United States EB2 NIW Visa

What Is The EB2-NIW Visa (Commercial Airplane and Helicopter Pilots Program)

The EB-2 NIW National Interest Waiver is a program that allows foreign airline pilots with exceptional ability to obtain a green card without the need for a job offer or sponsorship. This program recognizes the importance of experienced pilots in the U.S. aviation industry and allows them to contribute their skills and expertise to the national interest.

The Benefits

Citizenship and Family Inclusion

  • Unconditional Green Cards (permanent residence status) for the applicant and dependents.
  • Dependents include spouse and children under 21.
  • Each of the applicant and dependents will have independent Green Cards giving them the right to live, work, and study in the USA.

Travel and Quality of Life

Right to live, work, and study in the USA.


  • Pathway to U.S. citizenship after 5 years of residence in USA.
  • Estimated overall processing time for the Visa Pilot: 12 – 18 months.

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    EB2 NIW Visa Requirements

    • At least 10 years of full-time experience as a pilot.
    • A licence to practice your profession or certification for your profession or occupation.
    • Academic records showing a degree, diploma or certificate related to the aviation industry from a college, university, school, or other comparable institutions.
    • Membership in pilot professional association(s).
    • Evidence that you have commanded a salary or other remuneration for services that demonstrates your exceptional ability.
    • Recognition of achievements and significant contributions to your industry or field by your peers, government entities, professional or business organizations.
    • Other comparable evidence (anything that makes your training and/or experience special or noteworthy, including management and/or training duties).

    The Process

    Between 8 to 12 Months

    • Pre-assessment.
    • Collection of supporting documents.
    • Submission of application, with supporting documents and individualised letter of support.
    • 8 to 12 months to receive National Interest Waiver (Premium processing is available to shorten the timeline).
    • File for the immigrant visas at U.S. consulate abroad.
    • 3 to 6 months to obtain immigrant visas.
    • Enter the USA within 6 months of issuance of immigrant visas.
    • Receive Green Cards by post to your USA address.

    Important Note*

    • The National Interest Waiver dispenses with the typical requirement for a job offer and a process to demonstrate unavailable American workers for the position. Some of the criteria above are objective and some are subjective. If there is anything in your professional history and training that you consider above average (such as high flight hours, advanced education, research publications, etc.) let us know, we will work with you to determine if it is useful.
    • Our expectation when we filed the first few petitions in December of 2021 was that we would have to wait approximately 8 to 12 months for a response from USCIS. We have been pleasantly surprised with feedback received (approval and/or request for further evidence) in less than 3 months on some occasions. Despite this, we are still advising our clients to continue with the expectation of an 8 to 12 month timeline. Additionally, there is an option for expedited processing with USCIS through premium processing for an added fee, where USCIS commits to provide feedback within 45 days. However, it is important to note that our experience with USCIS has revealed that delays can occur and vary.

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    With 30 years of immigration experience, each of Harvey Law Group’s lawyers carefully studies each client’s needs, resources and determines the immigration solution that best aligns with our client’s vision and values.

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      Frequently Asked Questions

      Yes, there are 3 different categories:

      EB-2 A: Individuals holding advanced degrees in fields requiring advanced degrees.

      EB-2 B: Individuals who demonstrate exceptional ability in their field.

      EB-2 C: Individuals granted a National Interest Waiver (“NIW”).

      Successful applicants will lawfully obtain a permanent status (green card) in USA.

      EB-2 stands for Employment Based Second Preference immigrant visa.

      The job offer (also called labor certification) is only required for the first 2 categories (EB-2 A and EB-2 B). A job offer is not required for the National Interest Waiver (“NIW”) category.

      The NIW allows the applicant to apply to the EB-2 program without having a valid job offer in USA. In other words, the NIW waives the job offer requirement.

      To qualify, the applicant must demonstrate that:

      • the proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance;
      • that the applicant is well-positioned to conduct the project; and
      • it would be beneficial to the USA to waive the requirement of a job.

      No. The USCIS has issues general guidance explaining how they determine Exceptional Ability and the national interest of the United States. Specific professions are not mentioned and pilots are not specifically mentioned just as no other professions are not specifically mentioned.

      YES, we have. Note that the process time for I-140 petition can vary greatly – the fastest petition we had approved was approved within less than 2 months – but expect process time to vary from 2 to 12 months.

      The I-140 is the name of the Form an applicant must submit when filing the EB-2 application and National Interest Waiver request.

      No, only highly experienced pilots and 1st officers who hold either an FAA license or other major licenses from around the world that are compatible with FAA licensing. Our team will assess your qualifications to determine if you would be a good candidate for this immigration category.

      In theory, no, it is not required. However, a pilot with an FAA license will definitely be able to show that they can make an immediate impact in the field. If a pilot possesses another major license that is comparable to the FAA license and the requisite hours of experience, he/she will be able to obtain FAA licensure in a matter of weeks, and therefore, it is likely that we will be able to show an immediate impact. If you have begun the FAA licensure process and have the opportunity to finish it prior to filing the NIW, we would encourage it.

      We recommend securing membership at a professional association in the aviation industry that are exclusively permitted for professioanl pilots, as it would strengthen your application. By professional associations for pilots, we mean any organization that limits its membership only to professional pilots. By way of example, unions for pilots are typically considered legitimate professional associations for pilots.

      Examples of such organizations can be found at the following link (which is non exhaustive): https://jobstars.com/aviation-professional-associations-organizations/.

      An example that is not limited to professional commericial/airline pilots, such as https://www.aopa.org/ is not what we are looking for as this is an organization that accepts anybody interested in aviation.

      By applying for the EB-2 National Interest Waiver, you are expressing an interest to immigrate to the United States. If you apply for a non-immigrant visa, there is a risk that a consular officer may decide to ask you (or not to ask you) further questions about it, and could deny future non-immigrant visa requests based on the intent to immigrate to the United States if he/she is of the view that you may constitute a risk as a person attempting to enter the US as a non-immigrant/tourist purposely to then go on to stay in the US illegally. If you have concerns about this issue, you can discuss it with one of our attorneys. It is important to understand that this risk is very remote, in particular if you have a history of entering the US without

      overstaying and that you have family and other ties elsewhere. In our years of practice, we have never seen a non-immigrant visa being denied for this reason, but it is still a possibility.

      Yes, you may travel to the U.S. while your petition is pending. However, if you are asked whether you have applied for permanent residence or an immigrant visa, your answer must be YES. Explain to the officer that the purpose of the temporary trip, when you will be leaving and make it clear to the officer that you are not staying in the U.S. and you will process your permanent residence abroad at the U.S. consulate.

      8 to 12 months (on average). Note that the fastest petition we had approved was approved within less than 2 months.

      3 to 6 months from the approval of the application (on average). Note that we can delay the process at this stage if you need.

      You are required to activate the Immigrant Visas within 6 months by entering the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.

      Once you enter the US to activate your Immigrant Visa, your Green Card will be sent to you via U.S. mail within a month or so of arrival.

      No. In such cases, the applicant may be eligible for an adjustment of status in the U.S. and will not need to go back to their country of origin.

      No. The applicant does not need to travel or reside in USA as part of the application process.

      Yes, it may be subject to retrogression, however at this time it is only applicable to applicants born in India and Mainland China. If the pilot is subject to retrogression due to their country of birth, we would assess whether the spouse’s country of birth could help avoid the backlog.

      No. It is not required to legalize or notarize the translation of foreign language documents. A certified translation by a licensed translator will suffice.

      The government fee to file the application is USD 700.

      Spouse and children under 21 years old.

      Same-sex marriage is accepted. However, a common law partner cannot apply as dependent under the EB-2. Only married spouses are considered as dependent. Note that election of which dependents you wish to include in your application is only made after approval of Stage 1 National Interest Waiver. There is no requirement to have been married for any minimum duration, meaning that you can include spouse with whom who got married while process of Stage 1 was ongoing (but married before NIW approval).

      Yes, it may be possible. The age of the child is frozen while the I-140 is pending. When the priority date becomes current – when an immigrant visa becomes available – and after approval of the I-140, the number of days it took to process the I-140 is subtracted from the chronological age of the child. If that yields an age under 21, then the child will be included in the petition if the family wishes. The reason why we state it may be possible is that it will depend on the country of nationality and the availability of immigrant visas for that country at any given time.

      No. Only U.S. citizens are entitled to file sponsorship applications for their parents.

      Yes. A consent letter from the parent who is not included in the application will need to be provided.

      The validity of the EB-2 green card is 10 years.

      No. The EB-2 green card is unconditional.

      U.S. Law does not set a specific number of days to be spent per year in the U.S. to maintain the green card. However, a green card is granted to individuals who want to live and set their main residence in USA. If any person granted a green card lives outside the US for an extended period of time, they are at risk of being considered as having abandoned their permanent residency and lose their green card. This is assessed on an individual basis.

      It means the place where someone usually lives and spends most of their time.

      Yes. EB-2 green card holders can live, work, study, or retire in the USA.

      Yes. A green card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years of residence in USA (by spending over 2.5 years of the five years in the U.S. with no absences of more than 6 months in a row).

      There are some exceptions to the residency requirements but unfortunately no specific exception for pilots that fail to meet these requirements due to their job. That said, if you did not meet the residency requirement for citizenship, you can still renew your green card – and this will not affect your other individual family members’ right to apply for citizenship independently.

      Yes, the EB-2 NIW visa is a great option for airline pilots and for helicopter pilots who want to obtain a green card and live and work permanently in the United States.