The EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) Visa for Doctors

17 min. read
Published: Jul 9, 2024
Last Updated: July 09, 2024
  • The information provided on this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed attorney. For personalized guidance, please consult with our attorneys.

EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) visa presents an incredible opportunity for doctors to obtain lawful residence in the United States. You can qualify for this visa by proving your exceptional abilities, or your advanced degree, and demonstrating that your work will serve the U.S. national interests. 

Even though doctors have a fair chance to obtain the EB-2 NIW visa, obtaining the visa requires strategic tailoring of your case to satisfy the intricacies of immigration law. That is why it is important to work with experienced professionals like Oguz Law. With Oguz Law by your side, you will strategically determine your proposed endeavor to avoid risk of rejection, and work with an experienced team of EB-2 NIW immigration lawyers. From being in contact with you in every step of the process to providing you guidance for drafting reference letters and statement of purpose, Oguz Law is committed to your success in the EB-2 NIW application, and ensures a smooth and successful EB-2 NIW process.

What is an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) Visa?

The EB-2 NIW Visa is an immigrant visa for foreign nationals considering obtaining a U.S. green card. The EB-2 NIW Visa, which is a subcategory of EB-2 Visa, facilitates lawful residency in the United States through presenting how an individual’s skills and professional contributions serve the U.S. national interest.

This visa category is appropriate for individuals with exceptional abilities or advanced degrees in fields like arts, sciences, or business and allows applicants to be exempt from the standard labor certification process, known as PERM, which is usually required for employment-based green cards. In this way, the EB-2 NIW visa eliminates the need for an official job offer or employer sponsorship.

Who Does the Term “Doctors” Encompass?

“Doctors” within the EB-2 NIW visa is broader than only encompassing doctors, and typically includes medical doctors, physicians, surgeons, specialists, researchers, and other professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in the medical field. This includes individuals qualifying as MD (Doctor of Medicine), DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), and other relevant doctorate degrees.

What are the Benefits of the EB-2 NIW Visa For Doctors?

The EB-2 NIW visa provides numerous advantages overall, with particular benefits for doctors:

  • Visas are accessible for numerous countries,
  • The benefits of the EB-2 NIW visa extend to doctors’ spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old,
  • The EB-2 NIW covers a wide range of fields, offering flexibility to work in diverse areas of medicine,
  • It allows for self-petitioning, so you do not have to find an employer,
  • It doesn’t necessitate a job offer, eliminating the need for labor certification,
  • Since labor certification isn’t required, the processing time is shorter,
  • By opting for premium processing through USCIS, you can reduce the processing time to 45 days by paying an additional fee.

What are the Eligibility Criteria for the EB-2 NIW for Doctors?

To secure the EB-2 NIW, doctors must demonstrate two key factors:

  • They qualify either as professionals with advanced degrees or as individuals with exceptional abilities.
  • They must prove that waiving the job offer and labor certification requirements is in the national interest of the United States. Essentially, their presence in the country should significantly benefit its economy, culture, education, or welfare.

Additionally, USCIS may grant a national interest waiver based on doctors demonstrating eligibility through a preponderance of evidence, relying on the following three criteria:

  • The person’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
  • The person is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and
  • On balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the job offer and thus the permanent labor certification requirements.

What Qualifies as an Advanced Degree or Exceptional Ability?

Advanced Degree

An advanced degree encompasses any academic or professional degree from a U.S. institution or its foreign equivalent beyond a bachelor’s degree level. Alternatively, a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent, combined with five years of progressive post-degree work experience, qualifies as an advanced degree.

Exceptional Ability

A doctor can qualify for the exceptional ability visa preference classification if they:

  • Demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business,
  • Show that their presence will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States in the future,
  • Have their services sought by an employer in the United States in one of those fields.

Exceptional ability is proven by meeting at least three of the six regulatory criteria set by USCIS:

  • Official academic records, 
  • Employment letters showcasing 10 years of experience, 
  • Professional licenses or certifications, 
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary, 
  • Membership in professional associations, 
  • Recognition for achievements by peers or organizations. 

Meeting these criteria alone does not guarantee exceptional ability classification; the quality and relevance of evidence are also assessed in the final determination.

How can Applicants Demonstrate National Interest and Substantial Merit?

Applicants can demonstrate national interest and substantial merit by providing detailed information about their proposed endeavor, in other words, different kinds of tasks or responsibilities that they intend to pursue within that particular profession. This includes outlining specific projects, goals, or areas of focus within their field, rather than general occupational duties. For doctors, this can be achieved via providing detailed information about their competence in their specialization. 

The endeavor’s substantial merit can be shown in various areas such as business, science, technology, culture, health, or education. Additionally, evidence of potential economic impact is considered, but endeavors related to research or pure science may qualify even without immediate economic benefits. Accordingly, doctors may prove substantial merit by detailing their scientific research on specific fields of medicine such as mental illnesses, or their experience as a doctor to the benefit of the society. For example, the endeavor “may have national importance because it has national or even global implications within a particular field, such as certain improved manufacturing processes or medical advances.” [Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884, 889-90 (AAO 2016).]

Officers assess the national importance of the proposed endeavor based on its potential impact, focusing on its broader implications rather than geographic scope or specific occupation. Ultimately, if the proposed endeavor has the potential to significantly benefit society, enrich culture, or advance technology or knowledge, it may be deemed of national importance. Doctors may prove their proposed endeavors’ national importance by mentioning their contribution to scientific research, or showing that their work as a doctor benefits the society’s well-being, positively contributing to productivity and therefore economic prosperity of the U.S. 

What Documentation and Proof of Qualifications Can Be Presented By Doctors?

  • Official academic records demonstrating advanced degrees or documents demonstrating exceptional abilities,
  • CV,
  • Professional licenses or certifications related to the profession or occupation, such as specialty certifications,
  • Documentation regarding how they will be working in their field, including business plan, potential employers, or explanation on how they will be self-employed,
  • Statement of purpose describing the work and its national importance,
  • Documentary evidence that supports their statements and establishes the endeavor’s national importance,
  • Letters of support (approximately 6–10) from experts in the field attesting to their work and its importance,
  • Evidence of published material about them and their work in professional journals, trade publications, or major media, which may include material about a study they took part in,
  • Membership in professional associations,
  • Evidence of presentations at professional conferences in the field,
  • Recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional organizations,
  • Patents, trademarks, copyrights, or licenses awarded to them,
  • Documentation showing that any of their publications is required reading in university courses,
  • Evidence that they have been contacted to render expert opinions, such as via e-mail, or ResearchGate,
  • Evidence of receipt of national or international prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor (proven by actual award certificates, articles about the awards, or references to the award in letters of recommendations),
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, published in professional journals or major media,
  • Evidence of participation, either in a group or alone, as a judge of others in the same or a similar field, which may include being part of a phd evaluation committee,
  • Plan for future activities,
  • Documents showing interest from patients.

How Can I Apply for the EB-2 NIW as a Doctor?

To apply for the EB-2 NIW visa as a doctor, you need to demonstrate exceptional ability or hold an advanced degree in your field. You need to submit the I-140 Form as well as evidence on your academic success, work experience, licenses, certifications, and your contributions to the field. Once your petition is approved, you can either adjust your statute if you are already in the United States, or follow consular processing abroad. Carefully follow all these steps and counsel Oguz Law throughout the process.

Steps to Getting an EB-2 NIW For Physicians

  • Eligibility Assessment: Assess whether you meet the eligibility criteria for the EB-2 NIW.
  • Document Collection: Collect and share with Oguz Law all essential documentation and proof of qualifications to support your EB-2 NIW petition. 
  • Letter: Oguz Law will draft your letter explaining that you fulfill the EB-2 NIW requirements.
  • Necessary Forms (Form I-140 and ETA 9089) Completion and Submission: Complete and submit Form I-140 to USCIS, and employee related sections of the ETA 9089 form, along with the required supporting documents and proof of qualifications including your passport, previous visas, birth certificate, and filing fee to USCIS.
  • Wait for Approval: USCIS will review your petition. There is no set processing time for review, and you can check the USCIS website for current processing times.
  • Attend Interview (if necessary): If USCIS asks you to attend an interview as part of the review process, attend the interview at the designated USCIS office.
  • Approval Notice: Upon approval of your EB-2 NIW petition, you will receive an approval notice from USCIS.
  • Wait for Priority Date: After approval of the Form I-140, you have to wait for your priority date to become current so that you can proceed with the next steps. The priority date is the date when the USCIS receives your Form I-140 petition. You can track the progress of priority date movement through the monthly Visa Bulletin published by the Department of State. Once your priority date is current, you can apply for a green card either adjusting your status or through consular processing.
  • Adjustment of Status or Application for Consular Processing: To obtain residence permit, you can apply for adjustment of status if you are already in the United States, or apply through consular processing if you are abroad.
  • Receive Green Card: Once your green card application is approved, you will receive your EB-2 NIW green card, which grants you lawful permanent residence in the United States.
  • Fulfill Reporting Requirements: As an EB-2 NIW visa holder, you must fulfill reporting requirements and obligations associated with maintaining your permanent resident status.

How Much Does EB-2 NIW Cost for Doctors?

The main fees required to be paid to administrative authorities for the application, excluding attorney fees, are as follows: 

  • $715 for Form I-140, 
  • $300 Asylum Program Fee
  • $2805 if you wish to use premium processing for the Form I-140,
  • Once the Form I-140 is approved, if you are already living in the U.S.:
    • $1440 per applicant for the green card application (Form I-485) if you are already living in the U.S. after the petition is approved,  
    • $85 as biometrics fee,
    • $200 – $400 medical examination fee.
  • Once the Form I-140 is approved, if you are living abroad:
    • $235 USCIS immigrant fee,
    • $85 as biometrics fee,
    • $200 – $400 medical examination fee.
  • Additional fees may apply for filing an immigration petition for a relative, or for other administrative expenses.

EB-2 NIW Processing Times for Doctors: How Long Does EB-2 NIW Take?

In the EB-2 NIW process, the first step is to file Form I-140. The processing time for this application currently ranges from 4 to 12 months, but this timeframe may vary. However, via premium processing, this time may be reduced to 45 days.

Once the Form I-140 is approved, the green card application will be submitted. Doctors must wait for their priority date to become current before submitting their green card application. This typically takes about one year from the time their priority date is published in the visa bulletin. 

After application, the green card process takes approximately three to twelve months.

What Happens After the EB-2 NIW Approval?

After the approval of your EB-2 NIW petition, you will proceed with either adjustment of status or consular processing. If you are already in the United States, you will apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident. If you are outside the United States, you will undergo consular processing to obtain an immigrant visa. Upon approval of your adjustment of status application or immigrant visa, you will receive your EB-2 NIW green card, granting you permanent residency in the United States.

Work with Oguz Law’s EB-2 NIW Immigration Lawyers

When navigating the intricate process of obtaining an EB-2 NIW visa, partnering with experienced immigration lawyers can make all the difference. At Oguz Law, our team of EB-2 NIW immigration lawyers brings years of expertise and a proven track record of success to the table. We understand the complexities of immigration law and are dedicated to providing personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation. From preparing and filing your petition to navigating potential challenges, we are committed to advocating for your best interests every step of the way. By choosing Oguz Law, you can trust that you’re working with a team that prioritizes your goals and strives for excellence in every aspect of your EB-2 NIW journey.

Frequently Asked Questions About EB-2 NIW 

Can All Doctors Apply For a National Interest Waiver?

Yes, if they fulfill the conditions. 

What is Substantial Merit in EB-2 NIW?

Substantial merit in EB-2 NIW refers to demonstrating that the proposed endeavor holds significant value or importance in areas such as business, entrepreneurship, science, technology, culture, health, or education.

Is It Difficult For Doctors to Get an EB-2 NIW?

No, it is not difficult for doctors to obtain an EB-2 NIW because their profession often aligns well with the criteria for exceptional ability or advanced degrees, and their work can clearly demonstrate substantial merit and national importance, particularly in fields such as healthcare, research, and education.

Doctors stand a solid chance of securing the EB-2 NIW, given USCIS’s acknowledgment of the significance of advancements in STEM fields and the crucial role played by individuals holding advanced STEM degrees in driving such advancements.

Do I Have To Work For Five Years In A Row To Qualify?

No, you do not have to work for five years in a row for an NIW to qualify. The requirement for an EB-2 NIW is to demonstrate exceptional ability or hold an advanced degree, along with providing evidence that your work will substantially benefit the national interest of the United States. While having five years of experience demonstrating advancing levels of responsibility and knowledge in the specialty can strengthen your case, it is neither an absolute requirement to have five years of experience nor to have it continuously.. 

Only if you have a bachelor’s degree and cannot prove exceptional ability, you have to prove 5 years of progressive experience which is a work experience that demonstrates a continuous growth in responsibility, skills, and expertise over time. But even in that case, the requirement for five years of progressive experience does not necessitate continuous, uninterrupted employment as long as the overall trajectory of your career demonstrates progressive experience and significant contributions to your field. This means that the experience can be accumulated over time, with breaks or periods of non-employment allowed.

Will My Spouse and Children Also Get a Green Card?

Yes, if your EB-2 NIW petition is approved and you are granted a green card, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also be eligible to receive green cards as your dependents. They can accompany you to the United States as lawful permanent residents.

Is There an Age Limit For EB-2 NIW?

There is no specific age limit for the EB-2 NIW visa category. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria, you may qualify for an EB-2 NIW visa regardless of your age.

How Many Publications Do I Need For EB-2 NIW?

There is no specific number of publications required for an EB-2 NIW petition. Instead, USCIS considers the quality and impact of your publications as part of the evidence demonstrating your exceptional ability or advanced degree in your field. It’s essential to provide a strong portfolio of publications that showcases your expertise, contributions, and recognition within your field to strengthen your EB-2 NIW petition.

How Long is EB-2 NIW Valid For?

The EB-2 NIW visa, once granted, typically leads to lawful permanent residency (green card) in the United States. Lawful permanent residency is indefinite and does not have an expiration date. However, green card holders are required to renew their green cards every 10 years. As long as you continue to meet the requirements for maintaining lawful permanent residency, your EB-2 NIW status remains valid indefinitely.

Does EB-2 NIW Require an Interview?

Typically, EB-2 NIW petitions do not require an interview as part of the adjudication process. However, in some cases, USCIS may request an interview to further evaluate the petition or clarify certain aspects of the applicant’s eligibility. If an interview is requested, the applicant will be notified by USCIS, and they must attend the interview at the designated USCIS office. It’s essential to prepare thoroughly for the interview and provide any requested documentation or information to support your EB-2 NIW petition.

For applicants pursuing consular processing for an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver), an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy is typically required as part of the green card application process. Unlike the adjustment of status process within the United States, where applicants file Form I-485, consular processing involves submitting the necessary documentation to a U.S. consulate or embassy in the applicant’s home country or country of residence. During the consular interview, an officer will review the applicant’s qualifications, supporting documents, and the reasons for seeking the visa. 

How Many Recommendation Letters Do I Need For EB-2 NIW?

There is no specific number of recommendation letters required for an EB-2 NIW petition. Instead, it’s important to focus on the quality and impact of the recommendation letters. Generally, including letters from experts in your field who can attest to your exceptional ability or the national importance of your work is beneficial. While there is no set minimum, providing at least six recommendation letters that effectively support your petition can strengthen your EB-2 NIW application.

Can I File EB-2 NIW Without an Employer?

Yes, you can file an EB-2 NIW petition without an employer. The EB-2 NIW category allows self-petitioning, meaning you can apply for the visa without the need for a job offer or sponsorship from an employer.

Can I File EB-2 NIW By Myself?

Yes, you can file an EB-2 NIW petition on your own without the assistance of an attorney. However, navigating the immigration process can be complex, and an attorney’s expertise can be invaluable in ensuring that your petition is properly prepared, supported by strong evidence, and meets all requirements.

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