NIW or EB1 Green card for a PhD or Postdoc
Do you want to know if you can apply for a green card on your own, without any employer sponsorship? Are you concerned about lawyer's fees? If you are a PhD, PhD student, Post doc, Researcher with a PhD trying to get a green card, this site is for you.
This website brings you the condensed experience of several PhDs who have self-petitioned and successfully obtained their green cards without a lawyer or employer in either EB1A (Exceptional Ability) or EB2-NIW (National Interest Wavier). Our goal is to help others in similar situations. Read the founder's story below to see how this website got started.
My PhD and Green Card story
"I was in a similar situation in 2005, a few years prior to the start of this website. I had finished my PhD and joined a national lab as a post-doc. Around that time, one of my friend was applying for a green card with the help of a lawyer by paying $4500 in lawyer fee in addition to application fee for himself and his spouse. I got interested and wanted to explore this option myself. I sent an email to the lawyer's office. They requested a copy of my Vitae and a brief description of my work and set up a time for initial consulting, which at that time was free. The lawyer, very well known, called me and spent about a couple of minutes going through my vitae and suggested that I do not hold a strong case for a self-petition and I should look for employer to sponsor. The reasoning according to the lawyer was of course simple, my work was not of national importance and EB1A would prove hard. I had worked in field optics and lasers (femtosecond optics to be more specific) none of which seemed to show national importance to a non-technical person at a quick glance. Of course, my vitae did not contain any popular buzzwords at that time like nanotechnology which had lot of attention from the press. I would think any other person would come to the same conclusion as the lawyer did!! So I do not want to mount my grievances on him. The lawyer said "I do not see that your work can be considered national merit. I suggest you find an employment and I can help you as an outstanding researcher (EB1-OR) with the help of employer sponsorship". This was out of question since my post-doc position was not permanent and the national lab cannot apply for a green card on the basis of my job. My boss at the national lab would have had to convert me to a regular staff member, to get me a green card. That's a whole ordeal in itself! The discussion with the lawyer took a total of 3-4 minutes and left me utterly confused as to what my next step should be.
Here is the problem, my field was specialized enough that most jobs (except for academic jobs) require permanent residency in the first place. A significant number of employers who utilize skills of an Optics PhD perform work for the government or are involved in ITAR research projects. This situation was severely limiting my options. It appeared, the options I had were either to join a permanent academic position (other than a post doc) that allowed green card sponsorship or find a non-profit company willing to hire me and sponsor a green card.
For nearly five months I just left the hopes of applying for a green card on my own and just continued with my work, hoping I would find some solution later. Surprisingly the solution came in the form of a retrogression announcement in the middle of September 2005. The visa bulletin of October 2005 announced that EB2-NIW visa numbers would become unavailable for my nationality. It meant if I did not apply for a green card in a span of 15 days, I would not have the choice of concurrent filing my petition. Without concurrent filing I cannot avail an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) needed for employment, and advance parole for travel.
Self-petition for a green card?
This put me under severe pressure to rethink about self-petitioning. I decided that I would self-petition, with no employer sponsorship and without the help of a lawyer. Till then I did not know much about the green card application process and what it involved. I quickly studied several web sites to understand the bigger picture. I carefully sat down to think if I can qualify under EB2-NIW and if my work can be justified as "national interest" under the USCIS criteria. To my surprise it did qualify! In fact it occurred to me that most people with a Ph.D. very likely qualify under NIW.
NIW, my first petition
So I decided to do a EB2-NIW self-petition. I called a few friends who applied in the EB2-NIW and asked if I could look at their petitions. With the help of couple of example petitions, I created a plan for what to do, how to do and started implementing it. There was not much time to loose. I spent the next 12 days (nearly a total of 100 hours) like a marathon getting evidences of all sorts, reference letters, filling applications, writing a petition, and setting up medical examinations needed for I-485. I finally got everything ready and mailed it to USCIS Texas to reach just in time to avoid retrogression. After the two week marathon-like work on my self-petition, I decided to forget about the application for a while, thinking I will hear from them in the coming months. I received an application receipt end of second week of October and an email by the end of third week saying my I-140 was approved!! Less than 21 days since I mailed the application, my I-140 was approved. That was a great joy. My EAD got approved in two weeks. This gave me an option to look for jobs using the EAD, without waiting to get the actual green card. There were a jobs that I could apply using the EAD, but the ones that I wanted to work required a green card due to ITAR restrictions. While this was better than before, I still did not have a in green card in 2007 due I-485 visa number availability.
Second I-140 petition in EB1A
So I simply repeated the I-140 application process in the EB1A extraordinary ability category in 2007. My I-485 finally got approved in September 2007, nearly two years after starting my first I-140 application.
Since the beginning of my green card journey, I have helped a number of my friends educate on the self-petition process and helped them apply successfully on their own. Between 2006 and 2007, I shared my petition with six of my friends who self-petitioned. All of their I-140s were approved and many of them got their green cards (some applied after me but got their GC's even before I did!!!), some of them were in the adjustment of status process at the time this website was started. They navigated the application process (some even with RFE: request for evidence) on their own.
What I have learnt in the process is that 1) one is a better judge of how his own chances in national interest waiver or chances in extraordinary ability and 2) most Ph.D.'s can apply in EB2-NIW or EB1A (extraordinary ability). The purpose of this web site is to bring together my and my friends experience who successfully petitioned and got approvals in helping you with the process of self-petitioning your green card application using our easy to use DIY packages. We started a blog in 2009 that answers most common questions in the NIW and EB1 application process. Using information in the blog and our DIY packets, which are continually updated with USCIS changes and user feedback, a number of people have successfully obtained their I-140 petition approvals. I hope the information on this site is useful to you too."