A national interest waiver is a method of obtaining a Green Card without having an employer sponsor you, if the work you will be doing in the United States will benefit the economy, education system, health, or some other aspect of society. The waiver is a subcategory of the EB-2 employment-based category for obtaining permanent residence. A national interest waiver is obtained if a noncitizen wants to have work authorization in the United States without an offer of employment. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants national interest waivers to individuals who are exceptionally talented in their field and their entry to the United States would be in the country's “national interest”. For example, these individuals may include physicians, researchers in STEM, or professors who have been widely recognized by awards or publications.
When applying for a national interest waiver, you do not need to find an employment offer or have an employer sponsor your application. You can self-petition for the waiver if you do not have a job offer, or if you would like to have flexibility of employment in the future without risking your immigration status. You also do not have to go through the PERM, or labor certification, process as is usually required by EB-2 and EB-3 categories.
To be eligible for a national interest waiver, you must first qualify for the EB-2 category, by having an advanced degree or exceptional ability. If you choose to apply based on your advanced degree, you will mostly likely still have to show that you are highly skilled in your field as well. This is because to obtain a national interest waiver, you must show that your entry and employment in the United States will be a great asset to the country.