by Andrew Ceraulo, Esq. and Anna M. Ceraulo, Esq.

Rather than wait for your Laboratory to offer you a permanent position and sponsor you for U.S. permanent residence, sponsor yourself in the national interest waiver category.  

To do so you need to file an immigrant visa petition with the USCIS and pay a fee of $580 to see if you qualify.   Why not file for the chance of having the freedom to work and live where you want? It takes about 6 months for a decision.  If your petition is denied, you can continue to remain on in the U.S. in your H-1 or J-1 or O-1 visas status.

This article will discuss the procedure you must follow to determine if you qualify and the evidence you need to prove your work is in the national interest along with suggestions on how to increase your chances of qualifying.


File Form I-140 and check box # 1.i. and pay the fee. Go to  to download the form and follow the instructions. Filing the I-140 is not equivalent to filing for U.S. permanent residence. You are filing a visa petition to qualify you under a category that will make you eligible for filing for U.S. permanent residence.  If the I-140 is denied, you have not been denied the green card since you did not apply for the green card.  You only have had your immigrant visa petition denied.  You can apply again under the same or any other immigrant visa category.  Keep in mind that Americans, including Immigration Examiners, want the best scientists to work in America.

Required Documents:

  • Immigrant Visa Petition Form I-140
  • Application for Alien Employment Certification Form
  • Copy of Advanced Degree or Copy of Bachelor’s degree
  • Letters from current or former employers showing at least 5 years of progressively responsible experience in your field of work


At Least 3 of the Following:

Bachelor Degree; 10 years of documented employment; high salary; professional license; membership in professional association; significant recognized contributions to your field

Evidence to Prove Your Entitlement to a National Interest Waiver:

Evidence of a significant impact and influence on the field as a whole would consist of the following documents:

1. a strong publication record of your authorship of scholarly articles published in prestigious, peer reviewed international scholarly journals and/or conference proceedings;

Some of the facts that should be used to distinguish your publication record are:

a. noteworthy distinctions, such as an article authored by you that is featured on the front cover of the journal, or that was highlighted by the journal’s editors as an article of significant interest, or was the subject or an editorial review, or was accompanied by a commentary or overview article, or received similar other noteworthy distinctions, or designated as a “top pick,” or “editor’s choice,”;

b. if you were invited to author a review article that summarizes important work in your field, or were invited to edit or author a textbook, or a chapter in a textbook, documentation of same should be supplied, including information on whether the textbook is widely used, where it is used and whether it assigned as course material in an academic setting;

c. if you were invited to announce a major discovery, to summarize the latest developments at an important conference, or were selected as a keynote speaker, or invited to give a plenary lecture;

2. a citation index showing a sufficient number of citations in leading journals that would show the widespread interest and reliance on your work by others in your field; if your articles are cited by other researchers from around the world, then such evidence objectively demonstrates the impact and influence of your work on the field;

a. emails you and your co-authors received from other scientists expressing an interest in your work, requesting copies of your articles or the data used in your article for use in their own research;

b. download and article usage statistics for newly published articles that received little or no citations;

3. evidence of your participation on a panel or individually as a judge of the work of others in your field, including service as a reviewer of manuscripts submitted to journals, and as a reviewer of grant proposals;

a. appointments to committees or panels where you review, evaluate and/or revise standards, protocols or policies, develop guidelines or procedures, analyze the work of others, or assess the importance of the work of others;

b. acting as a chair, moderator or organizer of conferences, seminars or meetings where you select topics, review abstracts, decide whose work merits inclusion, and select expert speakers;

c. providing thesis direction in an academic setting;

d. positions on journal editorial boards where you select peer reviewers;

4. membership in associations and professional organizations that require outstanding achievements of their members;

5. documentation of your employment in a critical or leading capacity for organizations with a distinguished reputation;

6. evidence of a relatively high salary;

7. published materials, (print or online), other than citations, in professional or major trade publications or other media written about you and your work, including press releases;

8. your receipt of national or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field, including your receipt of highly competitive and prestigious fellowships and research funding grants based on prior outstanding achievements;

a. if you are mentioned in any grant, or your work or particular skills and expertise formed the basis of a grant obtained by others, documentation of same can be used to show the critical role you played in a major research project whose successful outcome was dependent upon your unique skills, to document an original contributions of major significance made by you to the field and demonstrate your stature and international recognition in the field that set you apart and distinguish your work from others in the field;

9. acknowledgements of your contributions to the work of other scientists found in the publications of other researchers;

10. patents and/or patent applications that list you as an inventor and evidence of their commercial use and application;

11. evidence of original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance in the field must establish the originality of the work, its significance and impact on the field and the recognition it has received as a major contribution in order to distinguish the work from the work of others in your field; citations are a good source of evidence to show the impact and influence of the work, as well as its significance and value in the field; the use of reference letters and expert testimonials also serve this function as they can demonstrate the attention and/or recognition the work has received from others in the field, the widespread use and application of the work and its importance to the work of other researchers in the field; other documentation, such as the publication of your work in such top journals as Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, etc., may indicate that you are recognized for your original contributions and that they are contributions of major significance;

12. Expert letters are key pieces of evidence that can carry considerable weight in establishing your eligibility for a NIW provided the claims made in the letters are supported by objective documentary evidence. These letters should be written by recognized experts in your field and should come from as many geographical sources as possible. It is important to include a combination of letters written by collaborators and mentors who have worked with you and well placed individuals who have not worked with you and are not employed by your research institution, but who nevertheless know of your work in the field from your publications, presentation and/or from their use, reliance and/or application of your work to their own work. Letters from experts at the top of their fields, and from Nobel Laureates, U.S. government agencies and prominent national and international organizations and industry lend greater support to establishing your eligibility; and

13. your CV.


Do not write expert letters yourself, or use the same templates, or identical sentences or phrases in your letters. USCIS is aware of this common practice and accords very little weight to these canned letters. Letters should be written from the individual perspective of each expert, be specific, persuasive and strongly worded.

The more letters the better, provided they come from individuals outside your circle of colleagues and acquaintances, the authors of the letters state how they became familiar with your work and they specifically identify and describe your contributions, explain their significance and give examples of how they have already influenced the field as a whole.

Reach out to your Lab head to assist you in finding independent and well-recognized experts willing to write letters for you, even consider contacting scientists who have cited your work.

Ask your experts to avoid references to your youth, your personal character and integrity and instead ask them to focus on documenting your achievements and their significance.

Make sure you have independent documentary evidence to support the claims and opinions being made by your experts in their letters.

While the overall importance of your area of expertise is important to establish the substantial intrinsic value of your work, it is not sufficient to establish your eligibility for a national interest waiver. Eligibility for the NIW rests upon your own qualifications rather than on the position you hold. It requires a past record of achievement at a significant level that demonstrates the impact and influence of your work on the field in order to justify a waiver of the job offer requirement and support your entitlement to the special benefit of a NIW.

Remove all self-citations from your citation index. While the practice of self-citation is normal, the inclusion of self-citations prevents you from establishing that the citations are indicative of the impact and influence of your work on the field.

If you do not have the evidence listed above, maybe you should wait and try to obtain that evidence by offering to act as a reviewer or publishing more of your work and have your Laboratory head assist you in doing so or maybe your Laboratory head can credit you for work you have done under his or her name.

Tell a story with a happy ending when you present your evidence. Start with the best evidence first and end with a flourish of promise. Provide information on the importance of your Laboratory, your institution and the area of you research.

Law Office of Andrew Ceraulo
150 Broadway, Suite 1615
New York, NY 10038

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