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The Power of Citations: How Many Citations Do I Need for EB-2 NIW?

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

If you're considering pursuing a National Interest Waiver (NIW) to secure a U.S. green card based on your exceptional abilities or advanced degree, you may be wondering about the role of citations in your NIW case. How many citations are enough, and can you have a successful NIW case without them? In this blog post, we'll dive into these essential questions to help you understand the impact of citations on your NIW case.

Citation for NIW

As was mentioned in our post about EB-2 National Interest Waiver, there are three prongs for the National Interest Waiver (NIW) eligibility criteria:

1. First Prong: The proposed endeavor must have both substantial merit and national importance. This requires a detailed description of the proposed work and its potential impact on various aspects, such as business, entrepreneurship, science, technology, culture, health, or education. It should demonstrate the endeavor's significance, even if its economic benefits are not immediate or quantifiable.

2. Second Prong: The person should be well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor. This involves evaluating the individual's education, skills, achievements, and support for their plans. Evidence can include degrees, patents, expert letters, published articles, plans, business strategies, and more.

In regards to the second prong, and in evaluating whether the person is well positioned to advance the endeavor, however, USCIS considers factors including, but not limited to:

  • The individual's educational background, skills, expertise, and track record of achievements in related or analogous undertakings.

  • The creation or substantial contribution to a model or strategy for future activities related to the envisioned project.

  • Progress made toward realizing the proposed venture.

  • The level of interest or backing garnered by the individual from potential customers, users, investors, or other pertinent entities or individuals.

One of the Evidence that may demonstrate that the person is well-positioned to advance a proposed endeavor is a strong citation history. The USCIS manual in this regard indicates that supporting evidence includes, but is not limited to:

  • Degrees, certificates, or licenses in the field;

  • Patents, trademarks, or copyrights developed by the person;

  • Letters from experts in the person’s field, describing the person’s past achievements and providing specific examples of how the person is well positioned to advance the person’s endeavor;

  • Published articles or media reports about the person’s achievements or current work;

  • Documentation demonstrating a strong citation history of the person’s work or excerpts of published articles showing positive discourse around, or adoption of, the person’s work;

  • Evidence that the person’s work has influenced the field of endeavor;

  • A plan describing how the person intends to continue the proposed work in the United States;

  • A detailed business plan or other description, along with any relevant supporting evidence, when appropriate;

  • Correspondence from prospective or potential employers, clients, or customers;

  • Documentation reflecting feasible plans for financial support (see below for a more detailed discussion of evidence related to financing for entrepreneurs);

  • Evidence that the person has received investment from U.S. investors, such as venture capital firms, angel investors, or start-up accelerators, and that the amounts are appropriate to the relevant endeavor;

  • Copies of contracts, agreements, or licenses showing the potential impact of the proposed endeavor;

  • Letters from government agencies or quasi-governmental entities in the United States demonstrating that the person is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor (see below for a more detailed discussion of supporting evidence from interested government agencies and quasi-governmental entities);

  • Evidence that the person has received awards or grants or other indications of relevant non-monetary support (for example, using facilities free of charge) from federal, state, or local government entities with expertise in economic development, research and development, or job creation; and

  • Evidence demonstrating how the person’s work is being used by others, such as, but not limited to:

    • Contracts with companies using products that the person developed or assisted in developing;

    • Documents showing technology that the person invented, or contributed to inventing, and how others use that technology; and

    • Patents or licenses for innovations the person developed with documentation showing why the patent or license is significant to the field.

In each case, officers must consider the totality of circumstances to determine whether the preponderance of evidence establishes that the person is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

3. Third Prong: It should be beneficial to the United States to waive the job offer and labor certification requirements. This requires showing that the advantages of the proposed endeavor and the person's qualifications outweigh the benefits of the labor certification process. Factors like the impracticality of labor certification, the urgency of the contributions, potential revenue generation, and job creation can be considered. Overall, these three prongs provide a framework for assessing eligibility for a National Interest Waiver, with a focus on the merit of the endeavor, the qualifications of the individual, and the national interest served by waiving certain requirements.

The Significance of Citations in NIW Cases:

Citations, in the context of NIW cases, refer to references to your work, research, or publications in scholarly sources, journals, articles, and other professional or academic publications. These citations are a tangible testament to the influence and impact of your contributions to your field.

How Many Citations Are Enough?

There isn't a specific number of citations that guarantees a successful NIW case. The quantity of citations needed varies depending on several factors, including your field, the quality of your work, and the impact of your contributions. What matters more than the sheer number of citations is the quality and relevance of these references.

In your NIW case, it's crucial to focus on the following aspects of citations:

  • Relevance: Highlight citations that are directly related to your work and that demonstrate its significance. A smaller number of highly relevant citations can carry more weight than a large number of unrelated ones.

  • Impact: Emphasize citations that showcase the impact of your work, not only within your immediate community but also on a national and even international scale. Demonstrating that your work benefits the United States is a key requirement for a successful NIW case.

  • Expert Opinions: Citations from experts and authorities in your field can be particularly influential. These experts' acknowledgment of your work by citing it lends credibility to your qualifications and contributions.

Can You Have a Successful NIW Case Without Citations?

While citations can strengthen your NIW case and provide persuasive evidence of your contributions, it is possible to have a successful NIW case without them, particularly in certain fields where citation patterns differ. For example, fields that involve proprietary research or industries where publication is not as common may naturally have fewer citations. Some examples include:

  • Cutting-Edge Technology and Innovation: In fields at the forefront of technology and innovation, many groundbreaking projects are proprietary or confidential, limiting their visibility in academic publications. Professionals in areas like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, or cybersecurity may have limited citations due to the nature of their work.

  • Startups and Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurs and founders of startups often drive innovation and economic growth but may not have a substantial number of citations. Their impact on the national interest can be demonstrated through job creation, economic contributions, and innovative products or services.

  • Clinical Medicine and Patient Care: Medical professionals who focus on clinical practice and patient care may have less visibility in academic journals compared to researchers in basic sciences. Their contributions can be highlighted through patient outcomes, improvements in healthcare delivery, and involvement in medically underserved areas.

  • Artistic and Creative Fields: Artists, designers, and creators in fields such as visual arts, fashion, or entertainment may not have traditional citations but can showcase their national interest contributions through awards, exhibitions, and cultural impact.

In these fields and others, a lack of extensive citations doesn't automatically mean an unsuccessful NIW case. Instead, applicants can present alternative evidence of their exceptional abilities and the national interest served by their work. It's crucial to work with experienced immigration professionals who understand the nuances of different industries and can tailor a strong NIW case to your unique qualifications and circumstances.

Citation for NIW


While citations can strengthen your NIW case and provide persuasive evidence of your contributions, it is possible to have a successful NIW case without them. Some applicants may not have extensive citations but can still demonstrate their national interest through other means, such as their research, publications, awards, and letters of support from experts in their field.

In such cases, it's essential to present a compelling argument for how your work directly benefits the United States, even if it has not received widespread recognition through citations. The key is to provide alternative evidence of your exceptional abilities and the national interest served by your work.

Citations undoubtedly play a significant role in National Interest Waiver (NIW) cases, but their importance goes beyond mere numbers. Focus on the relevance, impact, and expert recognition of your citations. However, remember that a lack of extensive citations doesn't automatically mean an unsuccessful NIW case. It's essential to work with experienced immigration professionals who can help you build a strong NIW case tailored to your unique qualifications and circumstances.

Your path to securing a U.S. green card through the NIW process is possible, with or without extensive citations, as long as you can effectively demonstrate your exceptional abilities and the national interest served by your work. Please note that immigration laws and regulations are subject to change and this post is for informational purposes only and none of the information on this Website is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute legal advice. Please read our full disclaimer here. Therefore, It's essential to carefully assess your qualifications and consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine if the EB-2 NIW is the right option for your specific circumstances.

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