What is an EB-3 Visa?
The EB-3 (third preference) visa is for professionals and workers who want to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The U.S. also has additional employment-based immigrant visas, such as EB-1, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5, but those visas have other eligibility requirements, such as an advanced degree, exceptional ability, and/or investment criteria. Most EB-3 applicants are not eligible for the EB-2 or EB-1 visas due to requirements around advanced degrees or exceptional ability.
The EB-3 provides both a visa to travel in and out of the U.S., and a green card granting authorization to work and live in the U.S. permanently. Approved applicants will be granted a physical visa in their passport as well as a separate green card.
Who should apply for an EB-3 Visa?
If you would like to permanently reside in the U.S., the EB-3 visa might be an option for you. While non-immigrant visa holders (such as those on F-1, J-1 or H1-B visas) are the largest pool of applicants for the EB-3 visa, other newcomers apply for the EB-3 visa without first residing in the U.S. on another visa.
Those born in China and India can expect significantly longer waits due to backlogs in visas available to those nationalities. In addition, depending on your background and job you are applying for, the wait for certain categories can be significantly longer.
There are three categories of applicants: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled or Other Workers. You may qualify for the EB-3 Visa if you meet the requirements under one of the three categories.
-Requires a minimum of two years of work experience / training and a job that is not temporary or seasonal
- Requires a U.S. baccalaureate or a foreign equivalent degree and a job that is one of certain professions (such as architects, engineers and teachers)
Unskilled or Other Workers
- Requires unskilled labor with less than two years of work experience / training and a job that is not temporary or seasonal in nature.
What is the EB-3 visa quota?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allocates 140,000 employment-based Green Cards every fiscal year. 28.6% of the available Green Cards (about 40,000) are allocated to the EB-3 visa. After this quota is reached for the year, the rest of the applications are put on hold for the next year.
As part of this quota, there is a limit to how many successful applications are allowed from each country. Current law states green cards issued to any country must not exceed 7% of the total quota. For example, if the total number of visas issued is 140,000, the maximum number of successful applications from any single country cannot exceed 9,800.
These criteria can pose a challenge for people from densely populated countries such as India and China. If green cards are unallocated, then USCIS is allowed to apply unused green cards to those born in countries beyond the 7% cap.
There were 51,197 applications for the EB-3 visa in the 2022 government fiscal year. India was the most popular country of birth for applicants, followed by the Philippines and China.
Beneficiary Country of Birth
Skilled Worker (E31)
Professionals with Baccalaureate Degrees (E32)
Needed Unskilled Workers (EW3)
How to apply for an EB-3 Visa
If a foreign national has an offer of employment from a U.S.-based company, they may be eligible to apply for the EB-3 visa.
The U.S.-based sponsoring company must undergo a permanent labor certification (known by the shorthand of PERM) with the Department of Labor before the applicant submits their petition for the EB-3 visa.
As part of the PERM application, the employer must conduct a recruitment campaign to prove that there is not any locally-available qualified talent. In most cases, the employer will print two ads in two Sunday editions of a local newspaper and place a job order with the State Workforce Agency (SWA). The wage offered to the professional must be greater than or equal to the “prevailing wage” of the given field. The company also needs to demonstrate the ability to pay the offered wage as well as alert current employees about the position.
Following these pre-filing steps, the employer submits the permanent labor certification. The PERM process is generally smoother when a well-qualified immigration attorney is engaged.
Step-by-Step EB-3 Application Process
Here is our step-by-step guide to applying for the EB-3 Visa:
1) Find an EB-3 sponsor
The first step towards applying for your EB-3 visa is to find a company to sponsor your visa.
If you are lucky enough to receive an offer from a U.S.-based company after graduating from an American college or university, you have overcome one of the first hurdles.
If you’re living abroad and would like to work in the U.S., there are several websites with visa sponsor information such as Usponsor.me. These websites help identify companies willing to sponsor visas in your industry, specialty, or desired location. You may also engage a recruitment company such as InSpring or MCC USA to help identify a company willing to sponsor your EB-3 visa and support with related services.
Because of the process involved, many companies are not willing to sponsor employment-based green cards right away. Companies will often ‘test’ out their employees via non-immigrant visas (e.g. H1-B and L-1) or OPT/CPT status (for U.S. international students on F-1 visas) before agreeing to sponsor the green card. Communicate your intentions early in the application process to ensure the company is willing to sponsor your EB-3 visa, including any special circumstances or criteria.
2) File Form I-140
All EB-3 applicants are required to file Form I-140. An immigration attorney can help prepare an array of documents that will be submitted together with your petition to the USCIS.
This includes, but is not limited to, Form I-140 and PERM.
It generally takes 6-9 weeks to prepare your petition for filing with USCIS.
3) Receive petition result: approved, denied or RFE
Depending on your case, your petition will likely be approved in 2 to 8 months. If you decide to file for premium processing ($2,500 fee), the USCIS will provide a decision within 45 days. You will receive an approval, denial, or request for further evidence (RFE). In case of an RFE, you will be given a timeframe within which the requested information must be provided.
4) After I-140 approval, wait to apply for your green card
You must wait to apply for your green card until the State Department determines there are Green Cards available for your case. You can check the monthly visa bulletin to determine if your priority date matches up with the final action date given in the EB-3 category for your birth country. The priority date is marked as the day the USCIS receives your I-140 petition.
5) Adjust your status or apply at a U.S. consulate
Once your date is current, you can either go through consular processing or adjust your status (if you are already in the U.S. under a valid nonimmigrant status.)
Consular processing involves making an appointment with a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country and participating in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer.
For those not born in India or China, the complete EB-3 visa process can range from 15-30 months.
The total costs including government and professional fees can vary from roughly $2,500 to $20,000+. The wide range is largely due to how many dependents are part of the petition and if you worked with an immigration attorney and other providers (e.g. working with a recruitment agency).
Engaging an immigration attorney and/or other professionals to support your petition may increase your chances of approval, but this comes at a cost. Our partner, Visa Franchise, can help source professionals qualified to prepare your EB-3 and other employment-based visas.
The EB-3 visa offers newcomers from around the world the chance to work and live in the U.S. permanently. The visa benefits American companies that can hire individuals with skills scarce among the domestic workforce.
While the process of applying for and obtaining a green card may seem daunting, this guide is intended to help simplify the process of starting your new life in the U.S. Once you’ve gone through these steps and secured your EB-3 visa, you will have a lot of other life logistics to figure out.
One of those challenges is setting up your financial life in your new country, and establishing and building credit is important in the U.S. After you have moved to the U.S., you may be able to use Nova Credit to use your foreign credit history from certain countries to apply for great credit cards, phone plans, and more products using your hard-earned credit history from back home—rather than starting from scratch as you build a U.S. credit history.
Currently, Nova Credit serves individuals coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.
Use your foreign credit history to start your U.S credit history
New to the U.S.? Check if you can use your country's credit history in the U.S. to apply for credit cards and start your U.S credit history using Nova Credit.
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