Can an F-1 Or J-1 Visa Holder File for a National Interest Waiver?

Getting a green card is a dream for millions of foreign nationals worldwide, but the application process is challenging and time-consuming. It helps when you have multiple avenues open to you because then you can choose the category with the least wait time, but that’s not always possible. The National Interest Waiver is one of the shortest routes to permanent residency. However, proving to the US government that your skills and work are of the utmost national importance isn’t easy, regardless of your occupation. In this article, we’ll discuss how F-1 and J-1 scholars, postdocs, and researchers can optimize their chances of approval for this coveted NIW document.

First, the Legalities

When you’re dealing with foreign national status, abiding by the terms of your visa is crucial. It’s understandable that you don’t want to apply for a green card if that’s not allowable with your specific visa category. 

Work visas like the H-1B category are dual intent, specifically allowing the holder to file for a green card while in the US. F-1 and J-1 visas are designed to be intentionally temporary, but you can apply for a National Interest Waiver via Form I-140 without concern of impacting your visa status.

Taking the Steps

When you think your endeavor and skills meet the rigorous expectations necessary to qualify for the National Interest Waiver, the first thing you should do is retain an immigration lawyer with experience in these cases, such as those of us at Visa2US. Yes, it’s possible to complete the paperwork yourself, but you’ll need to ensure you have a watertight argument proving that you meet all components involved in an NIW approval, and that can be tricky if you’ve never done it before. You only get one chance before you start the process over after a denial.

Your attorney will walk you through the steps. You’ll need to file Forms I-140 and I-485 or your consular processing forms. It can take up to one year from the time these forms are submitted until you receive your green card approval. During this time, you can apply for a work visa to counter a potential rejection of your National Interest Waiver without any complications.

Should you wish to bring your family with you along your green card path, they’ll file Form I-485 Adjustment of Status applications concurrently with your I-140. 

What You Should Know

J-1 and F-1 visas are temporary, but they allow the holder to travel abroad during their validity periods. If your passport’s visa hasn’t expired, you can leave and reenter the US. But once you submit your I-485, Employment Authorization Documentation, or Advance Parole applications in pursuit of your green card, you must wait until you have the Advance Parole approval to leave the US. Otherwise, this travel could interfere with your green card filing process. Note that National Interest Waivers are not job-specific, so changing your employer doesn’t affect your petition.

On the other hand, if you lose your current visa status before you file Form I-485, you must leave the country until you obtain a valid visa. You can return and file this form then or apply for a green card through consular processing in your home country or abroad. J-1 holders are subject to a two-year home country residence requirement. You may file for a waiver to get around this restriction. Once you obtain that, it’s possible to file the I-485 application.

Green card filing fees vary depending on the category and other factors. Rates are also on the rise. Currently, you can expect to spend around $2,000 in filing fees plus your attorney’s rates.

What’s Next?

When you want to skip the long wait and job requirements of the general work visas and green card process, a national interest waiver is the best way to reach your goal. This category is only for those who are above and beyond in their field, and it’s vital that you demonstrate your importance to the US through your paperwork, documentation, and case presentation. Our experts at Visa2US provide all the services necessary to take you from the initial filing through green card approval.

Ready to get started? Contact our legal experts at Visa2US for your evaluation and consultation. We’ve helped countless people just like you obtain their National Interest Waiver and green cards, and we’re ready to add you to that list!

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.