Immigration & Visa Lawyer Discusses a Waiver of PERM Process for Purposes of the National Interest

Almost all foreign nationals who seek permanent residence, commonly known as a Green Card, through the employment-based avenues of permanent immigration must test the local job market via the PERM process. However, for foreign nationals holding a master’s degree or a bachelor’s plus five years of experience, there is a little-utilized waiver of the requirement that the job market be tested by the expensive and time-consuming PERM process. For certain highly educated foreign nationals whose area of expertise holds substantial intrinsic merit and the effect of their work would be national in scope, a National Interest Waiver of the PERM process may be available.

Requirements of a National Interest Waiver (NIW) of the PERM Process

The National Interest Waiver has the effect of bypassing the PERM process and placing the potential applicant directly into the I-140 stage of the Green Card process under the EB-2 preference category. While skipping the PERM process is beneficial for all foreign nationals applying for employment-based permanent residence, foreign nationals from countries other than China or India will find themselves with a Green Card immediately available upon approval of an I-140 under EB-2. Additionally, foreign nationals from China and India can enjoy the faster processing time of the EB-2 preference category and the peace of mind that the job market does not need to be tested in this economy before they can apply for an employment-based Green Card.

Who Qualifies for the National Interest Waiver?

Because of the obvious benefits of the National Interest waiver, the requirements that need to be met are rather stringent. First, the applying foreign national must possess at least a master’s degree or its equivalent (Bachelor’s plus five (5) years of experience). This educational requirement is the same for all second preference employment-based petitions.

Secondly, the foreign national must meets the standards established by the Government that show the foreign national should be allowed to skip the PERM process in the national interest. The controlling case on this issue is the Matter of New York State Department of Transportation 22 I&N Dec. 215. In this case, the court defined three threshold criteria to be met in order to qualify for a National Interest Waiver. A successful argument of all three NIW threshold requirements will establish that the alien is not merely “exceptional” as all EB-2 applicants are, but rather that the aliens skills and achievements “greatly exceed” those of other aliens and similarly educated American workers.

Area of Endeavor Must have Intrinsic Merit: This means that the job that the alien will do must be in a field that has high importance for the national economy or security.

The Proposed Benefit will be National In Scope: This means that the benefits of the foreign national’s labor must not be limited to a single geographic area. The effects of the alien’s labor must be felt nationally.

The National Interest would be Adversely Affected if the Alien were not Hired: This requirement means that the national interest of allowing the Alien to skip the PERM process and be hired immediately would outweigh the national interest of protecting the jobs of American workers.

As simple as the above requirements seem, it takes a great amount of effort to mount a successful argument that a foreign national deserves to skip the PERM process. Support of the employer is a great importance as well. Common situations that may lead to a successful result include research positions, governmental security positions, complex engineering positions, high ranking business positions and even positions in coaching or music. Every applicant for a NIW must be a step above others with exceptional ability. While there are certain guidelines that can be followed to each case must be evaluated on its own merits.


If your position supplies the United States with an important national benefit, you may meet the requirements of a National interest Waiver to Skip the PERM process and file your I-140 under the EB-2 Preference. If you have questions about an immigration visa or green card matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney. Our law firm handles various matters including Green Cards and Permanent Residence, family immigration, immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas, employment visas and H1B visas, Investor Visas, PERM applications, and many more. Please contact us and experience how our law firm can assist you in your immigration matters. Whether you are an employer, an employee or a family member, The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has competent, responsive and innovative lawyers who can make your immigration experience pleasant and seamless.

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