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How is a national interest waiver visa different from others?

Individuals from other countries seek work opportunities in the U.S. for many reasons. However, there are many restrictions and guidelines to be aware of. These revolve around the professional qualifications of the individual applying for that specific work visa.

Employment-based immigration is split into two work visa categories, first and second preferences. First preference visas require an individual to fall within three of their eligibility criteria and require extensive evidence and documentation.

On the other hand, second preference visas do not require as much documentation and consist of a visa type which skips the Department of Labor process. This visa type is called National Interest Waivers (NIW).

The national interest waiver visa is different from all other visa types because it lets individuals self-petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to drop the labor certification requirements. For individuals who find themselves applicable to the other visa types, their employers would apply to the Department of Labor (DOL) on their behalf and then go through the process of approval with the USCIS. But people who want to apply for national interest waivers, can do it themselves.

These individuals face the burden of proving to USCIS that working in the U.S. is in the nation's best interest.

They can do this by skipping past the DOL process and applying directly with USCIS, along with the I-140 form, which is a petition for Alien Worker. To qualify and start the process of applying for a national interest waiver, an individual must meet three of seven criteria. Some ways a person can qualify for a NIW are to have:

  • At least 10 years of documented work experience in a specific work field
  • A degree or diploma from a college or school showing qualifications for that field of work
  • A membership in a professional association in that work field

The main reason why someone might want to apply for a national interest waiver visa is because for the other visa types, the DOL must provide evidence to USCIS that this person is not taking away a job from an equally eligible worker in the U.S.

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