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. One thing to keep in mind; however, if that the NIW processing time can be quite lengthy, as there is no premium processing being offered right now.
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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