Immigration National Act (INA §203(b)(2)(A)) says:
Visas shall be made available to qualified immigrants who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent or who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States, and whose services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business are sought by an employer in the United States.
EB2 NIW applicant must meet Advanced Degree Professional OR Exceptional Ability requirement.
According to regulatory requirements (8 CFR 204.5(k)(2)) Exceptional Ability means a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.
At least three of the following criteria must be satisfied (8 CFR 204.5(k)(3)(ii)):
- Official academic record showing that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to your area of Exceptional Ability.
- Letters of recommendation from employers documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience in your occupation. List of recommenders with their names, titles and organizations should be also included.
- A license to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation.
- Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your Exceptional Ability, for example funding for research projects, grants etc.
- Membership in a professional association(s).
- Recognition for your achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations – publications, citations, comments on published works made by journal referees, invitations to conferences, abstracts etc.
- Other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.
From above description it is obvious, that Exceptional Ability criteria may be satisfied by wide variety of professions and it is not limited only to postdocs, scientists, researchers or PhD students (these people usually meet Advanced Degree criterion anyway). We have read also about approved NIW cases of engineers, entrepreneurs, movie directors, actors, painters, musicians, dancers, writers etc.
Remember, that this is just minimum statutory requirement, and it is not enough to qualify for National Interest Waiver.
In addition to meeting one of minimum requirements given by law (Exceptional Ability or Advanced Degree Professional) it must be shown that it is in national interest of USA to waive labor certification and approve green card – this is the key of successful NIW petition. This requirement is discussed in EB-2 National Interest Waiver criteria category posts.