Foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States with work-based visas have several options available on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Depending on the option chosen by an applicant, the requirements may vary significantly.
Is a national interest waiver (NIW) an EB-1 visa? Read on to find out.
Is a National Interest Waiver an EB1? – The Verdict
The national interest waiver (NIW) is a subset of the EB-2 classification, which means EB-1 applicants do not have access to this option.
EB-1 Priority Workers Visa
The Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference (EB-1) visa applies to noncitizens who are:
- Individuals of extraordinary ability
- Outstanding professors or researchers, or
- Occupy certain roles as executives or managers in multinational companies
USCIS establishes specific criteria that applicants must fulfill to qualify for each EB-1 subcategory. For example, demonstrating extraordinary ability requires the applicant to meet at least three of the following criteria:
- “Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence
- Evidence of your membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members
- Evidence of published material about you in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence that you have been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel
- Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field
- Evidence of your authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media
- Evidence that your work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases
- Evidence of your performance in a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations
- Evidence that you command a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field
- Evidence of your commercial successes in the performing arts”
National Interest Waiver (NIW)
Conversely, the national interest waiver (NIW) is an optional subcategory of the Employment-Based Immigration: Second Preference (EB-2) classification with unique benefits. Standard EB-2 petitions require applicants to rely on a US job sponsorship.
Hence, a qualified US employer must go through the labor certification process (PERM) and only then file a petition with USCIS on the prospective employee’s behalf.
The whole process can result in a complex and lengthy experience, which is not ideal for highly-qualified foreign professionals. EB-2 applicants who opt for an NIW can self-petition, which means they do not depend on the willingness of a third party to apply on their behalf.
USCIS has specific eligibility requirements for EB-2 NIW applicants, which are:
- The applicant must qualify for the EB-2 status as a member of a profession holding an advanced degree (or its foreign equivalent), or as a person of exceptional ability
- The proposed endeavor must have substantial merit and national importance
- The applicant must be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, and
- The proposed endeavor must be in the national interest of the United States in a way that justifies the waiver of the job offer and labor certification requirements