OWL Magazine Korea

Nam Jung-yong “Ordinary Office Worker, Obtaining U.S. Green Card”

Lately, there has been a sudden surge in interest in U.S. immigration. Perhaps it’s because I recently read a book about “SpaceX” and delved into a book about “Elon Musk,” and while exploring Dr. Kim Jae-woo’s book “Time in Silicon Valley,” I naturally began to think that it might be good to work with the best talents in the United States.

Thus, my interest in American life transitioned to books about “U.S. immigration.” I borrowed a few relatively recent books on the subject and came across one titled “Ordinary Office Worker, Obtaining U.S. Green Card.”

“Can an ordinary office worker obtain a U.S. green card?”

In reality, after examining all the contents covered in the book, it seems that an “ordinary office worker” can never obtain a U.S. green card. To receive a green card, it appears one must excel academically, work diligently in their field of study, accumulate consistent experience in one’s field, pursue a master’s degree, engage in continuous paper writing and research, and even obtain U.S. qualifications.

The feeling is that a hardworking professional who majored in engineering, pursued a master’s degree in the same field, accumulated various research achievements, and had a long career in the corporate world might barely seize the opportunity. This is a far cry from being considered “ordinary” in the workplace.

“A Book Introducing the Ways and Procedures for Obtaining U.S. Green Card”

Nevertheless, this book can be helpful for those considering “U.S. immigration.” To achieve successful U.S. immigration, obtaining a “green card” is essential. Before coming across this book, I also explored the atmosphere of obtaining a U.S. green card through online communities. The consistent advice shared by many is to graduate from a university in the United States.

For those who haven’t graduated, the suggested path is to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, find a job, and look for a company willing to sponsor a green card. For those who have graduated, pursuing a master’s degree in a U.S. university, followed by employment and sponsorship from a company, is recommended. If one already has a master’s degree, the process of obtaining a green card can follow by pursuing a “Ph.D.” in the United States.

For international students studying in the U.S., the summarized process of obtaining a green card is as follows:

  • Receive admission to a university and enroll.
  • After graduation, work for a company for a basic period of 1 year with Optional Practical Training (OPT) (extendable up to 3 years for STEM fields).
  • Find a sponsor (employer willing to support a change of status) and apply – if unsuccessful, return to the home country.
  • Apply for an H-1B visa in April (selected through a random lottery, with a 30-40% success rate) – if not selected, if there is remaining OPT time, reapply the following year; otherwise, return home.
  • If successful, work in the U.S. for 6 years (initial 3 years + 3-year extension). During this time, the green card issuance process is usually initiated, and if unsuccessful, return to the home country.

In the current situation, the field that sponsors the most in the U.S. is considered to be computer science (CS). However, even in this field, it is challenging for Koreans to obtain sponsorship, as the majority is occupied by individuals of Indian origin (representing over 70%, while Koreans make up around 1.1%).

“The National Interest Waiver (NIW) Program for Obtaining a Green Card”

The book introduces another method for obtaining a green card, namely through the “NIW (National Interest Waiver)” program. This program, introduced in 1990, aims to attract individuals with outstanding abilities to enhance the country’s competitiveness. The author highlights three advantages of this program:

  • No need for a sponsor (nor labor certification).
  • Relatively short processing time.
  • Cost-effective – legal fees are significantly lower compared to other methods.

“Eligibility for NIW”

The minimum eligibility for this program is to have at least a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with over 5 years of relevant experience. Higher education (Ph.D., master’s, bachelor’s) generally increases the success rate, and it is mostly individuals with a master’s degree or higher who apply and get selected. The fields are predominantly in natural sciences, engineering, and medicine.

The basic requirements outlined by the U.S. immigration authorities are:

  • Degree and certification proving the petitioner’s exceptional ability from a recognized university or equivalent institution.
  • Recommendation letter from a current or former employer, proving at least 10 years of full-time employment in the field.
  • License or certification in a specific profession or field.
  • Proof of a high salary or other compensation for services provided.
  • Membership in professional organizations.
  • Evidence of significant achievements recognized by government agencies, professionals, or economic entities in the industry.
  • Other evidence demonstrating qualifications.

In more concrete terms, for those applying for a green card through “NIW” in the “EB-1” category, meeting at least 3 out of the following 10 criteria related to exceptional ability is essential. Additionally, having received international awards, articles published in major publications, and successful commercial endeavors in the performing arts are considered favorable.

In essence, to apply for NIW through EB-1, individuals need to meet at least three of the following criteria or have received international awards or recognition (Olympic medals, Oscar awards, Pulitzer prizes):

  • Awards that demonstrate the petitioner’s exceptional abilities, even if not widely recognized domestically or internationally.
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements.
  • Publications of the petitioner’s work in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence that the petitioner has judged the work of others, either individually or on a panel.
  • Evidence of the petitioner’s original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance.
  • Articles written by others about the petitioner’s work in professional or major trade publications or other major media.
  • Evidence of the display of the petitioner’s work in artistic exhibitions or showcases.
  • Performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations or establishments.
  • Evidence of a high salary or other significantly high remuneration for services in relation to others in the field.
  • Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts.

Ultimately, individuals with awards, articles featured in the media, published academic papers, experience in reviewing, high income relative to peers, presentations at conferences, patents, publications of relevant books, master’s degrees in relevant fields, and over 10 years of experience after obtaining a bachelor’s degree can consider challenging the NIW process.

“NIW Preparation Method”

In the second part of the book, the author introduces the preparation method for the National Interest Waiver (NIW). Emphasizing the importance of engaging in recent projects and maintaining career consistency, the author recommends pursuing a Master’s in Engineering if one has not attended graduate school. Additionally, writing SCI-level papers, applying for patents, and receiving prestigious awards are highlighted as beneficial steps.

The acquisition of certifications is also mentioned as helpful, with a preference for obtaining U.S. certifications over Korean ones. The book particularly focuses on certifications such as “FE, PE, PMP.”

“NIW Application Process”

The book provides a detailed explanation of the NIW application process, including the steps, necessary documents for each stage, and estimated preparation periods. For those considering NIW, the information serves as a valuable reference.


  • Attorney fees (Approximately KRW 1,000 – 1,500,000 domestically / USD 10,000 for the U.S.)
  • It is possible to proceed independently, and a “NIW DIY Kit” is available for approximately USD 100.

Required Documents: Preparation period is approximately 1-3 months

  • Applicant and family passport copies
  • Family relationship certificates, basic certificates, original marriage certificates
  • Graduation certificates, academic transcripts (Korean and English originals)
  • Papers and abstracts (English)
  • Published academic journal with the applicant’s name
  • Various patents
  • Certifications
  • Awards history
  • Detailed English resume
  • Employment and career certificates (English)
  • Completion certificates
  • Published books
  • Articles about projects undertaken by the applicant (preferably on a national scale, such as newspapers or internships)
  • Association membership certificates
  • Recommendation letters from relevant professionals (verified by lawyers or immigration specialists)
  • Other documents demonstrating the applicant’s exceptional abilities

The book also discusses recent trends in immigration interviews, where authorities focus on what activities the petitioner plans to undertake in the U.S. It notes that past cases involving NIW primarily for educational benefits have made immigration approval more stringent. Some cases involved recipients obtaining Green Cards but not residing in the U.S., which led to increased scrutiny during immigration approvals.

The book concludes by advising readers to consider the detailed Green Card application process as outlined, highlighting the importance of fulfilling criteria step by step. Even if one does not currently meet the specified qualifications, the book encourages individuals to view it as a roadmap for potential future Green Card applications or to consider obtaining U.S. certifications mentioned in the book.

“Application Process”

Once the documents are prepared, the following application process is followed:

  • USCIS Biometrics Appointment and Submission: Biometrics appointments can only be scheduled and attended at two USCIS offices (Texas and Nebraska). The fee for each appointment, as of 2019, is $700. After obtaining a money order from the primary bank, along with other required documents, it is sent to the USCIS under the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Receipt of “I-797C” Confirmation: Upon completion of the submission, the petitioner receives the “I-797C” document, confirming the acceptance. Using the receipt number, the progress can be tracked on the USCIS website (https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/).
  • Approval Process: If no Request for Evidence (RFE) is received, approval is typically granted within 6-12 months for around 70% of petitioners.
  • NVC Processing: The case is transferred to the “National Visa Centre (NVC)” under the U.S. Department of State. Following this, the petitioner receives a mail related to immigrant visa fees. After payment, the NVC sends the petitioner a cover sheet for supporting documents. Upon its arrival, the petitioner completes the “DS-260” (online immigrant visa application) and submits the required documents.
  • Medical Examination: Upon receiving the interview date, the petitioner receives an email regarding the medical examination. The examination takes place at specific hospitals in Seoul and Busan, costing between KRW 310,000 to 400,000. It is valid for six months, and results must be obtained before the consular interview.
  • Interview: If the passport has less than one year until expiration, it must be renewed. The list of documents to be submitted at the consulate includes a visa interview confirmation, original passport, valid U.S. visa (F1, B1/B2), interview appointment letter, sealed medical examination results, two U.S. visa-sized photos, family relationship documents, and any additional documents requested during the NVC stage.
  • Post-Interview: Within a week after the interview, the petitioner receives the passport with the immigrant visa attached and a yellow envelope containing important documents. The yellow envelope must remain unopened until the first entry into the U.S., where it will be submitted to the immigration officer.
  • U.S. Entry and Green Card Receipt: The petitioner must enter the U.S. within six months of the medical examination. Entry usually takes place via Guam. At the U.S. airport, the immigration officer provides the Green Card. Rights and responsibilities of Green Card holders are also explained.

Rights of Green Card Holders:

  • Permanent residence and employment rights in the U.S.
  • Access to public schools.
  • Ability to travel in and out of the U.S.
  • Eligibility to file U.S. visa applications for spouse, children, etc.

Responsibilities of Green Card Holders:

  • Maintain residence in the U.S.
  • Annual entry to the U.S. to maintain Green Card status.
  • Compliance with federal, state, and local laws.
  • Carry the Green Card at all times, especially when traveling.

“Comprehensive Guide to the U.S. Green Card Process”

This book stands out among those the author has encountered, offering an extensive explanation of the process to obtain a U.S. Green Card. The author emphasizes that this path is not for the average worker but rather for someone who has diligently excelled in a specific field, as depicted by the meticulous process of obtaining a Green Card through the National Interest Waiver (NIW).

Given the stringent eligibility criteria, it is acknowledged that only individuals with exceptional academic and professional backgrounds can pursue this route. The book recommends focusing on U.S. certifications such as “FE, PE” in engineering, even if one does not currently meet the qualifications.

The author encourages readers not to be disheartened if they don’t meet the specific criteria, as the information provided can serve as a roadmap for potential future Green Card applications or as a guide for gradually fulfilling the outlined criteria. The book’s detailed explanation of the process, requirements, and recommendations offers valuable insights for anyone considering the U.S. Green Card journey.

Book Details:

  • Title: “A Regular Employee’s Guide to Obtaining a U.S. Green Card”
  • Author: Nam Jung-yong
  • Publication Date: July 17, 2019
  • ISBN13: 9791155429938
  • Yes24 Link: Yes24