Updated Policy Guidance on National Interest Waivers: A Boon for STEM Graduates


In an effort to attract and retain foreign STEM graduates, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy guidance on National Interest Waivers (NIWs) last year. This development, combined with the recent expansion of expedited “premium processing” for NIW petitions, makes the NIW an increasingly attractive option for foreign nationals with advanced STEM degrees seeking permanent residence in the United States.

What is a National Interest Waiver?

The NIW is an immigrant petition in the employment-based second preference (EB-2) category, allowing foreign nationals to forego the permanent labor certification (PERM) process with the Department of Labor by demonstrating that their employment in the United States is in the national interest. A foreign national may self-petition for an NIW without a job offer in the United States, or an employer may file an NIW petition on their behalf.

Eligibility and Updated Guidance:

To be eligible for an NIW, foreign nationals must demonstrate an advanced degree or exceptional ability and satisfy a three-pronged test established in Matter of Dhanasar. The updated USCIS policy guidance indicates that having an advanced degree in a “critical and emerging technology” STEM field holds substantial evidentiary weight under all three prongs of the test. However, possession of an advanced degree alone is not sufficient.

Implications of the New Guidance:

The updated guidance suggests that USCIS may be more inclined to approve NIWs for STEM advanced degree graduates, particularly those with doctoral degrees and those engaged in critical and emerging technologies. This development could encourage more foreign nationals with advanced STEM degrees to pursue permanent residence in the United States.

Benefits of Premium Processing:

NIW petitions are now eligible for premium processing, in which USCIS will adjudicate the case within 45 calendar days for a $2,500 fee. Considering the lengthy processing times for PERM labor certifications, the NIW may be a much faster alternative for eligible foreign nationals seeking a green card.


The updated policy guidance on NIWs, coupled with the availability of premium processing, makes the NIW an increasingly attractive option for foreign nationals with advanced degrees in STEM fields. This change has the potential to benefit both foreign STEM graduates and their employers, as well as enhance the United States’ economic competitiveness and national security.

If you or your family members have any questions about how immigration and nationality laws in the United States may affect you, or if you want to access additional information about immigration and nationality laws in the United States or Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact the immigration and nationality lawyers at NPZ Law Group. You can reach us by sending an email to info@visaserve.com or by calling us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. We also invite you to visit our website at www.visaserve.com for more information.