How to Get an EB-2 NIW Green Card

If you are looking for a way to live and work in the United States, a green card through the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) category may be right for you. The EB-2 NIW category allows you to self-petition for your green card without a job offer in the United States or an American employer. It is an “Employment-Based,” second-preference category that allows professionals with exceptional ability to get a green card through the work they plan to do in the United States. A green card through the EB-2 National Interest Waiver visa will open the door to your American Dream.

However, getting a green card through the EB-2 NIW category requires a lot of work. First, you must prove that you fit into the EB-2 preference category. The EB-2 category means that you have an advanced degree or its equivalent. You may also fit into the EB-2 preference category if you have “exceptional ability.” Second, you must meet the requirements of a National Interest Waiver. In other words, the U.S. government must waive the usual requirement of a job offer and labor certification. The NIW is what makes a self-petition possible.

The EB-2 NIW green card lawyers at Terra Immigration Partners have helped many clients obtain a green card through this category. With a dedicated team of attorneys, you can also achieve your immigration goals. We are happy to speak to you to figure out how to get an EB-2 NIW green card.

EB-2 NIW Exceptional Ability Requirements

In our experience, the most qualified candidates for an EB-2 NIW green card have exceptional ability in their professional field. You may have exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business fields. To show that you have exceptional ability, you must meet at least 3 out of the 6 requirements below:

  1.  Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of exceptional ability
  2. Letters documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation
  3. A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation
  4. Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability
  5. Membership in a professional association(s)
  6. Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations (awards, publications, prizes, etc.)

Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable. However, having exceptional ability alone is not enough. You must meet the requirements of a National Interest Waiver.

National Interest Waiver Requirements

A National Interest Waiver is often the most challenging hurdle for many self-petitioners. USCIS uses a three-part test to determine this requirement. You must show:
  1. That your proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
  2. That you are well-positioned to advance your proposed endeavor; and
  3. That on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements.

First, you must prove that your work has merit and national importance. USCIS will often recognize that many fields of endeavors have merit. For example, endeavors in business, science, entrepreneurialism, technology, culture, health, education all have merit. Although you are not required to establish a national business or plan to work throughout the United States, your endeavor must have national importance. National importance may mean having a state company with a broad impact on a national level. It is the specific work done by you that must have the potential for having a national impact.

Second, you must prove that you are well-positioned to advance your endeavor. You must show that you have impressive achievements in your work area and/or are well-positioned to advance your plans. USCIS looks at your skills, experience, track record of success, a model plan for activities, any progress towards the activities, customer interest, etc. For this prong, you do not have to prove that you are more likely than not to succeed. Instead, the focus is on whether you are able to make it happen.

Third, you must prove that on balance, the United States will benefit from waiving the requirement of a job offer and labor certification. The requirement of a job offer and labor certification is to protect American workers. Having you in the United States must outweigh that important consideration. This third prong lends itself to a great deal of subjectivity. Therefore, it is your opportunity to present multiple reasons why you deserve a national interest waiver.

National Interest Waiver Examples

Some self-petitioners make the mistake of explaining in vague terms the impact of their work, such as their work offers investment opportunities, or they will pay taxes in the U.S. This is not enough to substantiate the prospective national impact of their work with sufficient evidence. For example, many clients come to us with denial letters where USCIS found merit but no national importance.

It may be an entrepreneur with a fast-food restaurant who will invest $150,000 and secure an investment in the future to open other restaurant locations, hire employees, and create revenue. These kinds of cases often satisfy the merit requirement but fail to meet the national importance requirement. If you received such a denial, our EB-2 NIW attorneys can assess your individual case and determine a better strategy for how you can get an EB-2 NIW green card.

In some situations, it may be best for you to hold off applying for a National Interest Waiver until you work on acquiring the types of achievements that can help you show that you are well-positioned to advance your endeavor. For example, if you invented a medical device or research tool, you could present your work at national or international conferences to enhance your reputation in the field.

If you are an engineer, you can get experience by working at a leading engineering company. If you are an artist, you should strive to get national awards and enter your work in reputable exhibitions. Entrepreneurs with great ideas but lack of resources and experience can apply to startup incubators or accelerators geared toward speeding up the growth and success of early-stage companies.

At Terra Immigration Partners, we have successfully obtained green cards through the EB-2 NIW category for many clients. Some of our National Interest Waiver examples include petitions for oral surgeons, security professionals, real estate developers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Our strategy is to work closely with the client to elaborate on a field of endeavor and a petition package that complies with all the requirements of a national interest waiver. Keep in mind that each case is different, and require significant research of the particular industry, effort, and dedication to be successful.

Getting a Green Card Through an EB-2 NIW Petition in 2020

As of the year 2020, the EB-2 NIW petitions have become increasingly popular because it allows the petitioner and his/her family to get a green card without the need of a U.S. employer. Although many people apply, not everyone succeeds. If you think you qualify for a green card through the EB-2 NIW category, the first step is to speak to a qualified immigration attorney. He or she can assess your credentials and accomplishment and create a petition that presents them to the U.S government in a way that increases your chances of success.

Like any immigration process, the EB-2 NIW green card process is time-consuming and expensive. However, the right immigration attorney can make the difference in your case. Contact us today for a consultation. Our immigration attorneys will provide you with an honest assessment of your case and give you a strategy for success.


  • Raquel Murphy
    Posted January 2, 2022 9:10 pm

    My niece is a teacher. She came to the US five years ago under J1 visa from the Philippines. She has a master’s in Special Education, and she would like to do NIW EB2.She got a US equivalency on her degree in US standards, and got a teacher’s license in Florence, SC. Could she Self petition herself for green card through NIW – EB2?

    Her family is here. Please email me back.

    Raquel Murphy

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