What is “EB3”?
The EB3 visa, or Employment Based Third Preference, is an employment-based immigrant visa for skilled and professional workers.
To qualify for an EB3 visa, applicants must have a minimum of two years of professional work experience or training in their particular field and prove that they are capable of performing the job duties required for the position they are applying for in the United States.
The primary benefit of an EB3 visa is that it allows individuals to permanently live and work in the United States by becoming permanent residents (“green card”).
Moreover, those who have an EB3 visa are able to sponsor their immediate family (spouse and unmarried minor children) to live and work in the United States with them.
In an EB-3 application, US employer sponsoring you for a green card is called “Petitioner” and the applicant is called “Beneficiary”.
EB3 Visa Requirements
Three categories of applicants are eligible to apply for EB-3 visa:
- Skilled Workers
- Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
See below the detailed requirements for each subcategory:
|Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
It is important to note that this category of visa does not allow self-petitioning and requires an employer’s sponsorship and a U.S. job offer.
Additionally, U.S. employers must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor before they can sponsor you for this type of visa.
EB3 application process
The EB-3 application process consists of three steps:
- Filing Labor Certification (PERM)
- Filing Immigrant Visa Petition (Form I-140)
- Waiting for Applicant’s “Priority” Date to Become Current (depending on applicant’s country of birth)
- Filing Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
The first two parts of this process are completed by the employer (“Petitioner”).
Let’s discuss each application process in detail.
Step 1. Filing Labor Certification or PERM
To start the EB-3 visa application, an employer must first obtain a Labor Certification from the U.S Department of Labor (DOL).
Labor Certification certifies that:
- There are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position the employer is seeking to fill, and
- That employment of a foreign worker will not adversely affect wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers.
The Labor Certification process is also known as the Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certification.
Employer is required to take the following steps:
- Request a prevailing wage determination from the Department of Labor.
- Employer must register online with the DOL for a PERM account.
- A job order must be placed with the State of intended employment. The State posts the job in its job bank for 30 days.
- The job must be advertised in the city’s major newspaper for two Sundays.
- The job must be posted at the job site for 2 weeks (This includes a physical posting on a bulletin board where regular employee notices are posted.) If the offered position is covered under a collective bargaining agreement, the bargaining representatives must be notified.
- If the offered position is a Professional position, the employer must choose 3 additional forms of recruitment (DOL has published a list of other alternatives including: the employers website, an online job site, campus recruitment, radio or TV, professional journals, private recruitment companies, etc.).
- The employer will interview all applicants that appear to be qualified.
- If there are qualified and available U.S. workers, the employer has no obligation to hire any of them, but the PERM application cannot be filed.
- If there are no qualified or available U.S. workers found to fill the position, the employer will sign a recruitment report describing the recruitment process and its results. If all the ads are placed in the same month that the job order is running, the application period will remain open for 60 days. However, if the ads are run over a longer period of time, the application period must remain open for up to 30 days from the date of the last ad. However, all recruitment internal postings and advertisements must take place within the 180 days immediately preceding the filing of the application.
- Employer or employer’s attorney electronically files the ETA 9089 with the DOL. The date the application is filed becomes the employee/beneficiary’s Priority Date.
- DOL can adjudicate the application based simply on the electronic filing or it can Audit the application.
- If audited, all the underlying recruitment documents (including ad tear sheets, posting notices, job order, all resumes received by applicants, etc.) and evidence of business necessity are submitted to the DOL. Things that typically trigger an audit include travel requirements, foreign language requirements, multiple job sites, excessively high numbers of years experience, etc.)
Since 2007, EB-3 visa applicants are prohibited from paying any costs related to the PERM process including attorney fees and advertising costs.
After these steps are completed, an application for Labor Certification along with supporting documents will be filed with DOL’s Employment and Training Administration.
The case is reviewed by a Certifying Officer who ensures all criteria have been met before issuing the Labor Certification.
The PERM labor certification process is a lengthy and complex procedure.
Step 2. Filing Immigrant Visa Petition (Form I-140)
From the date of the PERM approval, the employer has 6 months to file an I-140 Immigrant Petition on behalf of the employee.
Form I-140 is filed with the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and must include the following documents:
- Evidence that employer can afford to pay the employee the prevailing wage;
- Evidence that the employee meets all the qualifications for the job;
- Original certified PERM application.
Form I-140 is filed by the employer but all related costs can be paid by the employee or employer.
Step 3. EB-3 “Priority Date”
The EB-3 application process is reliant on an applicant’s so-called “Priority Date” becoming “current”.
Priority Date is the date that the labor certification was accepted by the Department of Labor.
- Example 1: you were born in Mexico and your employer filed the labor certification application on March 01, 2019. You need to check the latest U.S. Visa Bulletin and find the current month’s table called “A. Final Action Dates For Employment-Based Preference Cases” and find your category “3rd”, then find your country of birth. At the time of writing this article, the Priority Date for EB-3 Mexico was June 01, 2022. Since your Labor Certification was filed before June 01, 2022, you are eligible to apply for a green card.
- Example 2: you were born in India and your employer filed the Labor Certification Application to sponsor your EB-3 green card on April 1, 2013. So your priority date is April 1, 2013. As seen from the table above, EB-3 priority date for beneficiaries born in India is June 15, 2012. Since your EB-3 priority date is after June 15, 2012, you will not be eligible for green card application at this moment. You will need to wait until EB-3 priority date for Indian nationals will be set at April 01, 2013 or earlier.
Visa Bulletin’s dates get updated monthly, so in order to get the most current information, visit the US Visa Bulletin page.
The length of time for a Priority Date to become current can vary significantly.
It could take anywhere from 0 years to 10+ years depending on the applicant’s country of origin and the demand for immigrant visas at that time.
During this waiting period, applicants must remain patient and periodically check the Visa Bulletin to see if their Priority Date has become current.
This will allow them to know when they can proceed with their green card application.
EB3 “Visa Bulletin”
Every year, U.S. Congress sets a limit, or quota, on the number of immigrant visas that can be issued to applicants. This quota is based on a variety of factors, including the country of origin, the applicant’s immigrant category, and other factors.
For the EB3 visa, the quota is limited to only 140,000 visas per year, with no more than 7% being issued to citizens of any one country.
Despite the fact that the EB3 quota is limited, there is high demand for these visas. This can mean a long wait time for applicants who are trying to secure an EB3 visa.
The current U.S. Visa Bulletin can be accessed here.
Step 4. Filing Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
On Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, the employer must indicate whether the EB-3 applicant will apply for a visa abroad at a US embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence or apply for a green card in the U.S.
The process of applying for a green card in the US is called “Adjustment of Status”.
The process of applying for a visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad is called “Consular Processing”.
Adjustment of Status
If an EB-3 applicant is physically present in the US on a valid visa and the visa number is available, then the applicant can apply for a green card in the U.S.
This process is known as “Adjustment of Status” and Form I-485 must be filed for each applicant with USCIS.
The EB-3 applicant and their family cannot file the I-485 until such time as a visa number is available.
Applicant’s priority date (the date the PERM application was filed) determines the date when a green card application can actually be filed.
Once a visa number is current, the employee and their family members who are present in the US on valid visas can file I-485 applications with the USCIS.
It can take several months and longer to receive employment authorization and travel documents.
Work and travel documents are issued in one or two year increments and must be renewed in order to avoid gaps in work authorization.
EB-3 green card applicants are generally interviewed at the local USCIS field office prior to their application being approved.
EB-3 applicants can pay all costs related to their I-485 process including attorney fees, government filing fees, and other related expenses.
After I-140 has been approved and the I-485 has been pending 180 days, the employee becomes “portable.”
This means that the applicant can change jobs within the company or go to work for another employer in a similar position and not jeopardize their permanent residence.
If an EB-3 applicant resides abroad and needs to apply for a visa to enter the U.S., the National Visa Center (NVC) will create an online immigrant visa application (Form DS-260).
In a few weeks after Form I-140 is approved, an EB-3 visa applicant receives the initial notice from the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC).
This notice will include instructions to access the online DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
Once the immigrant visa fees are paid online, it can take up to a week for the payments to clear.
After that the EB-3 applicant can prepare and submit the visa application and the required supporting documents.
The checklist of required documents can be found on the U.S Department of State website.
After NVC determines that the immigrant visa application is “documentarily qualified”, the case will be forwarded to the U.S. embassy or consulate for interview processing.
EB-3 applicants attend the interview at a US embassy or consulate. If the interview goes well, an immigrant visa will be issued.
EB3 checklist of required documents
When it comes to filing an EB-3 petition, there are certain documents that must be presented in order to establish the employee’s eligibility for permanent residency. These documents include:
Note: “Beneficiary” is the employee or applicant being sponsored by the US employer for permanent residency. The U.S. employer is called “Petitioner”.
|Who provides the documents
|Step 1. Filing Labor Certification or PERM
|Form ETA-9141 (Prevailing Wage Determination)
|U.S. Department of Labor might request the following documents:
PROOF OF FEDERAL EMPLOYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (FEIN). (Choose one from the following):
PROOF OF BUSINESS ENTITY:
PROOF OF PHYSICAL LOCATION (Please use a document issued within the last 12 months):
|Form 9089 (Application for Permanent Employment Certification)
|Step 2. Filing Immigrant Visa Petition
(some beneficiaries are allowed to file I-485 at the same time as I-140 is filed)
|Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
If filing for EB-3 Professional:
If filing for EB-3 Skilled Worker or Unskilled Worker:
|Employer and Beneficiary
|Step 4. Filing Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
|Adjustment of Status:
Form I-485 for Derivative Beneficiary Spouse:
Form I-485 for Derivative Beneficiary Child:
|Beneficiary and Beneficiary’s family members (if applicable)
-Birth certificate(s), plus English translation
-Marriage certificate(s), plus English translation
|Beneficiary and Beneficiary’s family members (if applicable)
EB3 visa fees
Below we’ll discuss the various fees associated with filing for an EB-3 visa, what those fees cover, and why it’s important to be aware of them before you start the application process:
- Form ETA-9141 – $0, no filing fee
- Form 9089 – $0, no filing fee
- Advertising expenses related to Labor Certification (to be paid by employer) – varies
- Form I-140 – $700
- Form I-140 premium processing fee* – $2,500 (optional)
- Form I-485 (if applying in the U.S.) – $1,225
- Form DS-260 (if applying abroad) – $325
- Form I-864 if applying abroad (required ONLY for applicants where a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative filed the Form I-140 petition or where such a relative has a significant ownership interest in the entity that filed the petition) – $120
- Medical examination fee (varies) – anywhere from $200 to $600
- Legal fees – if you decide to hire an immigration attorney to file your application – varies
- Total: $2,450-$2,970 + advertising expenses + legal fees + premium processing fee (if applicable)
*If a Premium Processing fee is paid, USCIS will review Form I-140 in 2 weeks vs. 4 months -10.5 months of regular processing turnaround time.
EB3 processing time
The processing times for EB3 visas can be lengthy and can vary depending on a variety of circumstances (such as the applicant’s country of birth).
The average processing time is provided below:
Step 1. Labor Certification Process (PERM) – 10 months and longer
Step 2. Form I-140 (Immigration Petition for Alien Workers) – 2 weeks to 10.5 months
Step 3. Waiting for Applicant’s Priority Date to Become Current – 0 months to 10 years (depends on applicant’s country of birth and current Visa Bulletin)
Step 4. Filing Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing Application – 6 months to 18 months
Keep in mind that the actual processing time of your EB-3 application can be shorted or longer depending on the following factors:
- Your country of birth
- Current Visa Bulletin schedule
- U.S. Department of Labor, USCIS or U.S. Department of State processing backlogs
- Paying for expedite processing of your Form I-140 application ($2,500 Premium Processing Fee – optional)
EB-3 visa FAQs
1. What is the Eb-3 Visa Category?
The EB-3 is an employment-based immigrant category available to skilled workers, professionals, and other unskilled workers who have a full-time, permanent job offer from a U.S. employer and who possess the necessary qualifications for the job. The employer must provide proof that there are no qualified U.S. workers available to fill the position. EB-3 allows you to obtain green cards for yourself and your family, and live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. You cannot self-petition EB-3 green card.
2. How Long Does It Take to Process an Eb-3 Visa Application?
The average processing time for an EB-3 visa application is 2-3 years, however the exact processing times may take less or more time depending on the following factors:
- Backlog in the government agencies that process EB-3 applications (U.S. Department of Labor, USCIS and US Embassy or Consulate).
- Your country of birth (the waiting line for EB-3 visas can be longer or shorter for citizens of different countries)
- Paying the premium USCIS processing fee (Step 2 of the process or Form I-140 can be expedited if you pay the $2,500 premium processing fee)
- Incorrect forms or missing documents. You will delay the processing of your EB-3 application if you do not provide the complete information on immigration forms and fail to provide all the required documents. Your application must strictly match the eligibility criteria to be approved. For example, receiving an RFE (Request for Evidence) from USCIS delays the processing of your application.
3. What Qualifications are Required to Apply for an Eb-3 Visa?
To qualify for an EB-3 visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- a Bachelor’s Degree or higher,
- at least two years of experience in the job you are seeking, professional or technical certification,
- a job offer from a U.S. employer,
- the ability to demonstrate that the job requires someone with your qualifications.
- Additionally, your employer must prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available to fill the job.
4. What are the Benefits of Obtaining an Eb-3 Visa?
The Employment Based Third Preference (EB-3) category of the U.S. permanent residency provides the following benefits:
- Living and working in the U.S. permanently
- You can sponsor your spouse and unmarried children under 21 to join you in the U.S.
- After five years, you can apply for US citizenship and enjoy the same rights and benefits as a US citizen.
5. Are There Any Restrictions on the Length of Time I Can Remain In the U.S. with an EB-3 Visa?
The EB-3 visa is a great option for those looking to stay in the U.S. for an indefinite amount of time. Unlike nonimmigrant temporary visas, the EB-3 does not impose any restrictions on the amount of time that you can remain in the U.S. Moreover, after residing in the U.S. for 5 years as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) you can apply for U.S. citizenship. You have the right to sponsor your family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) for permanent residency in the U.S. as well.