A United States Green Card is an alluring goal across the world, offering qualified foreign nationals permanent resident status in America—and eventually, U.S. citizenship. Consequently, obtaining a Green Card does not come quick or easy: While various employment visas grant legal permanent residence to approved applicants, this almost always follows a long, arduous process requiring reams of paperwork, special forms, labor certification, and documentary evidence.
That is why the EB-2 Visa is well worth considering, as it allows applicants who meet certain criteria to circumvent some of the more burdensome steps and requirements. Knowing how to qualify for this relatively easier process, and how to meet the many other qualifications that remain, is best accomplished with the help of an experienced Immigration Attorney from Jurado & Associates, P.A.
An Overview of the EB-2 Visa
The EB-2 is an immigrant visa preference category created by the Immigration Act of 1990, perhaps the biggest overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in history. In the simplest terms, thee EB2 is designed to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest people—those who can bring invaluable skills, knowledge, and abilities that benefit America—in exchange for a Green Card.
Hence, the EB2 category includes two classes of applicants:
- Professionals holding advanced degrees or their equivalent.
- Individuals with “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business.
Proving the first category is relatively straightforward: The job you apply for must require an advanced degree, which you possess. The degree must either be a baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree plus five years of work experience in the field.
Proving extraordinary ability is a big more nebulous. The term is defined in the EB2 statute to mean “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.” This generally means that you must present at least three examples of the following evidence:
- Official academic records showing you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from an academic institution relating to your area of exceptional ability
- Letters from experts, colleagues, or employers documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your field of extraordinary ability
- A relevant professional license or certification
- Evidence you have commanded a salary or other compensations for services related to your exceptional ability
- Membership in one or more professional associations
- Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional, or business organizations
- Other comparable evidence demonstrating eligibility.
In both cases, applicants must generally have a job offer from an American employer, who in turn must complete the PERM Labor Certificate Process before filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). All that is in addition to proving you meet the strict criteria of demonstrating your professional credentials and/or “exceptional ability.”
Fortunately, the EB2 Visa provides a more streamlined alternative to completing the PERM process, and for that matter needing a job offer.
Understanding the National Interest Waiver (NIW)
Even the most qualified EB2 applicant may find it challenging to have a job lined up in the U.S., let alone find an employer willing to endure the time and expense of the PERM Labor Certification Process. This often-burdensome requirement, which is designed to protect U.S. jobs, is a multistep process in itself, sometimes taking over a year to be complete.
Fortunately, the EB2 allows you to skip this requirement altogether through the “National Interest Waiver.” The NIW allows a foreign national to “self-petition” by filing an I-140 their own behalf without the involvement of an employer nor a labor certification application.
As the name suggests, the National Interest Waiver is designed to make the EB2 application process easier for candidates who can prove that being allowed permanent legal status is in America’s national interest. Unsurprisingly, demonstrating that your approval is in the country’s national interest is a high bar to pass, and requires meeting the following three criteria:
- Your proposed activities in the U.S. will have substantial merit and national importance. This merit can be shown through areas as diverse as business, science, technology, health, culture, or education. You do not need to present quantifiable evidence of economic impact, such as the amount of jobs or income you might generate, though this can certainly help. For example, a scientist can show how their research in medicine will advance American interests, or a surgeon can offer proof that their specialty is unique and will benefit society.
- You are able to advance the proposed endeavor. This means you can credibly follow through on your activities or endeavors in the U.S. Generally, this can be proven with documentation and evidence of your educational background, work experience, relevant skills, a record of similar successes or achievements, current progress, or even a detailed plan. You do not have to guarantee or prove that your endeavor will definitely succeed, only that are equipped to make it succeed if you have the opportunity.
- The U.S. would, “on balance,” benefit from waiving the job offer criteria. This means you must demonstrate that the advantages of waiving the job offer requirement—and by extension the labor certification intended to protect U.S. workers—outweighs the advantages of not waiving it (and therefore requiring you to get a job offer and labor certification). For example, an engineer can prove that America has more to gain from her technological prowess than it would from putting her through the job offer and PERM process.
Note that physicians seeking an EB2/NIW must fulfill different criteria, including agreeing to do full-time clinical work for five years, demonstrating they will work in an underserved area or Veterans Affairs hospital, and proving they have the qualifications and willingness to deliver primary care (such as general practice, obstetrics, pediatric) or a specialty area.
In any event, the requirements for an NIW are not an exact science, as they do not require specific documents or types of evidence. Rather, you must present as much quality evidence as possible to help make your case to the immigration officer reviewing your petition. Awards, letters of recommendation, publications in nationally or internationally renowned journals—any number of things can help prove you qualify for the NIW.
Work with an Immigration Attorney from Jurado & Associates, P.A.
Whether you are a U.S. employer seeking a highly qualified professional, or someone with extraordinary ability who wishes to self-petition, Jurado & Associates, P.A. has the knowledge and experience you need to help get the job done. Our Immigration Attorneys combine deep expertise in the EB2 Visa with personal experience as immigrants and entrepreneurs to provide a well-rounded and compassionate approach to legal services. We understand the challenges and complexities of the EB2 requirements, including the National Interest Waiver, and will work closely with you to devise a petition that will meet these criteria and better your chances of approval.