National Interest Waiver Applicant Criteria

The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is a method of entering legal status in the United States based on exceptional ability. But what makes a person qualify as exceptional in the eyes of the U.S. Federal government? Here, we will explain the criteria that interested applicants must meet and exhibit on their journey towards obtaining an NIW. 


There are a variety of professional categories that can apply for a NIW. These can include, but are not limited to doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, artists, dentists, entrepreneurs, and more. What separates this type of visa from others is that an American employer endorsement is not required, in fact, the NIW is individually submitted for and is not related to a specific company at all.


Educational Requirements 


Like other work-related visa categories, higher education is a requisite for the NIW. Applicants must possess the equivalent of a Master’s or PhD in your desired field of employment. In addition to the advanced degree, applicants must possess at least five years of applied experience in the field. Further, any licensing, certifications, or continuing education that is required to professionally perform the job must be up to date and valid. 




To demonstrate your exceptional ability, applicants must obtain references to their professional contributions to the given industry. While typical references are people who can attest to knowing you personally, that is not required in the NIW references. In fact, more compelling references would be people attesting to your professional aptitude and impact who don’t know you, they just know of your work. 


Examples of work


Publications, event participations, awards, and any other examples that demonstrate an applicant’s abilities are essential to a compelling NIW petition. Additionally, memberships in professional organizations can help show exceptional ability and professional prowess.


If you are a foreign national with exceptional ability, and you’d like to expand your professional work into the United States, you could qualify for a National Interest Waiver. The process typically takes between 9 months to a year, so be mindful of that length if you choose to pursue the NIW for immigration into the U.S. For a complimentary consultation of your case, contact our NIW attorneys for legal advice today.