievements and awards
  • Documentation showcasing the national interest aspect of your work
  • Documentation showing that a labor certification would adversely affect the national interest
  • Petition letter drafted by EB-2 NIW Green card lawyer
  • Affidavits from leaders in your field
  • An up-to-date resume
  • Evidence of important group memberships, attendance of significant conferences, publication citations, and other articles
  • A professional plan or a business plan

EB-2 NIW processing time

The time it takes to process an NIW green card depends on several factors, such as where you are applying from and the assigned USCIS Service Center for your case.  Form I-140 can be processed in between ten months and two years.

Premium processing

eb-2 processing time

With the EB-2 NIW premium processing, you can pay an additional fee to expedite your visa or green card processing to just 45 calendar days.

It does not increase your chances of approval.

The fee for this option is $2,500.

Please note that premium processing only applies to the Form I-140 petition, which means that it won’t affect the length of time needed for the adjustment of status or consular processing.

Fees and costs

The costs for an EB-2 NIW application involve the filing fees for all the forms necessary, plus other services, such as biometrics appointments and medical examinations, for yourself and family members.

Please note that other costs may include translation of documents, travel expenses to attend interviews or biometric appointments, legal assistance, and so on. Some of the significant costs involved are as follows:

  • I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: $700
  • I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: $1,140 per person (reduced fees for children under 14)
  • Biometric fee: $85 (if applicable)
  • DS-260 filing fee: $325 per person
  • Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500

EB-2 NIW approval rate

The USCIS hasn’t shared any stats or data about the approval rates of EB-2 NIW petitions, but we can get an idea of the approval rate by looking at the standard EB-2 approval rate.

USCIS data indicates that I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) petitions in this specific category have an average approval rate of approximately 93 percent. Depending on the volume of petitions in any given year, this rate may vary within a range of 83 percent to 96 percent.

What if my NIW is denied?

If your NIW petition is denied, you may have options for further action. You can consider appealing the decision or reapplying with a stronger case. It is crucial to assess the reasons for the denial and consult an immigration attorney to determine the best course of action in your situation. If your petition is denied, or you have concerns about the strength of your case, get in touch with our team of immigration specialists.

Comparison with other US visas

EB-1A vs. EB-2 NIW

Even though the two visas share some similarities, for example, Both the EB-1A and EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) can be self-petitioned applications and don’t need to be sponsored by a US employer, they are distinct pathways for different types of immigrants.

The EB-1A Visa is reserved for individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives or managers.

Meanwhile, the EB-2 NIW is specifically for professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability who can demonstrate that their work is in the national interest of the United States.

The requirements are very different, and the process of preparing an application for these two classifications varies greatly. This means that it may be likely that you could qualify for EB-2 NIW but not for EB-1A.

The EB1-A has the most stringent requirements among all Green Card categories, making it inaccessible for many applicants. EB-1A is the category for those who can be considered individuals with “extraordinary ability” in their field and have risen to the top of that field.

Meanwhile, for the National Interest Waiver petition, the proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance. Additionally, the applicant must prove that he/she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor and prove that it would be beneficial to the US to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements.

Lastly, the premium processing time for the EB-2 National Interest Waiver is 45 days; for the EB-1A, it’s 15 days.


While the EB-2 PERM route requires employers to go through the lengthy and complex labor certification process, the EB-2 NIW offers a waiver for this requirement.

With the National Interest Waiver, you have the opportunity to present evidence that your work is in the national interest and that it would benefit the United States as a whole. This waiver gives you more flexibility and control over your immigration process.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your EB-2 NIW application?

If you think the EB-2 NIW may be the right option for you, or if you’d like to know more about other US visa options, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts.

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in US immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and guarantees that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

To find out more about immigration opportunities, investment visas, and work visas in the United States, the following articles may be useful:

Frequently Asked Questions about the EB-2 National Interest Waiver

What is the EB-2 National Interest Waiver?

The EB-2  National Interest Waiver (NIW) is an employment-based visa category for foregin nationals that allows highly skilled professionals to apply for a green card without a job offer or labor certification.

The NIW requires demonstrating you have either an advanced degree (or a bachelor’s degree with at least five years of progressive work experience in your field) or exceptional ability, proving work of national importance, and showing notable contributions to your field.

What are the eligibility criteria for EB-2 National Interest Waiver?

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) is open to individuals who are foreign nationals with exceptional abilities or advanced degrees (such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D.) who can demonstrate that their work is in the national interest of the United States.

Applicants must show substantial merit, national importance, and be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

How does the National Interest Waiver differ from the regular EB-2 category?

The National Interest Waiver (NIW) waives the labor certification requirement for foreign nationals, allowing self-petitioning for a Green Card without employer sponsorship.

The regular EB-2 Visa requires labor certification and employer sponsorship.

Can self-petitioners apply for EB-2 National Interest Waiver?

Yes, self-petitioners can apply for the NIW. They do not require an employer to sponsor their application.

As a foreign national, you must demonstrate that you can contribute with work of national importance to the US, either by having an advanced degree or presenting work of substantial merit.

Do I need a job offer to apply for EB-2 National Interest Waiver?

No, applicants do not need a job offer to apply for the NIW, as the category allows for self-petitioning.

As a foreign national, you must demonstrate that you can contribute with work of national importance to the US, either by having an advanced degree or presenting work of substantial merit.

Can I apply for EB-2 National Interest Waiver if I am currently in the United States on a different visa status?

Yes, if you are in the United States on a different visa status, you can apply for the NIW.

You must meet the eligibility criteria and file the appropriate petitions to adjust your status.

How long does it take to process an EB-2 National Interest Waiver petition?

Processing time depends on several factors, such as where you are applying from and the assigned USCIS Service Center for your case, but it may take between ten months to two years.

You can opt for the premium processing option for Form I-140, which guarantees this form will be processed in 45 days. The fee for this option is $2,500.

Please note that premium processing doesn’t reduce the waiting times for adjustment of status or consular processing.

Can my spouse and children join me in the United States if my NIW petition is approved?

Yes, immediate family members can join you. This means that your spouse and children under 21 years old, if they are unmarried can be included in the application.

Can I appeal if my EB-2 NIW petition is denied?

Yes, you have the option of appealing or reapplying with a stronger case.

It is crucial to assess the reasons for the denial and consult an immigration attorney to determine the best course of action in your situation.

What is the difference between EB-2 NIW and EB-1A Extraordinary Ability?

The EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) is more focused on the national interest of the United States and is suitable for individuals with strong qualifications and contributions.

On the other hand, the EB-1A Extraordinary Ability category is for individuals with extraordinary achievements and recognition in their field.

The NIW is often suitable for individuals who have strong qualifications and contributions but may not meet the very high standard of “extraordinary ability” required for the EB-1A category.

Do I have to hire an immigration lawyer (or an immigration law firm) to apply for the EB-2 NIW?

It’s not obligatory to hire a specialized immigration lawyer, but it’s strongly recommended.

Applying their specialized knowledge of immigration law, an immigration lawyer (or an immigration law firm) will provide NIW green card application tips.

They will also be able to help you craft a strong petition for the National Interest Waiver, with evidence of extraordinary ability and NIW recommendation letters.

Your lawyer will also deal with an eventual NIW RFE (Request for Evidence) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf.

Global Citizen Solutions has a team of immigration specialists with vast experience and expert knowledge of the relevant laws and regulations. If you’d like advice on your application, you can get in touch with one of our experts.

Can I apply for the EB-2 NIW if I only have a bachelor's degree?

Yes, to be eligible to apply for the EB-2 National Interest Waiver, you need to prove that you have extraordinary ability, an advanced degree (such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D.), or a bachelor’s degree with at least five years of progressive work experience in your field.

How many letters of recommendation should NIW applicants submit?

The USCIS does not provide specific guidance on how many letters of recommendation an applicant should submit as supporting evidence for their abilities and accomplishments, as well as the importance of their work to the national interest.

While the focus should be on quality rather than quantity and each application is judged on a case-by-case basis, a National Interest Waiver application will typically include between three and seven letters of recommendation.

What is an example of the United States urgently requiring a skillset that would qualify for an NIW?

One way that a scientist, for example, may make a case for an NIW is if they can demonstrate that their work can help to prevent illnesses and save lives.

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