More Benefits to the National Interest Waiver (Including H-4 Spouses' Right to Work)

The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is a top-tier under the Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2) visa category. It permits the holder to live and work in the United States without a job sponsor. Qualifying for this coveted document is challenging as the applicant must prove that they are highly skilled or have an exceptional ability that makes them of particular national interest. As with all immigration regulations, the requirements and benefits of the NIW adapt to the needs of society, and recent changes may benefit spouses under an H-4 visa should they seek work. We’ll explain those and the other must-know details here.

A Summary of the National Interest Waiver

The National Interest Waiver, better known as the NIW, is a petition used by immigrants to request lawful permanent residence via the EB-2 category. Typically, the EB-2 Green Card that grants permanent status requires a legitimate US employment offer and approval of a Labor Certification Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor. Unless you have a waiver, these are mandatory before an EB-2 Green Card is approved.

Since the Immigration Act of 1990 added the stipulation that the LCA and job requirement could be waived if the petitioner qualified as part of the “national interest,” they could self-petition. Qualified professionals included those in the sciences, arts, business, or professional fields who held exceptional abilities that would substantially benefit the national economy, welfare, or cultural or educational interest of the US.

Since the initial policy, updates brought in more specific information regarding the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The US has adjusted its definition of national interest-related professions to bring in those brilliant minds, particularly those within “focused critical and emerging technologies,” “other STEM areas important to U.S. competitiveness,” and “national security.”

Changing Legislation Continues

Yet, as the security objectives of the US adapt to the world, finding ways to “protect the security of the American people, expand economic prosperity and opportunity, and realize and defend democratic values must be redefined, as well. The National Interest Waiver is one method in which the US meets these objectives by bringing in highly skilled individuals who meet one or more of those objectives. 

As one might imagine, convincing the government of the United States that you qualify as someone of national interest can be a hurdle. Most individuals use a skilled attorney with a proven track record in successful NIW cases to develop their petitions and compile their documentation.

New Policy Guidance Reveals More Benefits

An important benefit of the NIW is the ability to skip the long wait for your priority date to become current so you can file for a Green Card. In India and China, the EB-2 is substantially delayed, but in most other countries, it streamlines your wait time.

Once you obtain your NIW, you have the freedom to change employers as you wish. You aren’t bound to a new employer, and they do not have to file a labor certification to hire you.

The benefits now expand further. Spouses in the US under an H-4 visa status who weren’t eligible for an Employment Authorization Document can now receive work authorization as soon as the I-140 for the main beneficiary is approved, provided the priority dates for the country are retrogressed.

Premium Processing and the NIW

Beginning on January 30, 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started accepting premium processing requests for National Interest Waivers when filed under an EB-2 petition. This new change allowed those who had previously filed and were awaiting approval to pay the $2,500 filing fee for a rush decision, and any new petitions could be adjudicated within 45 days, as well.

This adjustment was on top of the previously discussed recent changes that informed the public as to how the NIW would evolve to include STEM graduates in the 21st century and handle entrepreneurs. The clear aim of attempting to attract the brightest minds in crucial fields is evidenced in these adjustments to the regulations.

What’s Next?

Although the changes to policies pertaining to National Interest Waivers have become more open to various industries, proving you qualify remains the difficult part. Our professional legal representatives at Visa2US have helped countless people like you successfully obtain their Green Card through an NIW. Find out how we can work together to maximize your chances of a successful petition by contacting our office today!

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