When it comes to the National Interest Waiver (NIW) application, there is much ambiguity surrounding how to define the “national interest”. Applicants might struggle to define how their proposed endeavor relates to the “national interest” without the help of an attorney.

This is not simply the applicant's fault. It is because the national interest is not easy to define, and also because national interests in general change over time; they evolve. As a nation's economy develops and changes over time, certain industries become more central to the economic growth while other industries fade away. Being able to identify what is the national interest also means being able to identify trends in research and development, and therefore an applicant must study an industry closely—to see where the development and innovation are happening, and then ask themselves if they are going to be able to contribute to such an industry in some meaningful way.

Guiding Institutions

 This is no easy task. But one way to make this process a little bit easier is to have some sort of guiding institution that manages knowledge and is up to date on recent innovations and how they are impacting the economy. For social scientists and researchers, this guiding body should be the NIH—National Institute of Health.

The NIH is America’s steward of medical and behavioral research for the Nation. The mission of the institute is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. The NIH is a government-run institute whose parent body is the Department of Human Health and Services. If you go to the NIH website, you can lot of different information and news stories related to Covid-19, the new vaccines and their effectiveness, research and breakthroughs on communicable diseases, and much more.

The NIH can serve NIW applicants in a creative. Simply keeping up with the NIH’s news coverage might help applicants understand the trajectory of a field (such as cancer research), and what innovations are helping in terms of national interest. Applicants can scroll over to the “Research and Training” tab to see what some of the most prominent topics are in terms of medical research today, as well as how these initiatives are being funded.

A More Targeted Approach

The NIH as a guiding institution can also help applicants if they are able to use information or employees of the institute on their NIW applications. For example, because the NIH is an authority figure on medical research in the U.S., and also for countries around the world, it would show the USCIS very clearly how a topic is linked to the national interest if the NIH is branded onto one application.

In turn, this would help applicants file a more targeted NIW application. Oftentimes very accomplished individuals will apply for an NIW, except that the materials they submit lack emphasis in terms of the national interest. They don’t have enough linkage of their proposed endeavor to an actual guiding body or institution that can back up their claims. The NIH could be one of these bodies to help applicants in the future write a more directed application. 

In addition, the NIH is a great resource to simply learn more about pressing health topics in the U.S. If you scroll to the “Health Information” tab on the Home Page, you will be directed to a Health Highlights page that has daily articles on new health-related research.

Overall, it might be beneficial for applicants to use the NIH as a guiding resource if they are involved in this sector before applying for an NIW. It might help focus their application, and also include sources and supplementary evidence for how their research or proposed endeavor relates to a topic that is highly relevant in terms of national importance.

Link to the NIH: https://www.nih.gov/