Everything You Need to Know about the EB-3 Visa

The EB-3 is an immigrant visa that USCIS issues to skilled workers, experienced professionals, and “other” non-skilled workers.

“EB-3” stands for “Employment-Based visa, third preference.” To qualify for an EB-3 visa, you must be either a skilled worker, an experienced professional, or an “other” non-skilled worker. Your job also can’t be temporary or seasonal.

When applying for an EB-3 visa, you’ll have to provide evidence showing both (1) proof of your skills, and (2) evidence of a job waiting for you in the United States.

In addition, while the requirements for an EB-3 visa are much less restrictive than the EB-1 and EB-2 categories, the waiting list is significantly longer. For the current waiting times (which can vary by country), check out the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) Visa Bulletin website.

Labor Certification

The first step in applying for an EB-3 visa is receiving an official Labor Certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. In most cases, your future employer will perform this step using Form ETA-9089.

USCIS requires this step because they want to protect the interests of U.S. workers.

As is the case with most employment-based visas, the the biggest hurdle in getting your visa is proving to USCIS that no U.S. worker can perform your job. The Labor Certification basically proves that your employer has done their due diligence in screening for potential U.S. workers.

The Department of Labor uses an online system called PERM (Permanent Labor Certification) to manage all their Labor Certification cases.

Who Qualifies for an EB-3 Visa?

Workers that qualify for an EB-3 visa generally fall into 3 categories: “skilled,” “professional,” and “other” workers. All of these categories require both an official Labor Certification and the sponsorship of a U.S. based business.

In addition, since the qualifications needed for this type of visa are quite low, a large number of applicants apply every year. This means that waiting times can get quite long, spanning up to several years in some cases.

Skilled Workers

Skilled workers generally have a decent amount of training or experience in their field, but don’t have the rockstar status seen in EB-1 and EB-2 applicants.

Examples of professions that could file as skilled workers include mechanical and construction supervisors, journalists, designers, and chefs. In most cases, “skilled” workers are workers that don’t quite meet the stringent requirements for the more selective visas, and instead choose to file for the EB-3. In doing so, they increase their chances of actually receiving a green card.

There are several recommended qualifications you should prove when applying for this type of EB-3 visa. These include:

  • At least 2 years of work experience.
  • An undergraduate degree.
  • Evidence of vocational training or apprenticeships in your professional field.

If you’re applying for an EB-3 visa as a skilled worker, you must submit proof of your training and experience to USCIS along with your labor certification.

Professionals

“Professional” workers are generally limited to those with at least a bachelor’s degree in their field of choice. Further, having at least a bachelor’s degree must be a minimum standard for entry into your field.

For example, someone who claims to be an engineer, but has no formal engineering degree, generally wouldn’t be hired by a U.S. company. For this reason, USCIS will most likely reject their application.

When filing for an EB-3 as a professional, you should be ready to show evidence of your degree, and any other certifications, to the USCIS officer in charge of your case. Remember that work experience cannot take the place of a degree in this category.

You need to prove that you possess at least the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in your professional field.

Other Workers

The final EB-3 subcategory is for “unskilled” workers. This category includes people who have less than 2 years of training or experience in their field. Some examples of workers in this group are housekeepers, landscapers, and farm-hands.

However, the U.S. only approves a small number of EB visas every year (usually around 25,000 per fiscal year), with EB-3 “other” visas being further capped at a small percentage of this total (a maximum of 5,000, though usually much lower).

As a quick example, only 8.1% of the total approved EB-3 applications from Asia in 2017 came from the “other” category.

Obtaining a Labor Certification can also be difficult for individuals in this category. This is because you’ll need to show evidence that the U.S. has a shortage of qualified workers in your field, which can be hard for these more common jobs.

Filing the Application

Sadly, you can’t “self-petition” for an EB-3 visa. Your employer must instead file the application for you. The employer will fill out Form I-140 on your behalf, as well as go through the Labor Certification process to prove they did their due diligence when hiring.

Your employer must also provide documents to USCIS showing that the company is financially sound and able to pay you the determined salary. At the end of the process, the company will send the following documents to the USCIS processing office:

  • The I-140 application
  • The Labor Certificate
  • All supporting documents – theirs and yours

Playing Your Part

Once USCIS receives your full application, you’ll receive a priority date. This is basically your spot in the green card line. You can check the USCIS’s Monthly Visa Bulletin to see which priority date applications are currently being accepted. Generally, the waiting time can range from instant approval to a several month backlog. In some extreme cases, this backlog can stretch several years.

As of writing this article in July 2018, “other” workers who filed in China in May of 2007 are only just receiving their green card approval. This means they’ve been waiting over 11 years for their green cards to come through. Similar applications from Mexico, however, are only backlogged for about a year.

After USCIS processes your application, you’ll have to schedule an interview at your local U.S. consulate or embassy. This will involve a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. In addition, you also must fill out the DS-260 online application.

Applicants already living in the U.S. under a different visa simply have to file for a Form I-485 Adjustment of Status.

Once all these steps are complete, your shiny new EB-3 visa will arrive in the mail. In total, the process can range from a few months to several years, and cost upwards of several thousand dollars in filing and attorney fees.

The Applicant’s Family

After the USCIS approves your initial I-140 application, your immediate family can also apply for immigrant visas. Remember, however, that “immediate family” only includes your spouse and any children under the age of 21.

Your family will have to go through the same process of filling out the I-140 form, providing documentation, paying fees, and going through a medical exam.

Specifically, your spouse will file for either an E34 (for spouses of skilled or professional workers) or EW4 (for spouses of “other” workers) visa. Children under the age of 21 may also file under the E35 and EW5 visas in a similar manner.

Labor Certification Exceptions

The U.S. Department of Labor has also created specific exceptions for certain “in-demand” professions. These exceptions are called “Schedule A Occupations.”

The main benefit of this exception is allowing these professionals to begin the EB process without needing an official Labor Certification. This can shave several months off the immigration process and save an applicant several thousand dollars in fees.

The U.S. code divides these occupations into two groups.

Group I

Most cases of this exception fall under this group. Group I covers physical therapists and professional nurses who don’t fall under any of the other EB categories. USCIS requires that these professionals have all the qualifications needed to pass any and all certification exams once they enter their new state.

Nurses may alternatively show evidence they’re accredited with the Commission on Graduates in Foreign Nursing Schools.

When filing for one of these jobs, Group I applicants need to fill out Form ETA-9089 and submit this form, in parallel with their employer, to their appropriate USCIS service center.

Group II

Finally, practitioners of the sciences or arts (not including the performing arts) can also apply for an EB-3 visa. These individuals generally possess exceptional abilities in their field, but don’t have a college or university diploma to back their claims up. This classification is quite rare, and usually applies to college and university teachers who intend to teach in the U.S. in the upcoming academic year.

Essentially, the requirements for filing under Group II rely heavily on testimony from experts in your field. Documentation of your awards and other achievements can also be helpful in proving your excellence. This process is similar to that seen by Professors filing for EB-2 visas.

Basically, you need to prove that you have exceptional ability in your field, and that your visa will not negatively impact current U.S. residents in any significant way.

Again, however, USCIS rarely approves applications for this exception. Due to a lack of precedent on the matter, whether or not USCIS will approve your application is totally up to the official in charge of your case.

Conclusion

An EB-3 visa (or employment-based visa, third preference) is for skilled workers, experienced professionals, and some “other” types of professions. In almost all cases, the EB-3 visa requires a Labor Certification, the one exception being for Schedule A occupations.

The basic qualifications for each type of application required that:

  • Skilled workers have at least 2 years of experience or training in their field.
  • Professionals have a bachelor’s degree in their profession.
  • Other, unskilled, workers (with less than 2 years experience) can show a shortage of U.S. workers their position can fill.

In all of these cases, it’s highly recommended you speak with an immigration attorney before applying. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you understand which category to apply under. They can also help you fill out and submit your application.

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