One of the most challenging areas of immigration law is attempting to obtain legal permanent residence on the basis of a national interest waiver. The national interest waiver category offers a quicker route to a green card than most other employment-based categories, because if the applicant’s area of expertise is deemed important enough to the “national interest” of the United States, then USCIS waives the usual requirement of labor certification (i.e., advertising the position according to regulations, interviewing American candidates, applying for certirfication through Department of Labor, etc.). In addition, the applicant must possess an advanced degree or have exceptional ability. USCIS often requests a great deal of proof that the benefits of the applicant’s work are not just localized, and that they benefit the country on a national scale. This can be quite difficult to demonstrate even with work that has seemingly obviously benefits such as research taking place at one hospital or location.
Recently USCIS approved one of our office’s cases in a gratifying decision recognizing the true meaning of the national interest waiver. The applicant is from an Eastern European country and a young tenure-track professor at a public university. Her research explores cultural norms and codes among various transnational Balkan organized crime groups. Because much of her earlier research focused on Europe, USCIS questioned the national benefit of her work. Our office showed the international and national scope of these groups’ actions and the effects of their criminal behavior on the national economy. We showed also that the benefits from the applicant’s work (research and teaching) contributed greatly to the education system, the economy, and greater national safety. In addition, we showed that various agencies in the U.S. government have made it a priority to fight these organized criminal groups, indicating that there is governmental interest in her work.
This is the first national interest waiver awarded to an academic at this particular institution and is an important indicator of the high level of the professor’s qualifications and importance of her field of expertise.