Upon recognizing the demonstrated pilot shortage in the US, many have expanded their attention to the US aviation industry writ large and its growing shortage of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) and Aircraft Maintenance Technicians.This article will first equip you with some fundamental information about the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) program and then explore why qualifying AMEs around the world are viable applicants for this program.

What is the EB-2 NIW Program?

The EB-2 category is part of the US employment-based immigration programs designed for professionals holding an advanced degree or possessing exceptional ability. Under this visa category, a successful candidate can bypass the burdensome and lengthy labour certification process and instead apply for a green card based on their own merit and credentials. In other words, no US-employer is required to sponsor the individual, and no job offer is required.

Upon a successful application, the applicant and their qualifying dependents (spouses, and dependent children under 21-years-old) would receive an unconditional green card valid for 10 years. Should the applicant and their dependents meet the residency requirements of citizenship, they will be eligible to apply for US citizenship within 5 years of holding their green card.


To qualify for the EB-2 NIW program, applicants must meet specific criteria:

    1. Exceptional Ability: Applicants must demonstrate outstanding expertise and exceptional skills in their profession, usually through sustained national or international acclaim.
    2. Advanced Degree: Alternatively, candidates may possess an advanced degree or its equivalent in their field.
    3. National Interest: The crux of the application lies in proving that the individual’s work is of substantial intrinsic merit and has a significant positive impact on the US’ national interests.

Why AMEs Worldwide are Good Candidates for the EB-2 NIW Program?

AMEs are undoubtedly indispensable to aircraft safety, as they maintain and troubleshoot the airworthiness of the aircraft. To perform such a crucial task, AMEs shall go through a rigorous licensing process beforehand. The AME licensing process varies across jurisdictions, including the US Federal Aviation Administration, the Taiwan Civil Aviation Administration, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and so on. While there are multiple sets of laws governing AME qualifications, one thing is almost certain: to qualify as AME, one typically needs to devote years of study to acquire a bespoke skillset and possess hands-on maintenance experience. With these in mind, we believe it is sufficient to demonstrate AMEs satisfy the exceptional ability criteria laid out in the EB-2 NIW program.

Furthermore, the US aviation market is in need of more AMEs. According to recent statistics, there are more than 200,000 aircraft in the US and the number is expected to climb continuously. Nonetheless, the pool of domestic AMEs remains limited, resulting in an impending shortage of manpower to maintain and inspect all these aircraft. Amongst the reasons attributable to this looming challenge, the COVID-19 job cuts did impose an impact as it accelerated AME to retire or switch industries. At worst, a dearth of AMEs could result in flight cancellations and delayed repairment. Considering the critical role AMEs play in ensuring the competitiveness of the US aviation sector, we believe that foreign-qualified AMEs are very likely to meet the national importance requirement under the EB-2 NIW program.

Given that the EB-2 NIW program is highly sought after, we do reiterate the imperative need that each initial petition submitted is carefully drafted and prepared to fully demonstrate how the applicant meets the EB-2 criteria. We therefore encourage those interested in the EB-2 NIW to speak with one of our lawyers to evaluate and discuss the options available.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact your local HLG office here for more details. Founded in 1992, Harvey Law Group (HLG) is a leading multinational law firm headquartered in Hong Kong. Our lawyers are based across Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to cater to your specific needs for immigration and beyond.


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