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National Interest Waiver Green Card

The national interest waiver green card “waives” the labor certification requirement of a job offer and shortage of U.S. workers.

The chief advantage to the national interest waiver is that it allows the foreign national applicant to self-sponsor. As a result, the applicant may change jobs or even engage in self-employment so long as other conditions are met. There are two types of National Interest Waivers. The first applies to any individual in any occupation but the second applies only to certain physicians.

General National Interest Waiver

To obtain a National Interest Waiver (NIW) from the employer sponsor and labor certification requirements under this category, the foreign national must hold an advanced degree or demonstrate exceptional ability. In addition, the applicant's work must (1) have substantial intrinsic merit, (2) be national in scope, and (3) serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than an equivalent U.S. worker.

Areas of “substantial intrinsic merit” include such things as:

  • Improving the US economy;
  • Improving wages and working conditions for US workers;
  • Improving education and programs for US children and under-qualified workers;
  • Improving health care;
  • Providing more affordable housing;
  • Improving the US environment and making more productive use of natural resources; or
  • A request by an interested government agency.

Caveat for Former J-1 Physicians

Physicians who held J-1 status and received a government-sponsored waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement must complete the entire three years of required medical service before they can apply for adjustment of status or consular processing. For example, let's suppose that Dr. Smith began his three-year service for his J-1 waiver on January 1, 2016. His employer immediately started the labor certification process to sponsor him for a green card and obtained an approved I-140 on June 30, 2016. Unfortunately, Dr. Smith cannot apply for adjustment of status or consular processing until January 1, 2019 – the end of his three-year service requirement.

The only exception to this rule is for physicians who apply for a National Interest Waiver for physicians. In this case, the physician may file the I-140 and the I-485 concurrently, even though he has not completed three years of J-1 waiver service. However, the I-485 will not be approved until the physician has fulfilled his five-year medical service obligation as required by the National Interest Waiver. Nevertheless, the ability to file the I-485 is a real advantage because the physician's spouse will obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) which will allow him or her to work during the years that the I-485 is processed. For many physicians, this is the only way their spouse can work with authorization.

To schedule your immigration examination to determine whether you qualify for a NIW green card, click here.

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