Filing for a National Interest Waiver, Step by Step

In this DIY Guide, applicants can learn more about how to submit an NIW—National Interest Waiver under the employment categories of either EB-1 or EB-2. Regardless of which category, all applicants need to self-petition and follow the steps of filing with the USCIS. Eligibility requirements are listed below and discuss the skills, credentials, and experience one needs in order to pursue this application.

First Step: File an I-140 Petition

The National Interest Waiver is applicable for those who are exceptionally talented in their field of work, usually have 10 years of experience prior to filing with the USCIS, and whose experience/endeavor would benefit the U.S. economically, at the national scale, (but also in underdeveloped regional contexts) granted legal admission into the country. Those who are preparing to file a NIW need to first submit an I-140 petition.

NIW applicants are self-petitioners. They do not need an employer to file the I-140 on their behalf (which would happen in most cases with employment-based visa applications).  

It is thus very important for a self-petitioner to check option 1H, “an alien applying for an NIW” under Part 2 of the I-140.

The filing fee for the I-140 is $700. In addition, applicants who are applying for an NIW need to include several supporting documents for the USCIS to properly adjudicate their case.

Required Documents 

  • University transcripts (especially if one has received a Masters degree)
  • Awards, publications, editorials that can attest to one's accomplishments and impact in one field of study/occupation
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation attesting to the aliens “significant contribution to their field of interest”
  • Other supporting evidence—i.e. pay stubs showing a previous salary that was competitive in applicants field/industry

In addition, some applicants might choose to file their I-485 application concurrently with their I-140, if they have a visa number already available. Not all applicants will have a visa number available though, and your nationality has a lot to do with associated backlogs in the system. In order to be sure which you should file, applicants will need to check the State Department Visa Bulletin, available here.

For Paper Filing

Send your application(s) to the correct USCIS mailbox. Applicants will need to print everything out and submit paperwork by mail in a package/parcel with a mailing label.

If you are filing only your complete NIW I-140 with supporting documents, you can send your application package to the following address:

USCIS Attn: I-140 P.O. Box 660128

Dallas, TX 75266

For concurrent filing, send your I-140 together with your I-485 to the following address:

USCIS P.O. Box 660867

Dallas, TX 75266


Assemble your application

  • Pay the fees.
  • File Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Transaction. Available here:
  • USCIS only accepts the following credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover. Make sure your account balance will cover the cost of the transaction at the time of filing
  • You can also send in a check/money order in your application package.
Notification Access
  • File Form G-1145 eNotification of Petition Acceptance. Available here.
  • Clip this completed form to the front of your petition
Final Check before wrapping up

Supporting documents should be in English or accompanied by an English translation

Finishing Steps
  • Use fasteners to hold together thick or bulky applications/petitions. Two-hole punching the top of the material for easy placement in the file is appreciated. Avoid using heavy-duty staples, binders, or folders that make the documents hard to disassemble. 
  • Sticky tabs/notes help in locating items listed in your attachments. Please place the tabs/notes on the bottom of the page, not the side.
  • Be sure to make different cases separated by fasteners or rubbers if you are delivering them in the same envelope.

Mail your final I-140 NIW petition with a mailing label/stamp. If you go through a carrier, pull up the address on your phone when you arrive at the UPS/Fedex center and they will print a mailing label to put on your package. These centers will also have the correct size parcels for all of your documents if you do not have one.

For Online Filing: 

If you wish to file online, you need to make a USCIS account and file your entire application electronically.  

Applicants first need to make an account. They can do this by going to the USCIS Home Page and selecting the Sign In Page at the top right.

  • Create an email/password, confirm your account, and Review and Accept the Terms of Use
  • Create a way you would like to receive verification codes. Common methods are by phone/email

After creating an account, applicants will be able to upload the necessary forms and complete them. The USCIS saves your work as you go, so you don’t have to worry. When you log out, your work will be saved.

  • Online filing isn’t available for all forms. Make sure you know which method you can use
  • Selecting “File a Form Online” brings you to where you can select the appropriate form
  • Upload supplementary documents.
  • Make sure you select the appropriate supplements via your Computer/Downloads/Documents
  • Files must not be larger than 6MB
  • For passport photos, you can take a picture and send them to your email for downloading purposes
  • Digital signatures include First, Middle, and Last name
  • Pay using credit/debit card
  • Use the “Documents” tab to view notices and respond to RFEs 

Next Steps

After your initial submission, you can keep logging into your USCIS account to see if they have received your application. Processing time in this regard can be up to 2-3 weeks depending on the case loads.

Once you file a form, you will have access to a secure inbox to send messages to an immigration officer and receive a response to any questions you might have.

For this particular process, the I-140 petition for NIW applicants can take between 3-9 months. Be sure to check your case for RFEs that you will need to respond to.

National Interest Waiver (NIW) FAQs

What is the main benefit of having a National Interest Waiver (NIW) from the standpoint of an employer?
The main draw is that an employer does not have to file for a PERM certification with the Department of Labor (DOL).
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What kind of degree do you need to hold in order to qualify for a National Interest Waiver?
The focus of the National Interest Waiver (NIW) applicant is not necessarily the degree, although the minimum degree requirement is a Bachelors (4-year college). The greater focus, however, for a qualifying NIW applicant is meeting the standards of the three prong test to see if they are economically beneficial when they arrive in the United States.
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The USCIS will grant an NIW to applicants who can demonstrate that they meet all three conditions of the 3-prong test. What are these requirements?
The requirements are as follows: The applicant is working, or has a career, in an area of substantial intrinsic merit that is valuable to the U.S. economy. Examples include any type of life sciences researcher, or perhaps those who work in policy because there work has the possibility to make society better. The applicant’s work has a national scope. An applicant with publications can prove, because their work has been disseminated on a large scale, that there is a national impact to their findings or that there specific workings have an impact on a sector that is critical to the nation. The USCIS would be wise to approve the NIW without a PERM certification because the applicants contribution to a particular field/industry in the United States is too great to ignore.
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