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Self-sponsored Permanent Residency for Corporate Professionals: An Overview

As a law firm with an outstanding track record in representing professionals seeking permanent residency in the United States, we have developed successful strategies not only for many self-sponsored post-doctoral researchers, engineers, scientists, but also for business professionals of varying backgrounds in a wide variety of industries. For business professionals who prefer the advantages of the self-sponsored permanent residency petition, or for whom an employer-sponsored petition is simply not an option, a petition may be filed in the EB-1(A) and/or NIW (National Interest Waiver) categories depending on the individual’s credentials. The following discussion will focus mainly on the options in the NIW category for business professionals whose responsibilities, while operational, also involve some amount of innovation and originality. Although professionals in the field of finance are used as an illustrative example throughout this article, the points in this discussion can be easily applied to professionals in industries such as IT and network security, engineering, agriculture and food processing, etc.

In general, the key requirements of a NIW application are that: (1) the beneficiary must seek to work in an area of substantial intrinsic merit; (2) the beneficiary’s work must have a benefit which will be national in scope; and (3) the beneficiary must serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than would an available U.S. worker having the same minimum qualifications (the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the beneficiary). The generality of these requirements allows many professionals to seek permanent residency in the NIW category, subject to rigorous USCIS evidentiary requirements.

As a point of comparison, individuals with a pure research focus in certain fields such as medical science, biology and engineering easily qualify in the NIW category if they can submit sufficient evidence to meet these criteria. A researcher’s publication of articles and impact on the field/American national interests through citations and other forms of national recognition is a strategy that we have successfully used to represent thousands of applicants in the past decade.

On the other hand, what strategies might work for individuals whose work does not generate many publications but leads to the implementation of new methodologies/approaches in-house? For example, in response to the financial crisis, risk managers in the past few years have been very busy innovating and developing new risk management strategies for portfolios valued at billions of dollars at American’s largest banks. Proprietary restrictions may limit their capacity to publish their work, and independent knowledge of their work may be limited once again for the same resaon. Nevertheless, a successful NIW application, while difficult, is certainly possible with some creative legal representation in these situations. Some key points and arguments that may form the basis for a successful strategy in such scenarios:

  1. Demonstrating that the individual’s work serves the broader national interests rather than just the narrow interests of a particular corporation: The applicant must articulate a specific national interest advanced by his/her work, and then demonstrate how such work advances these interests. One way to make this point is by aggregating impact and showing downstream impact on our national interests. Another way is to focus on specific projects that are directly connected to our national interests, such as a project involving government funding for example. To illustrate, an individual working as a financial and risk management expert at a large bank might articulate macro-economic stability as the key national interest if the individual’s work affects a large portfolio of credit in key industries that serve as engines of American economic growth.  Another individual who is developing proprietary systems based upon funding from an agency such as the Dept. of Defense or the FDA might focus on the key national interests involved in this project.
  2. Demonstrating the national impact of the applicant’s work: This can be a challenge because proprietary restrictions may have prevented publication of the individual’s work, and therefore limited the knowledge of outsiders about these contributions to our national interests. It is therefore important for professionals in these settings to utilize every possible opportunity to be recognized in their field. Invitations to serve as a reviewer for journals, to present one’s work at conferences, and to publish even short articles in newsletters/trade journals should be seized at the earliest possible opportunity. While statements from references who can comment knowledgeably about the individual’s work are important, an application based almost entirely on the statements of the applicant’s collaborators and devoid of concrete and documentary evidence of impact will generally be unsuccessful. In these scenarios, at least a few statements from industry experts who have no affiliation with the applicant will add considerable weight to the application. The attorney and client, working closely together, must identify additional documentary evidence from internal and independent sources that could demonstrate the significance of the applicant’s work.

Numerous variations exist, and strategies must be tailored to each applicant’s background. For example, some applicants may have a unique track record of research success in another field (such as physics or engineering research, for example) prior to their work in the corporate risk management setting that may make it easier to show outstanding capability and accomplishment in their current work.  

The importance of the NIW as a permanent residency option for professionals has particularly increased due to recent economic trends. While this strategy may not work for everybody, a significant decrease in the number of corporate sponsorships of permanent residency for employees over the past two years has forced professionals in many industries to look elsewhere, and the NIW is a promising option worth considering in most situations(1). Over the past decade, and especially in the past two years, we have worked with many qualified professionals at corporations and developed successful, case-specific strategies to secure permanent residency. This year alone, our attorneys have represented approximately 210 NIW and 150 EB-1 applications successfully. We invite you to contact us with your CV if you are interested in evaluating your permanent residency options.

Please note that this article is not intended to provide specific legal advice and is informational only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or is created. Since each situation is different, you are encouraged to contact a qualified immigration professional for guidance on your specific circumstances.

(1)Even where the employer provides permanent residency sponsorship, the NIW category can be worthwhile because it bypasses the onerous and often lengthy labor certification requirements.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nationwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled thousands of immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM, and I-485 cases. In the past fourteen years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang ( for a free evaluation.

Zhang & Associates, PC.

Silicon Valley ∙ New York ∙ Los Angeles ∙ Chicago ∙ Houston ∙ Austin

Tel 1-800-230-7040, 713-771-8433



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