New Standard for National Interest Waiver (NIW green card)
Author: Employment Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova
National interest waiver is an immigration tool that allows certain qualified individuals to sponsor themselves for a US green card without the need for an employer sponsorship and without labor certification. Subparagraph (A) of section 203(b)(2) of the Act makes immigrant visas available to “qualified immigrants who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent or who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.” Under subparagraph (A), immigrant visas are available to such individuals only if their “services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business are sought by an employer in the United States.” Under subparagraph (B) of section 203(b)(2), however, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the requirement of a “job offer” (namely, that the beneficiary’s services are sought by a U.S. employer) and, under the applicable regulations, of “a labor certification.” 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(k)(4)(ii).
In short, national interests waiver is just that: it is a confirmation issued by USCIS that an applicant’s qualifications and proposed work in the US will be in the US’ interests. Over the years, the authorities developed “standards” on how to consider the applications in order to determine if a person meets the requirements. See section 203(b)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(2)(B)(i) (2012). Until recently, the leading case on point was Matter of New York State Dep’t of Transp. (“NYSDOT”), 22 I&N Dec. 215 (Acting Assoc. Comm’r 1998). The NYSDOT framework looks first to see if a petitioner has shown that the area of employment is of “substantial intrinsic merit.” Id. at 217. Next, a petitioner must establish that any proposed benefit from the individual’s endeavors will be “national in scope.” Id. Finally, the petitioner must demonstrate that the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the foreign national. Id.
Now, however, the standard was changed and became more relaxed, see Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016).
This precedent decision means that USCIS may grant a national interest waiver if the petitioner demonstrates: (1) that the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; (2) that he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirement of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.
It the third part of the test that was significantly allowing many to obtain the waiver easier.
A typical applicant for a NIW would be a researcher, professor, or an engineer. There is a special exception for physicians. (The USCIS has set forth the following seven factors which may be considered in defining national interest: Would one’s employment (1) improve the U.S. economy, (2) improve the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers, (3) improve education and training programs for U.S. children and under-qualified workers, (4) improve health care, (5) provide more affordable housing for young and/or older poorer U.S. residents, (6) improve the environment and make more productive use of natural resources, or (7) did you come to the U.S. at the request of a U.S. Government agency?).