Many of our readers are interested in credentials of our successful application for National Interest Waiver. I decided to describe in detail how we built our whole NIW case, all the evidence and what arguments we used to get our green card approved.
At first I should explain one question. Annette, our very first subscriber, already asked in comments below one of our previous posts:
“In your posts on this website you write “we”. Does that mean you filed jointly (since you are married) or did you make separate applications? My husband and I are currently working on getting all the letters etc ready to file a NIW petition for my husband. But can we file jointly or would his petition have to be approved first and then I’d apply for a green card later through him?”
I always write “we” or EB2 NIW team in our posts or answers to your emails which means me and my husband. In fact, I am the person who created this blog and write all the articles. Regarding our EB2 NIW case it is opposite: my husband is the MAIN person for whom we filed the National Interest Waiver petition. After approval of his I-140 we both applied for I-485 and I-765 (me as a “derivative adjustment”). This is called non-concurrent filing.
Our story – how we prepared NIW petition
When we came to USA a year and a half ago we both thought that we would apply for green card as soon as possible. However more we studied about EB2 National Interest Waiver category more we were uncertain if my husband’s credentials were sufficient to satisfy NIW requirements. Internet discussions about NIW applicants usually frequently mentioned their numbers – how many peer reviewed articles, citations etc. My husband’s numbers were slightly under average (at that time) so we were not confident at all. However as you will see in this post, these numbers might not be that important.
We started to realize that the numbers alone are probably not enough. We also figured out that my husband’s past record from Europe is likely better than average peer but maybe not good enough to qualify for National Interest Waiver. There was no apparent evidence that his work was invaluable for USA since he had no work history here. It was clear that we needed to build his case mostly on his work achievements from US rather than from Europe.
While my husband was working very hard on his “American credentials” and things which could help to our case I started to do the whole job around preparing our green card application.
I started to study all laws, regulations, precedent case, USCIS (AAO) decisions from other previous cases and also all possible unofficial information accessible through internet (tons of attorney firm websites, various forums etc.). During that time I gathered a lot of information and decided that I need to organize it more and so started to write some notes just for us. Then I realized that there are many people on the same boat with the same painful journey and I can help them by publishing these notes. And that’s how this website came to life.
In the meantime I became more and more experienced and also confident about what was necessary to do in National Interest Waiver application. I always told my husband what I have learned and what would be great to achieve. We were also thinking a lot about our main arguments. I tried to find some very narrow research area where my husband is very unique and in the same time it would be somehow important for USA.
At that time he already worked for one U.S. Top National Agency (not directly, as a contractor). I have learned that only working in government agency could be considered as insufficient. But I also knew that one of his work tasks there was very narrow specialization (only two institutions in USA were involved in this specialization) and he was probably the only person who was doing it at that time. My only concern was that we had no evidence about that. There were no publications about it or any other evidence which could be used.
I decided that it is absolutely necessary to get testimonies from highly recognized outstanding and independent experts about this fact. We made a list of people from my husband’s network but also from outside his close circle (more important). At first my husband felt weird to write some strangers asking them for such a big favor (that they should confirm his extraordinary skills etc.). But surprisingly some of these independent experts agreed to write it after they called government agency where he was working and verified that information. This was a great step to get critical evidence for our case.
But there were also other important steps which my husband did during that year. We needed to prove his impact on the field. Personally I was a little bit afraid of this because he didn’t have convincing arguments here. He had some smaller points from his past record: reviewing of scientific articles of summer school students (not really prestigious), he was a member of organizing committee at one average conference and his citation record wasn’t glamorous at that time. I felt like we need something better, more convincing…
One day he came from work, tired, but quite glad it is Friday evening and end of a work week. However he mentioned that his supervisor cannot go to some documentary filming about their research and he had to go there on Saturday instead of him. I was happy because this was a great opportunity to get valuable testimony for our National Interest Waiver case about his impact on the field. Later my husband was really able to get a letter which confirmed that he was an advising expert during this filming. These little opportunities can actually have more effect than you think. We have learned it is great to be more active and to use every single opportunity even if it looks quite insignificant at the beginning.
After more than a year I was finally confident enough that we have all great arguments which I believed would satisfy National Interest Waiver covered by testimonies in NIW recommendation letters and other evidence.
Let’s see all my husband‘s credentials I used in petition which have led to National Interest Waiver approval.
He has PhD degree from average European technical university which establishes him as an Advanced Degree Professional. He has received his PhD only one year before we applied for green card under EB2 National Interest Waiver category.
My main argument in our NIW case was his 1 year post doc work experience from USA (right after defending his PhD). He was performing calibration of devices used in space missions in Top National Agency and he set up the only laboratory in USA calibrating these devices. It was enough to prove it only by testimonies in NIW letters of recommendation, there were no publications about it. I was focused on this work experience in all testimonies and significant part of the petition letter.
The arguments above were used to cover basically all National Interest Waiver requirements and to explain that:
- my husband is critical researcher for projects in Top National Agency and those couldn’t be done without him
- he has extraordinary skills better than average peer
- he is considered as an expert with significant impact on field
- labor certification would affect national interest negatively
- he already served to national goals, was crucial to enable the success of these current projects and thus it justifies projected future benefits in the national interest
I chose also several other facts from his past work experience from Europe to show his qualities:
- during his PhD studies he was already Principal Investigator of two projects for Top European Agency (total budget $270,000, equipment used in space missions)
- during his PhD studies he did original research and developed some new methods – the only proof we had for this fact were two testimonies which briefly mentioned that he published it in peer reviewed journals; however these articles were not cited yet so I left this fact as a minor argument
- during his Master studies he was selected for internship, worked in world leading laboratories on challenging projects (German Federal Agency, CERN) and was granted by scholarship – also mentioned only as minor argument but shows he was already better than average as undergraduate student
I established his impact on the field by following facts:
- requested advisor for several projects at Top National Agency and one in small U.S. company
- devices calibrated by my husband were used in space missions
- requested advisor for filming documentary
- requested publication in average level book
- reviewing of scientific articles of summer school students – not prestigious, I wasn’t sure if I should mention it
- awarded by conference Trainee Grant – for promising young scientists (Ph.D. students or postdocs) to cover conference fee
- publications – 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals (4 first author), 8 conference proceedings publications (3 first author) – I let this as a minor argument because it didn’t show it is better than average peer’s publication; I mentioned it just to give a complete picture about my husband
- citations – articles cited 68 times (53 times without self-citations) – I let this as a minor argument, same reason as previous point
- member of organizing committee of international conference – minor argument, I wasn’t sure if I should mention it
Every fact mentioned above was proved and supported by some evidence or testimony in NIW reference letter. If we didn’t have evidence for some fact we simply didn’t use it in the petition because I was afraid that we can get RFE (Request for Evidence).
NIW letters of recommendation
We submitted 8 recommendation (reference) letters to support my husband’s National Interest Waiver petition. We didn’t have any other evidence for several facts so these letters were very powerful way to prove that NIW requirements were met.
It was very time consuming process to get these letters (from several weeks to one year) and we both put a great effort in it. I have already mentioned how weird my husband felt about asking for such a big favor some independent experts who even didn’t know him personally. But finally we found the way how to do it smoothly and kindly. After expert agreed we usually prepared different draft suitable for this person. We had each draft different to cover a various arguments and also to show that letters were written by different people. Our goal was to save time of our recommenders, to show them what has to be said but in the same time let them use their own words in the letter. Templates and examples showing how we asked for such letters together with guiding draft and instructions are provided as a free bonus in our NIW Do It Yourself package.
We tried to ask for letters on company / institution letterheads but it was not always possible. Sometimes expert agreed to write the letter and after we prepared a specific draft person asked company lawyers who simply denied to write such letter. We tried to convince the expert that it doesn’t have to be written under company’s letterhead but only from him as independent person. Sometimes it worked but sometimes not – this was frustrating and time demanding.
Finally we were able to get 5 letters from inner-circle people and 3 from independent experts who were from well recognized institutions (government agencies, top universities, state-of-the-art companies and a national laboratory).
We have submitted 70 exhibits in total in my husband’s I-140 petition – besides 8 NIW recommendation letters, there were several letters confirming facts and statements mentioned in NIW petition letter, publications, citation records, government articles showing importance of my husband’s work, university degrees, CV, documents regarding his employment, non-immigrant status of both of us and several other supporting documents.
Size – number of pages
The whole green card petition was huge package and probably the most extensive document we have ever created. In total 732 pages: 611 (my husband’s I-140 petition) and 121 (both I-485/I-765 petitions).
Work on these petitions required huge effort from both of us. We spent approximately 1050 work hours on my husband’s National Interest Waiver petition (I-140) and 55 hours on both I-485/I-765 petitions which is over 1100 work hours overall.
As opposite to the time we spent working on the green card application, processing times made us much happier. My husband’s I-140 petition was approved in 29 days and both I-485 petitions in 57 days which was better than average. The whole green card process was finished in less than three months when filed separately (non-concurrently). It seems that EB2 National Interest Waiver category is one of the fastest ways how to obtain U.S. Permanent Residency.
I-140 petition and various other documents submitted in this petition cost us $801:
- $580 + $1 (I-140 fee + bank fee)
- $121 (MSc degree evaluation and certified translation of 1 page)
- $85 (PhD degree evaluation)
- $14 (U.S. post fees)
My and my husband’s I-485/I-765 petitions and various other documents submitted in these petitions cost us $2708:
- ($1070 + $10) x 2 (I-485 fees + bank fee)
- $200 x 2 (Doctor’s fee for filling our Medical reports I-693)
- $45 x 2 (Certified translation of birth certificates)
- $52 (my 4 passport photos and my husband’s 4 passport photos)
- $6 (U.S. post fees)
Both of our green cards cost us $3509 overall.
As you can see I-140 fees are much lower then I-485/I-765 fees and basically this was the reason why we filed separately. In case of fail we would save $2700.
To summarize it all: I focused my husband’s National Interest Waiver petition mostly on his work from the last year in USA. It was the easiest way how to relate his great achievements with national interest of USA. The fact he was Principal Investigator of projects funded by Top European Agency was another important argument in our NIW case. Other arguments were mentioned briefly and used as a minor arguments just to show the whole picture and put all the puzzle pieces together.
Our complete green card application including National Interest Waiver petition (I-140) and both Adjustment of Status / Employment Authorization Document petitions (I-485/I-765), free bonuses and Start guide is available as NIW DIY Kit.
Credentials topic is very popular at our website. If you know somebody who’s NIW green card was approved and would be willing to share his credentials and experience please let us know. We would publish it in one of our future blog posts.