Matter of Dhanasar and the National Interest Waiver

Matter of Dhanasar provides that after eligibility for EB-2 classification has been established, USCIS may grant a National Interest Waiver if the petitioner demonstrates, by a preponderance of the evidence, that:

The foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance.

The foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

On balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

Dhanasar’s prong #1 – requiring substantial merit and national importance

This focuses on the specific endeavor that the foreign national proposes to undertake. 

The endeavor’s substantial merit may be demonstrated in a range of areas including business, entrepreneurialism, science, technology, culture, health, or education. 

It is possible to establish an endeavor’s substantial merit without a demonstration of immediate or quantifiable economic impact, although such evidence would be favorable.  

The AAO provided the examples of endeavors related to research, pure science, and the furtherance of human knowledge which may qualify whether or not the potential accomplishments in those fields are likely to translate into economic benefits for the United States.

To determine whether the proposed endeavor has national importance, the AAO stated that it considers its potential prospective impact. 

An endeavor may have national importance, for example, because it has national or even global implications within a particular field, such as those resulting from certain improved manufacturing processes or medical advances. “But we do not evaluate prospective impact solely in geographic terms. Instead, we look for broader implications. Even ventures and undertakings that have as their focus one geographic area of the United States may properly be considered to have national importance,” the AAO noted. 

“In modifying this prong to assess ‘national importance’ rather than ‘national in scope,’ as used in NYSDOT, we seek to avoid overemphasis on the geographic breadth of the endeavor. An endeavor that has significant potential to employ U.S. workers or has other substantial positive economic effects, particularly in an economically depressed area, for instance, may well be understood to have national importance.”

Dhanasar’s prong #2 – well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

Requires that the foreign national demonstrate that he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor – shifts the focus away from the proposed endeavor and onto the foreign national. 

The AAO stated that it will consider factors including, but not limited to, the petitioner’s education, skills, knowledge and record of success in related or similar efforts; a model or plan for future activities; any progress towards achieving the proposed endeavor; and the interest of potential customers, users, investors, or other relevant entities or individuals. 

In recognition of the challenges presented in attempting to forecast feasibility or future success, the AAO stated that petitioners will not be required to demonstrate that their endeavors are more likely than not to ultimately succeed. 

Nevertheless, petitioners must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

Dhanasar’s prong #3 – would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

Requires a demonstration that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. The AAO recognized the intent of Congress to further the national interest by requiring job offers and labor certifications to protect the domestic labor supply. 

But, on the other hand, Congress also created the NIW in recognition of the fact that in certain cases the benefits afforded by the labor certification process can be outweighed by other factors that are also in the national interest. 

These two interests need be balanced within the context of individual NIW adjudications.

The AAO stated that this analysis requires an evaluation of factors such as whether, in light of the nature of the foreign national’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the foreign national to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification; whether, even assuming that other qualified U.S. workers are available, the U.S. would still benefit from the foreign national’s contributions; and whether the national interest in the foreign national’s contributions is sufficiently urgent to warrant forgoing the labor certification process. The AAO emphasized that, in each case, the factors considered “must, taken together, indicate that on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.” The AAO noted that this new prong in Dhanasar, unlike the third prong in NYSDOT, “does not require a showing of harm to the national interest or a comparison against U.S. workers in the petitioner’s field.” Under NYSDOT, the petitioner had to demonstrate that it would be contrary to the national interest to potentially deprive the prospective employer of the services of the foreign national by making the position sought by the foreign national available to U.S. workers. The petitioner, whether the U.S. employer or the foreign national, had to establish that the foreign national will serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than would an available U.S. worker having the same minimum qualifications.