Articles Posted in Physician National Interest Waivers

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On December 27, 2016 in Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016) the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) handed down a groundbreaking decision which has changed the analytical framework for determining eligibility of national interest waivers. This new decision will affect foreign nationals who are pursuing a green card based on employment in the EB-2 category, and who are eligible for a “national interest waiver.”

The national interest waiver is a discretionary waiver of the job offer and labor certification requirement made possible by subparagraph (A) of section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of the INA states that the Secretary may, when it deems it to be in the national interest of the United States, “waive the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States.”  In addition to meeting a three-prong test of eligibility, to obtain a national interest waiver, the foreign national must be a member of a profession holding advanced degrees or their equivalent or prove that “because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business they will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.”

Without this discretionary waiver, EB-2 applications must be accompanied by a labor certification and their employer must go through the process of advertising the position to prove to immigration that there are no other applicants who are qualified, willing, and able to fill the position that the foreign national is expected to fill. Employers must also meet prevailing wage requirements as established by law. Establishing the national interest waiver in other words made it easier for qualifying foreign nationals in the EB-2 category to skip the job offer and labor certification requirement, streamlining their path to permanent residency.

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The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently released the June Visa Bulletin. The Chief of Visa Control and Reporting Division, Charles Oppenheim has provided new insights and developments pertaining to the June 2016 Visa Bulletin. Cutoff dates listed below form part of the final action (FA) chart of the Visa Bulletin. Currently, USCIS has advised adjustment of status family-sponsored and employment-based applicants to refer to cutoff dates that appear on the final action chart for the month of June, and not the date of filing chart.

Employment-Based, First Preference (EB-1)

Demand for the EB-1 category remains at a very high level. DOS has said that should demand continue to remain at the same rate, some form of “corrective action” would be necessary before the close of the fiscal year to regulate worldwide visa numbers. This may require the establishment of a cutoff date or other form of regulation.

India Employment-Based, Second Preference (EB-2)

Demand for the EB-2 category is also very high. Due to increasing demand, there will no longer be unused numbers available in excess of the normal EB-2 per-country limit. EB-2 Worldwide and EB-2 India demand is expected to increase. The high level of demand for visa numbers in the EB-2 India Category and lack of excess numbers from EB-2 worldwide has caused the EB-2 India final action date to retrogress to October 1, 2004 for the month of June.The DOS expects that the EB-2 India cutoff date will advance slowly for the rest of the fiscal year, at a pace similar to the EB-3 advancement.

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To qualify for a national interest waiver (NIW) pursuant to INA §203(b)(2)(B)(ii), a physician must commit to working for a total of five years as a full-time clinical physician either at a facility operated by the Veteran’s Administration or in an HHS-designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA)/Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). The following are some tips and information on NIW adjudications.

* Requirement for a Five Year Employment Contract. In a 2007 policy memorandum, USCIS confirmed that the NIW petition may be filed at any time before, after or during the five year commitment period and that the five year commitment need not be completed within any specific period of time. However, the regulations still require the submission of a five year employment contract with the NIW petition filing.

This can present challenges for physicians who may have completed some or all of the qualifying five years of employment before filing the NIW petition. Common sense would indicate that the length of the employment contract need only be five years if the physician had not already completed part of the commitment prior to filing the petition. The literal language of the regulation requires “a full-time employment contract for the required period of clinical medical practice, or an employment commitment letter from a VA facility.”