Are you a highly skilled professional seeking to work and live permanently in the United States? The EB-2 Visa could be ideal for you. 

The EB-2 visa is a type of employment-based immigrant visa designed for foreign nationals who possess advanced degrees or an exceptional ability in their field (often with widespread acclaim and international recognition), and who seek to work permanently in the U.S. It’s a waiver granted to professionals whose work is considered to be of national interest to the US.

The EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) foreigners to apply for the Green Card process and obtain permanent residency in the United States without needing employer sponsorship or permanent labor certification. 

In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth exploration of the EB-2 Visa program, outlining its requirements, immigration benefits, and more. 

In this EB-2 Visa program guide, you will learn about:

  • The benefits of this employment based immigration visa
  • How to qualify for the EB-2 Visa 
  • Requirements 
  • And much more

Overview of the EB-2 NIW

The EB-2 NIW is in the employment-based, second preference (EB-2) category, intended for professionals holding advanced degrees or individuals with exceptional ability in their respective fields. Here, we’ll explore the criteria for qualification and 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 who fall under the exceptional ability category or have advanced degrees and 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, who will need to obtain a labor certification from the US Department of Labor. The first step to initiate the labor certification process is to create a full-time job position. Then, the employer must do the following: a labor market test and a prevailing wage determination.

He must also prove to the Department of Labor that there are no qualified US workers available for the position and that hiring a foreign worker wouldn’t 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 Green Card Benefits

No need for labor certification or sponsorship

A primary benefit 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, meaning your immediate family can accompany you on the path to permanent residency.

Path to citizenship

Once you obtain a Green Card (obtain permanent residence status) through the NIW, you’ll become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. As a permanent resident, you can live and work in the country indefinitely. After meeting certain residency and other eligibility requirements, you could be eligible to apply for US citizenship.

Quick processing time

The National Interest Waiver is processed quicker than the immigrant visa processing time period needed for 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 period to 45 days.

EB-2 NIW Requirements

The National Interest Waiver requirements are stringent, as they enable a foreign national to immigrate to the United States without an offer of employment. They are as follows:

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 equivalent degree plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive experience working in that field).


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

The degree (and other qualifications in your official academic record) and/or employment experience must be relevant to the work you’ll be doing in the United States.

Exceptional ability

You must be able to demonstrate 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’ve commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability
  • Membership in a professional association (or professional associations)
  • 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 or guidance, please contact one of our specialists.

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

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 and provide the required documentation as evidence.

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 substantial intrinsic merit can be shown in various fields like business, entrepreneurship, science, technology, culture, health, or education. For example, this could include an affordable housing project. An affordable housing project could qualify as an eligible endeavor if it provided benefits to an area with a high concentration of low-income residents or created housing for people with disabilities.

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 direct or measurable substantial positive economic effects. 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 national importance 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’re 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 could qualify:

  • Scientific research: If you’re 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 aren’t exhaustive, and each case is unique.

EB-2 Visa Application 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, media coverage of your work, 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), with the supporting documents, including a detailed cover letter. Your priority date  (your place in the queue to apply for a Green Card) will be assigned on the date that USCIS receives your Form I-140 petition.
  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’re already in the US with some valid non-immigrant status, apply for an adjustment of status (Form I-485). If you’re abroad, and your priority date is current, you’ll need to 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’ll receive your Green Card, officially known as the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).

Document checklist

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

  • 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

The EB-2 NIW Interview

An EB-2 NIW interview is a crucial step in the Green Card application process. During the interview, the USCIS adjudicator will assess the applicant’s qualifications and determine whether their work benefits the US national interest.

The interview typically lasts 30-60 minutes and covers topics such as the applicant’s education, work experience, publications, and contributions to their field.

To prepare for the interview, thoroughly review your application materials and prepare concise and articulate responses. You’ll likely be asked about your background, expertise, accomplishments, and national interest contributions. Anticipate potential questions and consider how to highlight your achievements with specific examples.

EB-2 NIW 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:

  • Form I-140: $700
  • Form 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 Processing Time

Below, we’ll go over the processing times for an EB-2 NIW visa.

It’s important to consider that the time it takes to process an NIW green card depends on several factors, including whether there is high demand where you’re applying from and the assigned USCIS Service Center for your case.

Form I-140 can be processed in between ten months and two years.

Once the EB-2 NIW visa is approved, the applicant can start the green card application process. If applying from within the United States, they will need to submit Form I-485. Waiting times vary depending on the location, but it can take more than 2 years for USCIS to process the application.

If applying from abroad, it’ll take between 4 and 6 months.

EB-2 NIW Premium processing

eb-2 processing time

You can pay an additional fee to expedite your immigrant visa processing or Green Card processing to just 45 calendar days.

It doesn’t 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.

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 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’s crucial to assess the reasons for the denial and consult an immigration attorney to discuss factors such as your immigration history and 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’re distinct pathways for different types of immigrants.

The EB-1A Visa is reserved for individuals with exceptional 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 exceptional 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 both 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 processing wait time if you choose the premium option 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?

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.

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 immigration visa 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 consecutive relevant employment experience) or fall under the exceptional ability category, 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.

Can evidence from professional or business organizations be used to demonstrate exceptional ability for an EB-2 NIW petition?

Yes, evidence from professional or business organizations as well as governmental entities can be used to demonstrate exceptional ability for an EB-2 NIW petition. USCIS will consider evidence from a variety of sources to assess whether a foreign national has sustained national impact in their field.

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 an applicant to self petition 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 don’t require an employer to sponsor their application.

Foreign nationals must demonstrate that they can contribute with work of national importance to the US (or even work that might have global implications), 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 don’t need a job offer to apply for the NIW, as the national interest waiver waives the need for one (and the subsequent labor certificate) and allows for self-petitioning.

As a foreign national, to self petition, 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’re 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?

The EB-2 processing times depend, but overall, it may take between ten months to two years.

You can choose the premium processing option for Form I-140, which guarantees this form will be processed in 45 days. It costs $2,500.

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

Yes, immediate family members can join you. 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. In this instance, you’d need to appeal to make a case to the Administrative Appeals Office.

It’s crucial to assess the reasons for the denial and consult an immigration attorney to determine the best course of action in your situation before making your case to the Administrative Appeals Office. In this instance, you can contact Global Citizen Solutions to arrange a free consultation with an immigration attorney.

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.

The EB-1A 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 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.

The immigration lawyer will provide NIW Green Card application tips, help you craft a strong petition for the National Interest Waiver, and more.

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 must prove that your ability is extraordinary or that you have 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 doesn’t provide specific guidance on the number of letters of recommendation. However, 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.

What are employment based visas?

Employment-based visas are a category of visas issued by countries like the United States to allow foreign nationals to live and work in the country based on their employment status. These visas are typically granted to individuals who have a specific job offer from an employer in the destination country.

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