First American
Immigration Center



Extraordinary Ability or National Interest Waiver

Applying for a green card typically requires having a job offer from a US sponsoring employer. However, the green card through self-petition category does not require the applicant to have a job offer from an employer. There are two classifications of immigrants who may apply for green card through self petition, which include EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY and NATIONAL INTEREST WAIVER.

Individuals who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.


An Alien of Extraordinary Ability, or EB-1A, classification applies to aliens who can demonstrate that they “have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.” Such candidates may apply for EB1A petition without a labor certification or a job offer (i.e. an employer’s sponsorship). Any alien living in the U.S. or abroad may apply if he/she meets the following requirements:

  • Alien has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.
  • Alien’s achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.


To establish that the alien is a top member within his/her respective field, evidence of receipt of an internationally recognized award such as the Nobel Prize or an Academy Award is accepted. However, in the absence of an internationally recognized award, the alien can establish him/herself as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability by providing documentation of any three (3) of the following:

Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.

  1. Membership in associations which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their fields.
  2. Published material in professional/major trade publications or major media about the alien and relating to the alien’s work field.
  3. Participation as a judge (individually or as a part of a panel) evaluating the work of others.
  4. Original scientific, scholarly, or artistic contributions of major significance.
  5. Authorship of scholarly articles in professional journals or other major media.
  6. Artistic exhibitions/shows.
  7. Leading role within an organization/establishment with a distinguished reputation.
  8. High salary/compensation for services in comparison to others.
  9. Commercial success within the performing arts, as shown by either box office receipt figures or cassette, compact disk, video, or DVD sales figures.
  10. The alien must also show that his/her admittance into the United States will substantially benefit the United States in the future.

To have a chance at qualifying for a NIW one of the following must be met:

  • The foreign person’s admission will improve the U.S. economy.
  • The foreign person’s admission will improve wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.
  • The foreign person’s admission will provide more affordable housing for young, aged, or poor U.S. residents.
  • The foreign person’s admission will improve the U.S. environment and lead to more productive use of the national resources.
  • The foreign person’s admission is requested by an interested U.S. government agency.


A National Interest Waiver (NIW) petition falls into the employment-based immigration, second preference (EB2) category (As known as EB2 NIW). 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;” thus, allowing an applicant to apply for an NIW immigration petition without a labor certification or a job offer from a U.S. employer.

First, in order to be eligible to file an NIW petition, a beneficiary or applicant must have an “advanced degree” or “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or business. The beneficiary must also persuasively demonstrate that he/she seeks employment in an area of substantial intrinsic merit to the U.S., that the benefit from the candidate’s proposed activity will be national in scope, and that the requirement of a Labor Certification for the candidate will adversely affect the national interest. Each NIW case is adjudicated on its individual merits, but the burden of proof is always on the applicant or beneficiary to establish that exemption from the labor certification will be in the national interest of the U.S.

For an NIW, even if the beneficiary has no employer, he/she may file an NIW petition on behalf of himself/herself. A U.S. employer may also file an NIW petition on behalf of the beneficiary.


The occupations that qualify for a National Interest Waiver are not defined by statute. However, each of these three requirements must be met to qualify for an NIW.

  • Work in an area of “substantial intrinsic merit” means work in a field that is valuable to the national interest of the U.S. Research in any scientific field, for example, can be said to have substantial intrinsic merit to the national interest of the U.S. Likewise, a sociologist studying demographic trends relating to the 2010 U.S. Census can argue that she seeks work in an area of substantial intrinsic merit; or an educational policy expert can show that his field has substantial intrinsic merit due to its capacity to improve society through education. This criterion is not difficult to meet.
  • The applicant’s work, if successful, benefits the U.S. nationally in scope, means that an applicant’s work cannot have merely a limited regional impact. An applicant who has published their research can always show that their work has a national scope since academic publications are disseminated nationally and internationally. In the absence of publications, an applicant can show that the impact of their work is national in scope. For example, a petroleum engineer can argue that her work impacts the entire U.S. in terms of energy supply and refinery safety.
  • National Interest would be adversely affected if a Labor Certification were required for the alien. USCIS interprets this to mean that the benefit of an applicant’s work to the U.S. is so great as to outweigh the nation’s inherent interest in protecting U.S. workers by requiring aliens to undergo the Labor Certification process. This is the most difficult requirement of the three to satisfy