EB-3 Visa for Professional, Skilled, or Unskilled Workers to Become U.S. Permanent Residents

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EB-3 immigrant visas allow certain professional workers, skilled workers, and unskillled workers to obtain a U.S. green card or permanent resident status. The “EB” in the EB-3 visa stands for “employment based.” Various types of EB visas allow a person to get a U.S. green card based on their work skills or a job offer from a U.S. employer.

The "3" in EB-3 refers to the fact that this is the "3rd preference" category of EB visas. Only a limited number of visas are available in each preference category, meaning that if more people apply in a year than there are visas available, recent applicants will have to be put on a waiting list. This is a common problem for EB-3 visa applicants.

The EB visa allows your spouse and children to accompany you and obtain U.S. green cards. The children must remain unmarried and under the age of 21 (with certain exceptions based on the Child Status Protection Act) until the day they are approved for permanent resident status or enter the U.S. with the EB-3 visa.

EB-3 visas require that you have an offer of permanent, full-time employment from a U.S. based employer. That employer must be willing to complete a labor certification and application process for you. Labor certification means that the employer recruits for and advertises the position in accordance with U.S. immigration law guidelines and finds no qualified U.S. workers who are willing and available to take the job. 

EB-3 Visa Subcategories

Here is some further explanation of the three different types of worker who may qualify for an EB-3 visa:

  • A professional worker is one who possesses a U.S. baccalaureate degree or foreign degree equivalent, and the baccalaureate degree is the normal requirement for entry into the occupation.
  • A skilled worker is one who has at least two years of job experience or training.
  • An unskilled worker is one capable of performing unskilled labor (requiring less than two years' training or experience) that is not of a temporary or seasonal nature.

Professional and skilled workers share the same allotment of visas under this category. However, unskilled or "other" workers must draw from a separate pool of only 10,000 visas, making their wait even longer. To get a sense of how long your wait will be, look at the most recent State Department Visa Bulletin.

There, if you look down the chart for "Employment Based Preferences," you'll see the dates when the labor certifications of 3rd preference applicants as well as other workers who are now receiving visas were originally filed. For example, if you had consulted the chart in July of 2011, you would have seen a date for the 3rd preference saying "08OCT05." That would have told you that, among professional and skilled workers, those who had been waiting for a visa since October 8, 2005 were finally receiving them, after a six-year wait. The same chart would have told you that, in the "Other Worker" subcategory, people who had been waiting since 22NOV04 or November 22, 2004 were at last receiving their visas after a seven-year wait since filing the labor certification.

As you can imagine, these long waits make it difficult for employers to willingly hold a job open (unless you're already working there on a temporary visa), and difficult for employees to plan their lives. You can't count on the wait lasting a particular length of time -- it all depends on how many other people apply before or at the same time as you.

Overview of EB-3 Visa Application Procedure

The main steps involved in getting an EB-3 visa are:

  • You find an employer interested in hiring you and willing to petition for you.
  • Your employer finds out whether the salary or wages it plans to pay you are on par with the local job market, by submitting a prevailing wage request (PWR) to the Department of Labor (DOL) on Form 9141. The DOL will respond with a salary or wage amount called a prevailing wage determination or PWD.
  • Your employer advertises for the job, recruits potential candidates, holds interviews, and determines that no U.S. workers are qualified, willing, and available. This must be completed within one year for the PWD to remain valid.
  • Your employer (with your help) completes a request for labor certification and sends it to DOL. Hopefully, DOL will respond positively, in essence confirming that no U.S. workers were available for the job and that you and your employer can go ahead with the process of getting you a green card. 
  • Your employer submits a visa petition on your behalf (Form I-140) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After the visa petition is approved, you probably wait until a visa is available, based on the date the petition was filed (your priority date), which you track by following the progress shown in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.
  • When your priority date becomes current, you submit your own application for a visa (if coming from overseas) or a green card (if you're legally in the U.S. and eligible to adjust status).
  • You attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or local USCIS office where your green card may be approved.

Completing all these steps can take several years.

EB-3 Visa Fees and Costs

Applying for an EB-3 visa requires paying various fees and costs along the way. Many of these, your employer will pay for you, but you'll want to inquire as to what fees or costs you will be responsible for. The primary fees include:

  • Visa petition fee (after the labor certification has been approved). This was $580 in mid-2011, in addition to which you might want to request faster ("premium") processing, the fee for which was $1,225. See the I-140 page of the USCIS website for the latest visa petition fee and the I-907 page for the latest premium processing fee.
  • If the applicant is coming from overseas: Visa application fee. This was $720 in mid-2011. See the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the State Department website for the latest fee.
  • If the applicant is legally within the U.S. and eligible to adjust status (file all paperwork and attend the green card interview at a U.S. office of USCIS), an application fee for Form I-485. This was $1,070 in mid-2011. See the I-485 page of the USCIS website for the latest fee. 

These are just the basic fees -- other costs to consider are the required medical exam and vaccinations, airfare, transportation to the U.S. consulate for your visa interview (if you're coming from overseas), and so forth.

Getting Help From a U.S. Immigration Lawyer

If you're reading this and thinking, "This process sounds complicated," you're right. We didn't even have space here to discuss the various documents that you and your employer will need to come up with in order to persuade the DOL and immigration authorities that you should be granted the green card. In order to successfully complete the application process, including labor certification, it is best to consult an experienced immigration attorney. Hopefully your employer will hire one for you or, if it's a large enough company, have an immigration lawyer on staff.

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