Using the NSF as a Resource for your NIW Application

The National Science Foundation has an abundance of grant opportunities, and should also serve as a guide for prospective NIW applicants to understanding the pressing challenges/research needs in their field or proposed endeavor.

Previously on the blog we covered the National Institute of Health (NIH), an institute that is well known in the United States for publishing medical research and working with some of the most innovative scientists and researchers in their career pursuits. This institution can act as a guiding force for ones NIW application, because it shows the USCIS that the applicant is “well positioned” to advance their proposed endeavor. In this case, we’ll discuss briefly the NSF—National Science Foundation, and its grasp on international science and how it can help NIW applicants.

What is the NSF? 

The NSF was actually created in 1950 by Congress and is a government funded agency whose mission is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, welfare, and to help secure national defense…” Although the NSF is not engaged in medical research, they are engaged in providing funding for a variety of other fields from ranging engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other earth sciences such as geology.

With an annual budget of $8.5 billion (for fiscal year 2021), the NSF is the premier funding source for approximately 25 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by colleges and universities in the United States. In other words, many college students can compete for an NSF grant based an allotment that was given to a certain department during the school year or that they know will become available. 

In addition, this also makes the NSF a source of authority when applicants have in their application package evidence that they have received NSF funding on behalf of their proposed endeavor. Lets unpack this part a bit further.  

Funding Opportunities at a Glance

If you re-locate to the NSF website, at the top of the page you will find the “Funding” tab. This is where professionals who are looking for NSF grants will spend the majority of their time perusing the site to see if there are any funding opportunities that they would be able to submit a proposal for. The NSF works through reviewing grant proposals written by scientists and researchers, and then going through a vetting and pretty comprehensive review phase. Here’s a step by step of how this generally works:

1.     A prospective applicant relocates to the Find Funding tab, and then further specifies what they are looking for by scrolling through the “Research Areas” toward the bottom of the page.

2.     The applicant can then read about different active research opportunities which means that the NSF is currently accepting proposals in that specific research area. Applicants should note that on the left side of the page, once having relocated to a specific research area, the funding opportunity due date will either have a closing due date or will say “Accepted Anytime” meaning that it is a space for rolling proposals.

3.     Once the applicant has submitted their proposal under the correct funding opportunity potential, they should know that the next phase will be waiting for a proper review of their proposal. Because of the peer review process in place, it usually takes about 6 months to receive a decision on ones grant proposal. For more information as to this process, see the following link:

Impact and your NIW Application

Your National Interest Waiver application depends on a considerable degree of authority. This means that besides your resume and credentials from an academic institution—you need to back up your professionalism and proposed endeavor in something concrete.

If you have received a grant from the NSF, however small or big (the size of the award does not matter), it means that you have gone through the extensive peer-review process that is outlined above. This means that your proposed endeavor or field of research is highly valuable to the field in which you work, and therefore could also be in the national interest of the United States to waive your labor certification. It does happen frequently that PhD candidates have a relationship with the NSF because of the resources they have available on campus to be connected to representatives from the agency.

Overall, prospective NIW applicants should spend some time on the NSF website, perusing possible research interests or seeing how to structure a grant proposal. Having this connection attached to your application will immediately help the USCIS officer presiding over your case establish a plausible reason why your research/focus is in the national interest.


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