EB-3 Green Card FAQ
Employment-based green cards are the backbone of employment immigration. Many who apply for popular nonimmigrant visas like the H-1B take the next step to become permanent residents. One popular option is the EB-3 green card due to its low requirements. But the immigration process is complicated and many people have good questions about how the EB-3 works. See what others have asked about this common green card with our EB-3 FAQ.
EB-3 Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use premium processing for my EB-3?
Yes. Most, if not all EB-3 cases allow you to expedite the I-140 processing time using an optional service known as premium processing. By filling out the I-907 form and paying the $1,440 fee, you can have your petition’s time shortened to just 15 calendar days.
However, just because your petition is approved in 15 days, doesn’t mean that you can get your green card then. You will still need to wait for your priority date to be current. Speak with your immigration attorney to learn if premium processing is appropriate for your situation.
What is the EB-3 application fee?
There are several costs that might go into getting an EB-3. The first one, which is mandatory, is the I-140 filing fee of $700. This fee is required every time the I-140 is filed (including for green card “porting”) and must be covered by your employer. The beneficiary is not permitted to pay this fee.
Once your I-140 is approved, you will either need to adjust your status or go through premium processing. Adjustment of status requires you to file an I-485 form with the USCIS along with a filing fee that you are responsible for and that varies based on your age. Here is the schedule:
- For those that are under the age of 14 and are filing alongside a parent, the fee is $750.
- For those that are under the age of 14 and are not filing alongside a parent, the fee is $1,140.
- For those that are between the ages of 14 and 78, the fee is $1,225.
- For those that are over the age of 78, the fee is $1,140.
If you are going through consular processing, you will need to complete the DS-260 online immigrant visa application and pay the fee of $325 along with an affidavit of support fee of $120 for a total of $445. This must be done before arriving at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy for your EB-3 interview. You will also need to take any extra costs into account including travel fees, attorney fees, or the optional premium processing fee of $1,440.
What are the pros and cons of an EB-3?
Green cards differ from temporary work visas in that, aside from a few exceptions, they all offer the same exact benefits. Every green card provides the holder with lawful permanent residence, meaning that they can live and work in the U.S. almost without restrictions (except for federal jobs that require security clearance). With the exception of the EB-5 and marriage-based green cards, each green card is valid for ten years, after which time the holder will need to renew their green card. Renewal does not require the holder to re-qualify, only to pay the renewal fee and demonstrate that he or she has not committed any crimes or stayed outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time.
The only real differences between green cards are the qualifications and the final action dates. The EB-3 often has the longest waiting period among employment-based green cards, so qualifying for an EB-2 or EB-1 will usually allow you to obtain your green card more quickly, especially if you are from a heavily-populated country such as China or India.
As far as requirements go, the EB-3 enjoys the lowest qualifications. You only need to have a non-seasonal job in order to qualify under the “other workers” category, so most workers are able to be eligible.
However, the EB-3 requires a PERM Labor Certification in order to file the I-140. The PERM requires your employer to post your job in several places and to perform a recruitment process in order to ensure that you are not taking the job of a qualified U.S. worker. This is an extensive part of the process that is vulnerable to obstacles like PERM audits and supervised recruitment.
The EB-1 does not require applicants to obtain a PERM and the EB-2 allows you to avoid the PERM requirement if you obtain a National Interest Waiver. The EB-3, on the other hand, does not provide an opportunity to avoid this step.
What is the difference between an EB-3 visa and an EB-3 green card?
Getting the terms visa and green card confused is a common occurrence as many people think that they are different things. In reality, a green card is a visa.
A U.S. visa is an immigration vehicle that allows aliens to spend time in the United States. There are two main types of visas—nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas. Nonimmigrant visas are temporary and holders often return to their home countries at the end of the visa’s validation period. These include examples such as the H-1B, L-1, O-1, and E-2 visas.
In contrast, an immigrant visa is permanent. Holders are granted lawful permanent residence in the U.S., allowing them to live and work almost without restriction for an indefinite amount of time. Immigrant visas are commonly referred to as green cards due to the fact that permanent resident cards are greenish in color.
So, the EB-3 visa and the EB-3 green card are actually the same thing, since green cards are a type of visa.
What is the difference between the EB-3 and the H-1B?
As we covered in the last question, there are immigrant visas (green cards) and nonimmigrant visas. The EB-3 is an immigrant visa, granting permanent residence to whoever holds it. The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa, allowing the holder to stay temporarily in the U.S. for work. H-1B holders can typically only remain in the U.S. for a maximum of six years.
Additionally, there are differences in the requirements for the EB-3 and H-1B. To qualify for an EB-3, you must either have a bachelor’s degree and a job offer or a non-seasonal full-time job offer. The H-1B requires that you have both at least a bachelor’s degree and a job offer for a position that requires your degree.
Also, the H-1B is so popular that the USCIS randomly selects the petitions that are to be processed from the large number of petitions that are submitted each year in a lottery. This means that your petition must be both randomly selected and subsequently approved in order to receive your H-1B. The EB-3 is not subject to this type of lottery.
However, there is an annual limit to the number of EB-3 green cards that are issued. Rather than a randomized lottery though, the Department of State will give you a priority date. You will need to wait until that priority date matches the dates that are given in the monthly visa bulletin before moving forward.
Ultimately, the H-1B is often the pathway that people use to get an EB-3. You may choose to find a job and work temporarily as a nonimmigrant under the H-1B before adjusting your status to immigrant status with an EB-3.
Can I get an EB-3 with a master’s degree?
Yes you can. You would qualify under the bachelor’s degree qualification for the EB-3. However, having an advanced degree (master’s or higher) is one of the qualifications for an EB-2, so you may consider applying for one or both.
Can I get an EB-3 without any degree?
Yes. There are three types of people that qualify for the EB-3.
- Those that have at least a bachelor’s degree
- Those that have at least 2 years of experience in their jobs
- Those that have less than 2 years of experience (but have non-seasonal jobs)
If you fall into either of the last two categories, you can obtain an EB-3 without a degree.
Can I get an EB-3 without any experience?
Possibly. If you refer to the previous question, you’ll see that the third category is for those with less than 2 years of experience. However, this puts you into a slightly different area with different dates in the visa bulletin, so keep that in mind. You may also find it more difficult to get your I-140 approved with little to no experience than you would if you had at least some experience.
Can I get an EB-3 without an H-1B visa?
Yes. The H-1B is a common way to get an EB-3, but it is far from the only path. There are other nonimmigrant visas that are considered “dual intent” such as the O-1, L-1, and E visas. However, if you qualify for any of these, you might be better suited for an EB-1 or EB-2 green card, but that does not necessarily preclude you from the EB-3.
Alternatively, you can obtain an EB-3 without getting a nonimmigrant visa in the first place. By using consular processing and participating in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country, you can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent residence without adjusting your status.
Can I file for an EB-2 and an EB-3 at the same time?
Yes. There is nothing restricting you from filing for several different green cards simultaneously. You can also file for the same green card through different employers. This way, if one petition is denied, the other may still be open to you. If both are approved, you can simply choose.
How can I check my EB-3 priority date?
Your priority date is specific to you and does not change. You can see your priority date on the notice of receipt from the USCIS, your I-797. To check the final action dates in your category, you can visit the latest visa bulletin and compare it to your priority date.
How long does the EB-3 take?
There are several steps to the EB-3 that can take varying amounts of time. The first is the PERM Labor Certification. As we’ve mentioned, the PERM requires a recruitment process that takes a minimum of 60 days. The Department of Labor can take an average of six to nine months to process the form afterward. Also, if your employer is audited or subjected to supervised recruitment, it could add another nine months to a year and a half to the process.
After that, your employer will file the I-140 with the USCIS, which takes an average of six months to process depending on how busy the service center is. This step can be expedited to just 15 calendar days with premium processing.
Then, you will have to wait until your priority date is current. This has enormous influence over your overall processing time, as the priority dates for some countries are already current while others may take many years.
After that, you will need to go through either consular processing or adjustment of status. Adjusting your status requires filing the I-485 form, which takes about six months to process and is not eligible for premium processing. Consular processing can take a few weeks to a few months depending on how busy the U.S. Consulate or Embassy is in your home country.
Overall, the shortest waiting time could be about one year while the longest waiting time could be over a decade. It all depends on your unique situation.
Why is the EB-3 faster than the EB-2?
As we covered earlier, the priority date is the primary factor in determining your EB-3 processing time. But here we can discuss the reason for priority dates. Each green card has an annual limit imposed by the Department of State. Rather than have a random lottery when a visa is oversubscribed, like the H-1B, the DOS will process petitions in the order that they receive them. So the more people that petition for a particular green card, the longer it will take to process any single petition.
The final action dates are also divided according to country of origin. Countries that have a high number of annual petitioners are singled out while the others are grouped together in a general category. So if you are from a country that has a lot of EB-3 petitioners, you will likely have to wait much longer than if you are from a country with fewer EB-3 petitioners. For example, because there are so many EB-3 petitioners from India, someone from that country would have to wait for everyone that petitioned before them before their priority date will be current.
If there are more petitions than available visas for a country in a given year, the final action date will retrogress (go backward). If the annual limit is met, then the final action date will see no movement. Finally, if there are fewer petitions than the limit, the final action date will move forward.
So, for this reason, if more people from your country apply for the EB-2 than the EB-3, the EB-3 will be faster.
Will the EB-3 ever become current for India?
Technically, yes. With enough time, your EB-3 date will eventually be current. However, because so many Indian citizens petition every year (often more than the annual limit), the movement of the final action date is consistently slowed, halted, or even retrogressed.
Can an EB-3 be converted to an EB-2?
One question we often get here is if the EB-3 can be transferred to an EB-2. This is often from people whose priority dates will not be current for several years and are interested in obtaining their green card sooner. Going from an EB-3 to an EB-3 is called “porting” and is not as simple as it sounds.
In order to port, you will need to first obtain the qualifications for an EB-2 (i.e. extraordinary ability in your field, an advanced degree, or having your work qualify for a national interest waiver). After that, you will need to find an employer who will both sponsor you and offer you a job that requires your new EB-2 qualifications (e.g. a job that requires a master’s degree). It can either be your current employer offering you a new position or a new employer altogether. The important thing is that you find a new job.
Next, the employer who is sponsoring you for the EB-2 will need to obtain another PERM Labor Certification (even if it is with the same employer). Your employer will also need to file a new I-140 petition for the EB-2.
This may seem less like porting and more like starting over from scratch, and that’s not necessarily an inaccurate view. The only benefit to this is that you can request to have your priority date retained from your previous petition. This means that you will not have to start over in terms of waiting for your priority date to be current, you can pick up your EB-2 right where your EB-3 left off. If the date for the EB-2 is current, you will be able to move forward as soon as your new petition is approved.
Here is an example to illustrate:
Sasha had a bachelor’s degree in computer science and applied for an EB-3 four years ago in December of 2014 as a software engineer. During that time, she obtained her master’s degree and asked her employer for a position as a senior web developer. Her employer obtains a new PERM and files a new I-140 for her EB-2, which is approved. Her employer requests to retain the December 2014 priority date so that Sasha does not have to restart on December 2018.
What if my EB-3 to EB-2 porting is denied?
If your attempt to “port” is denied, your denial notice will inform you of whether or not you can appeal the decision or file the legal motions to reopen or reconsider your case. Reopening a case is used when you have new evidence to bring to your case and reconsidering is used when you can argue that the evaluating officer was incorrect in denying your application from a legal standpoint.
Fortunately, you will still have your EB-3 petition to fall back on if your EB-2 porting attempt was denied.
Can an EB-3 be converted to an EB-1?
Yes. By using the same “porting” strategy as mentioned above, it is technically possible to petition for an EB-1 and have your EB-3 priority date retained. However, the EB-1 is a very prestigious green card and there are very few who qualify. Speak with your immigration attorney to see if this is a path that is open to you.
How can I go from an EB-3 to citizenship?
One of the main reasons that people work to obtain an EB-3 is to make that final step to full-fledged U.S. citizenship. Citizens enjoy several benefits that green card holders do not, such as immunity from deportation, better preferences for sponsoring family members for green cards, and access to federal jobs that require security clearance.
The path from an EB-3 to citizenship is the same for every green card. Aliens become citizens through a process called naturalization. You will first need to make sure that you fulfill the following requirements:
- You are at least 18 years old
- You meet any of these three criteria:
- You have been an EB-3 holder for at least 5 years
- You have been married to a U.S. citizen for a minimum of 3 years
- You are serving in the United States military currently
Then, you will need to file an N-400 citizenship application form with the USCIS. You will also need to include a copy of your EB-3 green card, passport-sized photos, and the N-400 processing fee of $725. Each case is different, however, so be sure to speak with your immigration attorney about what documentation and fees are required for you to go from EB-3 to citizenship status.
You will also need to show that you have good moral character (a metric that covers everything from committing crimes to marriage fidelity); that you can read and write in basic English; that you understand the core tenants of the U.S. constitution, history, and government; and that you have remained in the U.S. continuously for the amount of time required (i.e. 5 years or 3 years).
Is there an EB-3 adjustment of status interview?
Possibly. Many people who file an I-485 to have their status adjusted to any green card are liable to be brought in for an interview. The EB-3 is no exception. However, if you are prepared and your case is legitimate, you have nothing to fear from this interview. The evaluating officer will ask you questions from your I-485 and I-140 to ensure that you are the person that you say you are (questions like your employer, address, date of birth, etc.).
If your information has changed in a way that makes you ineligible (such as committing a crime or losing your sponsoring employer), then your application may be denied. However, do not let this cause you to lie to the officer. An application can always be refiled, but being caught in an attempt to immigrate fraudulently could result in a long-term or even permanent ban on re-entry into the U.S.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
We’ve covered several common questions concerning the EB-3, but this is far from all of the information you would need in order to make an educated decision about your immigration future. To have all of your questions answered and to avoid any common pitfalls that go along with getting any green card, it’s best to speak to an immigration attorney.
Here at Immi-USA, we have a dedicated team of EB-3 attorneys that specialize in employment immigration. We have helped countless workers just like you obtain permanent residence in the U.S. through the EB-3. From gathering evidence and filing the petition to responding to obstacles such as Requests for Evidence, we’ll handle your case from start to finish.
To get in touch with our immigration team, you can fill out this contact form and schedule a consultation with our office today.