Although less heard of, it is possible to pursue an EB-2 national interest waiver in the field of counseling, or therapy. Therapists are not physicians, as they have not gone to medical school.  Although in order to become a licensed therapist you need to have finished graduate school, as well as having completed an internship practicum at least per the standard U.S. university requirements. It might be different in other countries in order to become a licensed therapist, but generally the Masters degree in counseling is required. 

This sets up therapists for at least one of the bare minimum requirement of the EB-2, as we have previously noted that a Masters degree does suffice and you don’t need to be a PhD candidate in order to qualify. However, other eligibility requirements are standard. In particular, if an applicant is a licensed therapist, they want to think about how their method of doing therapy is novel, if they are working with disadvantaged groups or those with substance abuse problems, as such clientele will signal to the USCIS that the applicant might be doing work that is in the national interest. The applicant will also need to be well into their career, at least having worked in the field for 10 years full time. 

Let’s go through some of the other qualifications and supporting documents that might be of value for such an application. 

Educating the Public

Although treating clients is central to the role of being a therapist, it doesn’t necessarily make one a leader in their field. However, clinicians who have published works or have written an article for a popular magazine on the topic of depression, for example, might have a better chance of being awarded a NIW in this category. This is because the applicant is a thought leader in a subject area, and is able to articulate why such mental health problems are important to consider at a larger, societal level. Thus educating the public via such mediums will show USCIS officers that the applicants work goes beyond individual client care, and has some novel approach that makes the applicant an exceptional person. 

Other qualifications might include the following: 

  1. Having a book published that deals with social issues or generational issues as they relate to mental health. For example, living in a technological society has made some teenagers today more anti-social and less able to deal with real-world conflicts. 
  2. Pioneering a therapeutic technique that could potentially change the field of therapy or counseling. 
  3. Evidence of successfully running or starting ones own private practice in the US (with receipts of office leasing space or monthly electric bills).
  4. Evidence from recommenders/colleagues that the applicant uses a novel approach while seeing clients and has generated remarkable feedback and results from said clientele.
  5. Evidence or written statements from clients that the applicants novel approach has been greatly beneficial to their lives.
  6. Evidence that the applicant has worked in previously underprivileged or low-income neighborhoods/areas.
  7. Citations.

Overall, this is a lesser known route for a NIW application. But mental health is of great importance to many Americans, especially due to the isolating effects that Covid-19 has had on the general public. In addition, the knowledge base of mental health research has grown exponentially in the past few decades and adding to this research base could be considered in the national interest.

Therapists who are interested in applying for a NIW should be able to connect their novel approach or way of doing therapy to some of the most pressing mental health issues that are facing Americans today. 

For more information, please see the following NIW case, which details a therapist who successfully petitioned the USCIS with the help of an immigration attorney: https://www.wegreened.com/blog/niw/success-stories-niw-petition-approved-for-clinical-psychologist-and-ceo-despite-issuance-of-rfe-2/

Keywords
NIW Health Professional Counselor