Filing Fees

The filing fees for the EB-2 NIW are as follows:

Petition: $700
Visa in the US: $1,140
Visa outside the US: $230
Biometric fee: $85 (if applicable)
Premium processing fee (optional): $2,500

Processing Time

The NIW green card processing time is typically between 3 to 9 months. Though, this time greatly depends on the assigned USCIS Service Center and the adjudicating officer. Processing times vary as USCIS evaluates each application and NIW Processing Time.

Premium Processing 

With premium processing, you can pay an additional fee to have your visa or green card processing time expedited to just 15 calendar days. It does not increase your chances of approval, but it could save you months of time waiting for a decision.

Up until recently, applying for a National Interest Waiver for the EB-2 meant that you were unable to take advantage of premium processing. 

However, starting from January 30, 2023, premium processing will be available for all pending and new EB-1C Multinational Executive and Manager immigrant visa petitions and all pending and new EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) immigrant visa petitions.


1. The foreign national must show that his/her proposed endeavor is considered to have substantial merit and national importance. This merit can be shown in areas like business, science, technology, health, culture, or education. There does not need to be quantifiable evidence of economic impact, though it may help your case.

One must keep in mind that meeting this requirement does not create a blanket approval for the field of endeavor and the US government shall review applications on a case-by-case basis.

2. The foreign national must be in a position to advance the proposed endeavor. This means that the AAO will look at factors such as the alien’s educational background, experience, relevant skills, a record of similar successes, current progress, and having a plan for success.

Petitioners will not be required to prove that their endeavor will succeed, but rather that they are equipped to make it succeed if the opportunity arises.

3. The foreign national must present evidence that the U.S. would benefit on balance to waive the job offer criteria for an EB-2. “On balance” simply means that the advantages of waiving the job offer requirement outweigh the advantages of not waiving it.

The EB-2 visa is typically for graduates with an advanced degree or a foreign national with exceptional ability in their area of specialization.

Labour Certification Required? Yes, unless the applicant can obtain a National Interest Waiver (NIW), which fast-tracks applications for individuals who can prove their specialty is in U.S. national interest. 

What is Labor Certification?
What is a Prevailing Wage Determination?
What is a National Interest Waiver?
Processing Time
Filing Fees

What is a National Interest Waiver?

Normally, a permanent job offer and an approved labor certification are pre-requisites to file an employment-based, second preference immigration petition. However, a National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition requests that the labor certification requirement be waived for the sake of the “national interest of the United States” and so allowing an employer to petition (or applicant to self-petition) for an NIW immigration petition without a labor certification or a job offer from a U.S. employer.

What is Labor Certification?

Labor certification requires U.S. employers to certify that no U.S. workers meet the minimum qualifications and so hiring the sponsored migrant will not displace US workers from a job. Specifically:

- There are insufficient available, qualified, and willing U.S. workers to fill the position being offered at the prevailing wage
- Hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers




EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW)

What is a Prevailing Wage Determination?

The U.S. employer must pay at least 100% of the "prevailing wage." This is what US workers are usually paid to do the same job. This is known as PERM Certification. 


Q. What is the difference between a regular EB-2 and EB-2 NIW green card petitions?

The difference is that you need an employer to sponsor a regular EB-2 visa and  they will also need to obtain a labor certification before submitting petition. But with the EB-2 NIW, the employer does not need to obtain a labor certification and you can file your own petition.

Q. Are labor certifications necessary for NIW cases?

PERM Labor Certifications are not required for those categorized as beneficial to the national interest although they are required for other EB-2 beneficiaries.

Q. What is usually considered an advanced degree?

The terms outlining an advanced degree (as characterized by USCIS) include a United States master’s degree or higher, or a foreign equivalent degree. 

Q. What if I only have a bachelor’s degree?

Bachelor’s degrees are also considered the equivalent to a master’s when the individual has five years of progressive experience to add. The experience must be in the specialty or field you are applying for.

Q. Do I have to possess both an advanced degree and exceptional ability to qualify for an NIW?

No, you only need to meet the requirements for one of the two criteria. Though it will be advantageous to meet the USCIS definitions of the two National Interest Waiver requirements, it is not compulsory.

Q. I haven’t published any articles in journals in my field. Can I still apply for EB-2 NIW?

Yes, you can still apply for an NIW even if you don’t have any published work. The published article requirement is just one out of the many criteria given by the USCIS. If you have the academic qualification and/or years of industry experience stipulated for NIW, you may still qualify without the evidence of a published article.

The same applies to the “Awards and Professional Membership” criteria. It is not mandatory to have all these before you can qualify. In fact, the USCIS allows those with “comparable evidence of eligibility” that are not exactly as listed on the website to file an NIW petition. The most important thing is how compelling the petition is.

Q. Must I live in the U.S. to apply for an NIW?

You are not required to be residing in the U.S. to apply for an NIW. However, if you are not in the U.S. when you petition for your EB-2, you will not be able to adjust your status to that of a legal permanent resident. Instead, you will need to go through consular processing for your green card.

Q. Is there a minimum number of letters of recommendation needed?

While there is no minimum number required, the more evidence you submit that demonstrates qualification, the stronger your case will be.

Q. Am I allowed to apply for an NIW if I have a pending labor certification with the DOL?

Yes, you may still apply for NIW even if you have a labor certification pending. The PERM labor certification and the NIW are handled by two different organizations. While your labor certification is filed with the DOL, the agency that will process your NIW is the USCIS. So, one does not stop the other. In fact, it is another way for boosting your chances for approval, in that if your labor certification is denied, you will still have the hope of possibly getting the NIW petition approved.

Q. Can I apply for an NIW if I was denied a labor certification?

Assuming you meet the qualifications for an NIW, your previous denial should not have an impact on the outcome. There are several reasons for your PERM to be denied, including there simply being a qualified U.S. worker available to take your employer’s position. Cases such as these should not be detrimental to your NIW case.

Q. Do I need a job offer to be eligible for an NIW?

Because the NIW is a way to circumvent the job offer requirement, you do not need one in order to apply.

Q. Do I need to have an advanced degree to apply for an NIW?

While it is not a strict requirement to have an advanced degree for an NIW, having one can go a long way in helping your EB-2 NIW case. In place of an advanced degree, a bachelor’s degree with five years of relevant experience in your field may also suffice. In the absence of either of these, you will need to demonstrate that you have exceptional ability in order to qualify for the EB-2 green card.

Q. What is the EB-2 NIW Processing Time?

You can generally expect NIW processing time for the USCIS to adjudicate applications to take anywhere between 3 and 9 months. Although there is always the possibility that it could take longer if you are issued a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, it is important that you take it to an immigration attorney for help with your prompt response. For an official resource detailing the USCIS NIW processing time, you can visit their website on AAO processing times.

Q. What is EB-2 NIW RFE?

Requests for additional evidence (RFE) are issued by the USCIS, requesting more information from a visa applicant. It is usually issued when the USCIS is not convinced that an NIW applicant meets the criteria needed to prove that he or she is qualified for the visa. This should not be mistaken for denial or rejection.

The recipient of an RFE will only be required to provide some items that appear to be missing in his or her petition. If you receive an RFE, you will be given a timeframe within which the requested information must be provided. It is always best to consult an immigration lawyer to help look into the details of the request and guide you on how to answer it. An RFE must be handled with care as there will be no second chance.

Q. Is an EB-2 NIW the only avenue for getting an employment-based green card without a labor certification?

No, there is also the EB-1, known as the first preference employment-based green card. Just like the EB-2 NIW, EB-1 applicants also do not need a labor certification. Also, if you also qualify for the extraordinary ability subcategory of the visa, you will not need a job offer or employer and you can self-sponsor your petition.

Q. Which should I go for between the EB-1 and the NIW?

The answer will depend on which green card you qualify for the most. Note that the two categories are completely different visas. Each has its own peculiarities. It must also be noted that the overall approval rate for the EB-1 appears to be lower. This perhaps is the reason why many people choose an NIW over EB-1 even when they have the credentials that may qualify for both.


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