National Interest Waiver (NIW) Requirements

In order to qualify for an NIW, an individual must:

  1. Hold an advanced degree in their field (Master's degree or above) OR be able to demonstrate exceptional ability in their field;


  2. Satisfy all three of the following criteria:
    • The individual's work must be of "substantial intrinsic merit." This has been interpreted broadly in recent years, but the following eight factors serve as a general guideline:
          • Improving the U.S. economy;
          • Improving wages and working conditions of U.S. workers
          • Improving education and training programs for U.S. children and underqualified workers
          • Improving healthcare
          • Providing more affordable housing for young and/or older, poorer U.S. residents;
          • Improving the environment of the United States and making more productive use of natural resources;
          • Improving international cultural understanding; and/or
          • A request from an interested government agency.


    • The benefit of the individual's work must be national in scope, not serve only a localized geographical area. Professionals doing important work with a local impact (such as social workers and teachers) no longer qualify. There are, however, special rules for physicians working in a VA hospital or medically underserved area.


    • Waiving the labor certification process must be "in the national interest". This is a particularly vague and subjective standard. The USCIS is not consistent in how they evaluate this standard, but it is usually satisfied by showing that the work of the individual is of such a high caliber and importance that a labor certification would not be logical.

National Interest Waivers


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