Eligible foreign nationals can choose between several employment-based visa options to apply with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Depending on the selected visa category, processing times may broadly vary.
How long does it take to get an EB-2 NIW petition approved? Read on to find out.
What is the NIW?
The process required to obtain an EB-2 visa is not easy. First, applicants must meet specific eligibility requirements. Once an eligible foreign worker is ready to apply with USCIS for EB-2 status, there is another hassle involved – this visa category requires a job sponsorship from a qualifying US employer.
Hence, the employer must file form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) on behalf of a prospective foreign worker.
Before applying with USCIS, the employer must go through the labor certification process (PERM) with the US Department of Labor (DOL). This process is required to ensure that there are no qualified US workers for the position being offered to a foreign professional.
Depending on each case, obtaining approval from DOL can take six to eight months to complete. This sole procedure can extend the processing period of an EB-2 application for more than a year.
The national interest waiver (NIW) is a subset of the EB-2 classification that allows applicants to waive both the job offer and labor certification requirements. If an EB-2 applicant meets the eligibility requirements for an NIW, he or she can file directly with USCIS without relying on a US employer.
NIW Eligibility Requirements
The USCIS holds EB-2 NIW applicants to a high standard. First, applicants must qualify for an EB-2 visa, which is applied to members of professions holding an advanced degree (or its equivalent) or persons who have exceptional ability.
Additionally, EB-2 applicants must meet the following criteria to apply for an NIW:
- The applicant’s proposed endeavor must have both substantial merit and national importance
- The applicant must be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, and
- Demonstrate that it would be beneficial to the United States to waive both the job offer and the labor certification requirements
How Long Does it Take to Get NIW Approved? – A Realistic Review
Compared to years ago, USCIS has significantly reduced the timeframe required to process I-140 applications with NIWs.
Generally, the period required to process an EB-2 NIW application depends on several factors, such as the assigned service center at which the paperwork will be processed and the officer assigned to assess the application.
Since the end of the pandemic, the processing time for an NIW ranges between four to seven and a half months on average. When compared to standard EB-2 applications, the period required to process an NIW is substantially shorter.
While EB-2 NIW applicants can concurrently file with USCIS to obtain a green card, the best strategy in most cases is to wait until the NIW petition’s adjudication before applying for permanent resident status.