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NIW with no Ph.D./ for Ph.D. Candidates/ Ph.D. Students/ Master Degree

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NIW FAQs NIW Success

Many clients have expressed concern that they do not qualify for EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) because they have not yet obtained their Ph.D. Requiring a Ph.D. is NOT a pre-requisite for NIW, and we have successfully filed many cases for clients who were Ph.D. students at the time of case filing. As long as you meet the minimum entry requirements for EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver), you do not need a Ph.D. to apply. If you do not have a Ph.D., you can meet the minimum qualifications by:

  1. possessing another advanced degree (degree above a bachelor’s), such as a master’s degree,
  2. possessing the equivalent to an advanced degree (a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years of progressive work experience in the field),
  3. or meeting the requirements for exceptional ability.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is the applicant’s visa status as a student. Most of the students are in the United States on F-1 visa, which does not allow immigrant intent. First of all, filing I-140 will not invalidate an F-1 visa. So the beneficiary of an I-140 petition can continue to stay in the United States on F-1/F-1 OPT status even after they file I-140 NIW, no matter the petition is approved or denied. Second, if the F-1 holder intends to renew/extend the F-1 visa or apply for an OPT, the non-immigrant intent might be examined by the immigration officer again for the renewal/extension or OPT application. According to the USCIS memo, filing I-140 does not necessarily negate a non-immigrant intent. The immigration officer will take into consideration the surrounding situation of the applicant to determine the immigrant intent, such as the applicant’s ties to the home country (whether or not a foreign residency is maintained) and when the I-140 was filed.

For these reasons, it is advised that you consult an attorney before filing your EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). At North America Immigration Law Group, we will not only help you prepare your EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) petition, but we will advise you on how to avoid any potential visa issues that may arise during the process of your I-140 application.

Examples of NIW Approvals for PhD Candidates

Many potential clients express interest in filing an EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) but are concerned that it would be difficult for them to get their cases approved because they are just Ph.D. students. In fact, EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) is focused heavily on the beneficiary’s past achievements and reasonable projection of future benefits to the United States. EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) approval is not hinged to the beneficiary’s current position or employment, and therefore NIW approval is possible for Ph.D. candidates. By focusing our strategy on your past accomplishments and contributions to your field, we can successfully argue that you have influenced your field of endeavor despite your status as a Ph.D. student.

In one case, our client was a doctoral student in the field of Biomedical Engineering. Considering his status as a Ph.D. candidate, our strategy was to show the significance of the contributions he had already made to his field of endeavor. Therefore, we focused on the fact that our client had made two novel developments that made him the first person in the world to apply a certain technology to his field. To put the significance of these contributions into context, we helped our client procure 6 recommendation letters from experts in the field to confirm the impact of his developments. Additionally we researched case rulings for similar cases and applied our findings to develop a unique and strong strategy for our client. By focusing on the influence of his past achievements, we were able to successfully gain EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) approval for our client.

In another case, we worked with a client who was a Ph.D. candidate in the field of Computer Engineering at the time of case filing. To achieve success in this case, we submitted extensive documentation to demonstrate the highly significant contributions he had already made to the field of computer engineering, including at least five peer-reviewed articles. Moreover, we submitted evidence that his publications had been cited at least 80 times by researchers around the world, demonstrating the impact and influence of his contributions. Additionally, we drafted recommendation letters to explain how our client’s work was beneficial not only to his field, but to a variety of industries and sectors nationwide. By detailing his unique accomplishments and skill set, we argued that our client would serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than others with a similar education and experience. Accordingly, his NIW application was approved in just 4 months.

In many cases, our clients only possess a Master’s Degree at the time of filing. As the requirements for EB-2 state that one must possess any advanced degree above a bachelor’s degree, a Master’s Degree is sufficient to meet the basic requirements for EB-2. In these cases, providing documentary evidence of the client’s advanced degree in addition to documentary evidence of all past contributions and achievements is sufficient to meet the requirements of EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver). Since many Ph.D. candidates are still in the early stages of their career, it is not uncommon that they have fewer publications and citations than some of our more established clients. Therefore, drafting strong recommendation letters detailing the client’s contributions and their widespread significance is a crucial factor for EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) success for many Ph.D. candidates.


With these facts in mind, we encourage you to contact us about your EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) case if you are a Ph.D. candidate. While not having a Ph.D. is certainly not a bar to NIW approval, a strong petition and evidence package are critical for success. We have had many NIW (National Interest Waiver) cases approved for clients without Ph.D. degrees and will let you know at the time of evaluation if you meet the minimum qualifications for EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver).

Please see our EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) success stories for clients who were Ph.D. candidates at the time of case filing:

EB2 NIW Approval for a PhD Candidate in the field of Computational Physics

EB2 NIW Approval Approval in just 7 weeks for a PhD Candidate in the field of Biochemistry in 7 weeks

EB2 NIW Approval for a PhD Candidate in the field of Computer Engineering in 4 months

EB2 NIW Approval after RFE for a PhD Candidate and Research Assistant in the field of Bioengineering

EB2 NIW Approval for a PhD Candidate in the field of Molecular Biology in 1 month

EB2 NIW Approval for a PhD Candidate in the field of Computer Science in 5 ½ months

EB2 NIW Approval for a Design Computing PhD Candidate in 6 Weeks

EB-2 NIW Approval for a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology in only 32 days

EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) approval for PhD Student working in the field of Biomedical Engineering