Many immigration applicants believe that the National Interest Waiver (NIW) is only reserved for researchers and scientists. In fact this is not the case. The NIW is applicable for many different kinds of applicants, so long as their proposed endeavor and specialization is of great importance to the United States and its national interest, broadly defined. In past examples we’ve noted that what is in the national interest is closely related to the endeavor itself, but also the U.S. economy and its working sectors. Art, in its many forms, is something that definitely contributes to the U.S. economy through many different outlets.

As such, it is possible, although difficult, to pursue a national interest waiver as an artist. This blog will be dedicated to better understanding what kinds of artists might be eligible for the NIW green card, as well as how the criteria and supporting evidence needed for this type of application differs from other types of applicants. 

Who qualifies as an artist

Because art is an incredibly diverse field, there are so many possibilities, as well as limitations, when it comes to making the case for art in a NIW application. However, it is possible to narrow the field down to serious artists, such as the following:

  • Famous painters/exhibitionists who have had their work displayed in art galleries
  • Singer/songwriters who have contributed significantly to a genre of music
  • Successful animators/illustrators who work have worked for a television network or in print media.

The above fields show artists that are not just freelancers, but those who have had commercial successes. For example if you have contributed to a genre of music significantly, then you have also probably had commercial successes with a radio station, or with the broadcasting world moreover. Broadcasting is a major commercial industry in the United States.

This is an integral part of applying for NIW as an artist. You cannot simply be a freelancer or somebody who is new to the art scene. You need to be an established professional with a record of having some type of influence with your artistic medium. In another example, one of the reasons that there have been successful NIW animator applicants is because animators work for major television networks, such as Disney. This is again evidence of a commercial success that help contributes to the U.S. economy in the entertainment industry.

Similarly, any artist whose artwork is being displayed in a museum, and is therefore bringing in more ticket sales to that museum, shows that the applicant has a previous record of commercial success, given their relationship to understanding and being able to cater toward exhibitions. Overall, commercial success is a huge predictor of ones ability for this type of NIW application.

Application Materials for Artists

Similar to other applicants, having strong recommenders is valuable, and needed for this type of NIW application. Letters of recommendation can be from a gallery owner, a previous employer (in the case of animation or working at a studio), or from other colleagues in the art world who can attest to the applicants power to advance an entire sector.

In general, the following application materials are appropriate from artists in their various fields:

  • Letters from previous employers who can attest to hiring the applicant and for the applicants ability to innovate and move an entire art form
  • Evidence that the artist contributed to various commercial successes i.e. bringing in more revenue for a museum/gallery hosting the artists work
  • Evidence in the form of letters that the applicant has a special skill in their art form that sets them apart from the crowd
  • Evidence that companies have relied on the artists work in the past for various print/media related productions 

Overall, because art can often be more ambiguous than working in business, it is a good idea for the artist in whatever field they are specializing in to make sure their application is as consistent as possible. Having evidence of successful commercialization is important because it relates directly to the potential the artist could have in the U.S. economy. In addition, the artist applying for a NIW usually needs to be a leader and/or innovator in their field because of the competitiveness of the application.

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