National Interest Waivers are only for immigrants of exceptional ability applying in the second employment-based preference in sciences, arts, or business. Through the National Interest Waiver, you can apply for an immigrant visa with no job offer from a US employer and no labor certification. There is no National Interest Waiver for an immigrant visa in the first, third, or fourth preferences.
Many persons applying for an employment-based immigrant visa are required to have a job offer from a US employer. The employer will then sponsor the immigrant for an immigrant visa in order to fill a specific job position. The employer should file a petition with the USCIS. Before the employer can petition for the immigrant visa, the employer is usually required to file an application for labor certification with the Department of Labor.
Whereas through the National Interest Waiver, you need not have a job offer with a US employer and also not required to go through the labor certification process. You have to prove that your entry into the US as an immigrant is in the US’ national interest. If you can prove this, the requirement to have a US employer and job offer is waived. You may petition USCIS for an immigrant visa on your own behalf. However, proving your eligibility for a National Interest Waiver can be difficult and hence very few people qualify.
USCIS has not provided much guidelines about what you need to prove to show that your work in the US would be in the national interest. But they look at these applications carefully and strictly. Although there are no specific criteria defined by US immigration laws, USCIS does look at certain factors. The strength of your petition will be in the explanation you provide about the importance of your work in relation to these factors and the documents you submit in support of this explanation. National Interest Waivers have earlier been issued to medical researchers, senior engineers, neuro-scientists, research scientists and professors. They are also issued to those who are specifically requested by a government agency.
You may apply for a National Interest Waiver even if you have an employer to sponsor you if you want to avoid the time-consuming and costly labor certification process.
Getting a green card through the National Interest Waiver is a two-step application process. The first step is to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with the USCIS. In this petition, you have to prove to USCIS that your presence in the US is in the national interest. Your application should be accompanied by substantial supporting documentation detailing your achievements and the work you plan to do in the US.
The second step depends on whether you are applying from within the US or from abroad. If you are already legally present in the US, the second step is to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. When this application is approved, you will become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) of the US. If you are applying from outside of the US, the second step will be to apply for permanent residency at a US consulate abroad.