As an immigration attorney who is focused on the EB-2 national interest waiver green card, I am often asked about how long it will take to get a case processed and approved by USCIS. Currently, if you ask me that question, I will generally say about 18 months. Although the EB-2 NIW was once processed within 5 to 9 months, there is currently a huge backlog.
If you are hoping to pay for premium processing for your national interest waiver, unfortunately, that service is not currently available. No one is exactly sure when USCIS will start offering EB-2 NIW beneficiaries more rapid results through premium processing. Even immigration lawyers in your area are not certain about what is happening with premium processing for the EB-2 NIW.
EB-2 NIW has been authorized for premium processing
In late September 2020, while the pandemic was in full force, Donald Trump was still the President of the United States, and the backlog was becoming a behemoth, changes were made to premium processing policy.
Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021
On September 30, 2020, former President Trump signed the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021. As part of that Act, allowances were made to expand the premium processing program.
One of the most exciting provisions of the Act for immigration lawyers and their employment-based green card clients was the inclusion of the EB-2 NIW as a Form I-140 category that was eligible for premium processing. But then nothing happened.
Changes to premium processing filing fees
Effective October 19, 2020, many green card categories that were eligible for premium processing experienced a fee increase from $1,440 to $2,500, including the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card.
When USCIS implements premium processing for the EB-2 national interest waiver petitions, the cost will be $2,500, as well. This, of course, is in addition to the $700 filing fee for Form I-140.
Authorization for premium processing
Even when USCIS finally institutes premium processing for the EB-2 NIW, the policy is not planned to be the same as for the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card. Although the Form I-907 fee will also be $2,500, the national interest waiver is set to have a promised processing time of 45 days.
This is a much longer time compared to the 15 calendar days afforded by EB-1A premium processing. But it is certainly better than 18 months or more.
Your guess is as good as mine
But who knows when the EB-2 NIW premium processing program will be implemented by USCIS. Also, many are wondering if USCIS will allow for previously filed petitions to be upgraded.
Can these EB-2 NIW cases be removed from that large pile that many of us imagine that they are festering in and get processed within 45 days? If you have filed a national interest waiver green card petition, or you plan to, you may want to consult with an immigration attorney near you to find out the latest on premium processing.
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Many immigrant visas for legal entry or residency in the United States require an American sponsor. Sponsoring an immigrant in the United States can be a huge responsibility.
Each year about 800,000 foreign-born residents become naturalized citizens. But the process toward obtaining a green card, and eventually citizenship, can be rigorous.
Sponsoring a Family Member
There are several types of sponsorships for family members.
Requirements for Sponsorship
A sponsor must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Citizens who live abroad, such as military personnel, must provide evidence that their stay out of the country is only temporary.
In order to vouch for a family member, a sponsor can complete an affidavit of support. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), this assurance document is a legal record.
Individuals who wish to sponsor an immigrant in the USA may ask someone to share the responsibility. However, sponsors may not combine their incomes in order to meet the required income threshold for sponsorship.
In the event that a sponsoring family member passes away after the approval of a visa petition, USCIS may allow for someone to take their place and assume responsibility. Because the original sponsor was a relative, the replacement sponsor must be family, as well.
Whether a person is a sponsor, joint sponsor, or substitute sponsor, they must be able to earn an adequate salary. The income threshold is generally 125% or more of the U.S. poverty line for the relevant household size.
An exception applies for soldiers, as well as those sponsoring their spouse or child. In this instance, income must meet or exceed the poverty level for a family of the sponsor’s size.
Sponsoring an Employee
A company, or prospective employer, may sponsor a foreign national for lawful permanent residency, based on a job offer. They first need to perform a labor certification.
A labor certification shows that, after a diligent search, there was not a pool of qualified applicants among U.S. citizens. Some employees may seek other types of visas that waive the labor certification requirement, such as the EB-2 national interest waiver or the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card.
Speak with an Immigration Attorney
If you are going to be sponsoring a noncitizen, or if you are seeking an EB-2 NIW or EB-1A, you might need legal assistance.
To err on the side of prudence, contact an immigration attorney to discuss your options and ensure your compliance with United States immigration law.
If you believe that you have to have a Ph.D. or at least a master’s degree to be eligible for an EB-2 second preference green card with a national interest waiver (NIW), you may be pleasantly surprised. Not everyone whose endeavors have substantial merit and national importance to the USA have that educational background.
In reality, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) provides the following standard: “You may be eligible for an employment-based, second preference visa if you are a member of the professions holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or a foreign national who has exceptional ability.”
Advanced Degree or Its Equivalent
The term “equivalent” may seem ambiguous to some noncitizens who are pursuing an EB-2 NIW. In actuality, the way that USCIS views it is fairly concrete.
To be considered by a USCIS officer as a foreign national with the significance of an advanced degree, one must have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field of application and at least five years of progressive experience in their area of expertise.
What does exceptional ability mean?
Noncitizen professionals who do not have at least a bachelor’s degree in their area of career focus can still qualify for an EB-2 NIW. This is because there is an alternative way to achieve second preference status, exceptional ability.
USCIS provides several factors that may persuade a DHS adjudicator that an EB-2 NIW beneficiary has exceptional ability. The list below is not exhaustive.
National Interest Waiver
Someone who has a job offer and labor certification may be able to be approved for a second preference immigrant visa based on their advanced degree or exceptional ability. Those who wish to have the job offer and PERM waived can self-petition for an EB-2 NIW.
Since one of the three necessary elements for a national interest waiver is that the noncitizen is “well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor,” an EB-2 NIW self petitioner might consider using some of the exceptional ability criteria to demonstrate it. In this sense, they can meet both the thresholds of having exceptional ability and being well positioned.
Applying for an EB-2 NIW based on Exceptional Ability
If you do not have an advanced degree or its equivalent, or if you are not working in the field related to your education, you may still qualify for an EB-2 NIW. You have the option to self-petition for a national interest waiver, and you now have the information needed to gather your evidence.
Even if you are planning to petition for an EB-2 NIW yourself, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney before you begin. Gallagher Domanski Professional Law Corporation offers a free CV evaluation and has a dedicated Facebook Group, “EB-2 Self Petitioners.”
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