Cancer Researcher’s NIW and I-485 Approved Within Three Months

Dr. Lee first emailed our firm in January 2007. He was currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at a U.S. university. Since the subject of his research—breast cancer—was obviously relevant to the national interest, Dr. Lee was interested in applying for a national interest waiver (NIW).

Dr. Lee’s achievements were similar to those of most of our NIW clients. When he first emailed our firm, he had five first-author publications in high-impact journals, with an additional two manuscripts currently under review. His publications had been cited a few times in the literature. Dr. Lee also had about seven conference presentations, as well as an upcoming presentation later that year. He had one society membership and no experience reviewing the work of other scientists in his field. One unique strength of Dr. Lee’s qualifications was his diverse background: he had experience and education in multiple areas of science, which set him apart from other researchers in his field.

Attorney Jerry Zhang told Dr. Lee that his credentials were suitable for an NIW application, but he would need six strong letters of recommendation from his colleagues and other experts in his field. Since Dr. Lee had another presentation planned in a few months and two papers currently under review, Attorney Zhang advised him to wait to file his NIW petition until the presentation was made and the papers were published. Dr. Lee agreed.

After this initial exchange, Attorney Zhang followed up with Dr. Lee every couple of months to see whether the papers had been published. Finally, in September 2007, Dr. Lee decided he wanted to file his NIW petition soon. He retained our firm in mid-November.

Dr. Lee’s case was assigned to one attorney. Our Attorney worked with Dr. Lee and his recommenders to prepare strong recommendation letters. In particular, she helped him make sure that the letters described his research accomplishments in simple, clear language.

Our Attorney also suggested that Dr. Lee consider the possibility of filing his NIW and I-485 applications concurrently. Concurrent filing was an option for Dr. Lee because he was not born in China or India, meaning that visa numbers were available for his immigration category at that time. If Dr. Lee had been born in China or India, he would have had to wait to file his I-485 application; the high demand for visas for aliens born in these countries, combined with the United States’ annual quota on visas issued to aliens from any individual country, has caused a backlog for these aliens. For aliens born in most other countries, however, this backlog is less of a problem.

Our Attorney suggested concurrent filing because it would reduce the total processing time for Dr. Lee’s case and would also allow his wife to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) while the application was pending. However, there was some risk involved with this option because if Dr. Lee’s NIW was denied, the EAD would immediately become invalid, and the I-485 processing fee would not be refunded.

Once Dr. Lee’s recommendation letters were finished, our Attorney drafted Dr. Lee’s petition letter. She emphasized his unique, diverse scientific background and tied his past experience in different fields to his present work in cancer research. She also made sure to describe and call attention to each of his individual research achievements.

We filed Dr. Lee’s case on February 25, 2008. He decided to concurrently file his I-485 application as well, so both packages were sent out on the same date.

On May 5—less than three months later—Dr. Lee’s NIW and I-485 applications were both approved. Dr. Lee sent an email to Jerry thanking them for the “great and prompt service” they provided, which allowed him to receive his green card “very quick [sic] and easily.”

Dr. Lee clearly benefited from the knowledge of our experienced attorneys throughout the immigration process. First, he accepted Attorney Zhang’s suggestion about how to time his NIW application. Dr. Lee’s case involved a relatively small delay (i.e., a few months) for a substantially stronger petition (i.e., two more publications and one more presentation). This type of judgment call is best made by an experienced immigration attorney, especially since each applicant’s circumstances are different.

Second, Dr. Lee was advised by our Attorney to file his NIW and I-485 applications concurrently. Again, this involved a judgment call based on the potential risks and benefits of this option for Dr. Lee’s individual situation. However, it’s clear that in Dr. Lee’s case, it was the best option; it allowed him to receive his green card within just three months of filing his petition, and just six months of retaining our firm.

Finally, our Attorney helped shape Dr. Lee’s case by helping him with his recommendation letters and writing him a strong petition letter. Dr. Lee had originally wondered whether his experience in other scientific fields, such as marine biology, could be helpful to his NIW petition. Our Attorney effectively analyzed Dr. Lee’s qualifications and used them to present the strongest possible application. Thanks to her and Attorney Zhang’s expertise, Dr. Lee has met his goal of immigrating to the United States.

We must admit that Dr. Lee’s case is unusual. Most cases do not get approved within such a short time; it usually takes USCIS about one year to process I-140 petitions and one to two years to process I-485 applications. In this case, the applicant’s qualifications, the attorney’s good work, the immigration officer’s speed, and a certain amount of luck all factored into our success.

Not everybody is as lucky as Dr. Lee. But sometimes, miracles do happen in the immigration process. The most important thing is to accumulate strong qualifications and put your application in the hands of a good immigration attorney.

An attorney’s expertise and experience play a critical role in an NIW green card application. Our attorneys have extensive experience in NIW applications. In the past 12 years, we have successfully handled thousands of NIW applications with an extremely high overall approval rate.

If you plan to file an NIW application, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang ( for a free evaluation.

Zhang & Associates, PC.

Houston ∙ New York ∙ Chicago ∙ Austin
Tel:1-800-230-7040, 713-771-8433


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