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What is the National Interest Waiver?

Immigration into the United States is never easy, but there are many different pathways toward legal access into the country for work, refuge or a fresh start. One potential pathway is through the National Interest Waiver, in connection with an EB-2 employment visa. It’s a waiver that doesn’t rely specifically on employment, but instead focuses on what an applicant can contribute to society.

EB-2 applicants must show “exceptional ability” in their fields, typically meaning those with advanced degrees, scholars, doctors and more. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describes it as “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.” The National Interest Waiver doesn’t require a job offer, but instead bases entry on the applicant’s ability to “greatly benefit the nation.”

What are the criteria?

Proving that one’s entry will benefit the country is a large demand—and one that varies from individual to individual.

The USCIS requires a combination of the following with an application:

  • Official academic record
  • Documentation proving 10 years of employment in your field
  • Proof of exceptional ability in your field, through either salary or recognition
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Other comparable evidence of exceptional ability

In select fields, such as medicine, there are designated areas where the US needs experts. A doctor may have an advantage by agreeing to work in an underserved specialization, a region with a shortage of physicians or in Veterans Affairs. The emphasis is on how you will benefit US society or culture through your contributions. This may be through medical expertise, but also other research and science fields or in the arts.

Evidence and application

Rules for the National Interest Waiver are difficult to summarize because of the open-ended meaning of “benefit to the country.” The USCIS has strict guidelines, but individualized evidence is truly the base criteria.

Given the high standards, it’s essential to compile the best evidence possible with an application. An experienced immigration attorney can assist to define the complex proof requirements, as well as any additional immigration forms that go with the waiver.

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