National Interest Waiver

What is the National Interest Waiver (NIW)?

A foreign national may apply for permanent residence status (Green Card) and seek a waiver of the offer of employment by establishing that his (her) admission to permanent residence would be in the National Interest.

There is no rule or statutory standard as to what will qualify an alien for a National Interest Waiver, according to USCIS. USCIS considers each case on an individual basis.

The procedure is to file the case with evidence to establish that the your admission to the United States for Permanent Residence would be in the national interest.

Benefits of the National Interest Waiver:

No Labor Certification required: A big plus since PERM petitions are taking up to 24 months for certification.

You may self-sponsor your petition.

Who Qualifies for the National Interest Waiver?

The beneficiary of a National Interest Waiver petition must qualify as either an “Advanced Degree Professional” or an “Alien of Exceptional Ability“.

Advanced Degree Professional:

To qualify for the National Interest Waiver under the Advanced Degree Professional category, the applicant must possess an advanced degree (Master’s Degree, MD or PhD) or its foreign equivalent (we recommend using Trustforte for academic evaluations of foreign degrees).

A Bachelor’s degree and five years of progressive work experience in a professional occupation also satisfies the qualification requirement of an advanced degree.

Alien of Exceptional Ability:

To qualify for the National Interest Waiver under the Alien of Exceptional Ability category, the applicant must demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, through at least three of the following:

  • An official academic record showing that the alien has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of exceptional ability;
  • Evidence in the form of letter(s) from current or former employer(s) showing that the alien has at least ten years of full-time experience in the occupation for which he or she is being sought;
  • A license to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;
  • Evidence that the alien has commanded a salary, or other remuneration for services, which demonstrates exceptional ability;
  • Evidence of membership in professional associations; and/or
  • Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.

The National Interest Waiver petition must show proof that the your admission will do one or more of the following:

  • Improve the U.S. economy.
  • Improve wages and working conditions of U.S. Workers.
  • Improve educational and training programs for U.S. children and underqualified workers.
  • Provide more affordable housing for young, aged, or poor U.S. residents.
  • Improve the U.S. environment and lead to more productive use of the national resources.
  • The foreign national may also qualify if his or her admission is requested by an interested U.S. government agency.

Postdoctoral Researchers:

The majority of National Interest Waiver petitions are filed by Postdoctoral Researchers. The following is a summary of the most important evidence to submit:

  • Letters of Recommendation.
  • Peer Reviewed Publications.
  • Cited Publications.
  • Conference Presentations.


The current criteria for a National Interest Waiver is from Matter of New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

In the NYSDOT case, the court held that the following three criteria must be met:

  1. The field of research must be of substantial intrinsic merit,
  2. The benefits of the researcher’s work must be national in scope, and
  3. The applicants contribution exceeds that of his/her peers. (this qualification is often the hardest to meet – and the one we usually spend the most time on in our case work).

Tips on preparing your National Interest Waiver (NIW) Petition:

Those seeking qualification for a waiver of labor certification based on services considered in the national interest must make a showing significantly above that to prove prospective national benefit required of all aliens seeking qualification as exceptional.

The National Interest Waiver applies only to those who will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural or educational interests or welfare of the United States.

National interest waiver cases require that the emphasis rest with the overall value and potential of the beneficiary’s individual contribution to the U.S. (not the fact that you are working in a field of high national interest.)

You may qualify by being found to be a key or critical. member of a team if it can be shown that the team function would be severely impaired without you. Merely working in an area of national interest does not necessitate a finding of national interest qualification.

USCIS recommends the submission of quality testimonial letters from substantial, recognized national or international organizations/institutes/ government agencies with the expertise to definitely say that the work or contribution of the individual truly is in the national interest. The authors of these third-party testimonial letters should clearly state how they came to be familiar with your work. A testimonial letter will often carry more weight if the author is not a personal friend of the applicant.

When accompanied by these improved advisory opinions. and when focused on the individual, time will be saved and returns for evidence will be reduced.

USCIS officers have stated that they see many claims for graduate students who have not had enough time or experience as a researcher or engineer in order to qualify for the National Interest Waiver category and have done little, outside the work required to complete their degree. Often the claim is made that their area of research is so potentially cutting edge or so significant that it must be in the national interest. In accordance with established criteria, it should be very difficult for the above-described person to qualify. The class is not designed for all graduate researchers to qualify.

USCIS officers look for realistic evidence of substantial prospective benefit to a national interest item or agenda which specifically sets the alien apart from peers in the field.

National Interest Waiver (NIW) USCIS Processing Time:

Current NIW USCIS processing time is approximately 4 months. There is currently no premium processing option for National Interest Waiver cases.

USCIS Service Center Notes:

NIW petitions filed by mail are adjudicated at  the Nebraska Service Center.

E-filed I-140 petitions are adjudicated at the Texas Service Center.

Supporting documentation for the National Interest Waiver petition (Advanced Degree Professional):

  • Copy of Advanced Degree and University Transcripts.
  • Cover Letter explaining the applicant’s achievements and benefit to the national interest.
  • Letters of support from peers.
  • Publications
  • List of Citations
  • National and/or International awards
  • Memberships in industry or research organizations (only if membership is restrictive).
  • Invitations to judge or review the work of peers
  • Speaking Invitations
  • Presentations at national and international conferences and/or seminars
  • List and description of Patents (or patents pending)
  • Media coverage (if applicable)

Do I need to submit all of my University Degrees and University Transcripts?

Although the USCIS officer is likely to only be interested in your PhD, it is wise to include copies of your Bachelor and Master degree diplomas and transcripts.

How many publications will I need for my National Interest Waiver case?

USCIS does not specify a minimum number of publications required, as a general rule we recommend at least 5.

How many citations will I need for my National Interest Waiver case?

Again, USCIS does not specify a minimum number of publications required, however citations are strongly weighted so the more you have the stronger your case will be. Google Scholar tracks citations to your publications.

What should I include in my National Interest Waiver Cover Letter?

The applicant must establish that their past record justifies future benefit to the national interest.

In other words the applicant must demonstrate specific prior achievements which establish the his or her ability to benefit the national interest.

Keep in mind that the USCIS officer is not likely to be well versed in the scientific and technical terms that you use on a daily basis. The first few paragraphs should explain your work and your contribution in laymen terms. If the USCIS officer cannot understand what it is that you do, it is may be difficult for them to approve your petition without issuing an RFE (Request for Additional Evidence).

How many Letters of support from peers do I need for my National Interest Waiver case?

There is no minimum number of letters required by USCIS. In general we recommend at least 5 strong letters.

How to write a National Interest Waiver Letter of Support

The purpose of the National Interest Waiver Letter is to convince the USCIS adjudicator that you meet the requirements for the National Interest Waiver I-140 petiiton.

First Paragraph – the WOW factor.

• The USCIS Officer is likely not an expert in your specific field, so you want to avoid overly technical language that he/she may not understand,

• It is important to state your case in laymen terms as early in the letter as possible. You want to quantify the problem and then provide your specific contribution as a solution to the problem.

Second Paragraph

Explain how the field is of substantial intrinsic merit. This usually means involving one of the following:

• The U.S. economy.

• Wages and working conditions of U.S. Workers.

• Health of US residents

• Educational and training programs for U.S. children and underqualified workers.

• Affordable housing for young, aged, or poor U.S. residents.

• Improve the U.S. environment and lead to more productive use of the national resources.

Third Paragraph

Explain how the field is national in scope. This means providing evidence that both the problem and your contribution will not only be local or regional, but national.

Fourth Paragraph

Explain how your contribution exceeds that of your peers.

It is not enough to prove that you are involved in work that is in the national interest.

You have to prove and document that your contributions are unique or are critical, essential, not easily replaceable, and are the product of advanced levels of study or experience and highly valued.

You would include descriptions of the following accomplishments:

Evidence of a one-time achievement (i.e., a major, internationally-recognized award)

Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor,

Membership in associations in the field which require outstanding achievements as judged by recognized national or international experts,

Published material in professional or major trade publications or other major media,

Participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in the field or an allied field,

Original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance in the field,

Authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional or major trade, and citations,

Publications or other major media, display of the alien’s work at artistic exhibitions or showcase,

Evidence of performing in a leading or critical role for organizations or establishments that have a distinguished reputation,

Evidence of a high salary or other high remuneration for services

Fifth Paragraph

Conclusion. This is a summary paragraphs 1 through 4.

You want to draft a powerful summary in laymen’s terms.

The idea is to make sure that the officer understands the severity of the problem, your unique contribution, how it will benefit Americans, and how few if any others are able to make this important contribution.

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Notes / Message

National Interest Waiver – Overview

National Interest Waiver – FAQ

National Interest Waiver – Attorney Services

Substantial Intrinsic Merit – The first NIW requirement

National Interest Waiver Green Card – Step by Step Kit

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