Living in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident is the dream of many foreign professionals who want to achieve their career goals in this country. To realize that dream, many people choose to apply for the EB-3 Green Card. However, while it may be the easiest employment-based immigrant visa to obtain, it also has its share of disadvantages.
Employment-Based Green Cards
There are three main types of green cards that you could obtain through professional employment:
- EB-1: for foreigners with extraordinary achievements in business, science and the arts.
- EB-2: for those who possess an advanced degree or exceptional ability in their field.
- EB-3: for workers who do not qualify for the above two categories. This category is broken down into three subcategories:
- Professional workers with bachelor’s degrees or their foreign equivalent
- Skilled workers with multiple years of experience in their field or industry, or
- “Other workers”. Positions that do not require a degree or significant experience to perform.
EB-3 Visa Requirements and Process
In order to qualify for an EB-3 green card, you need to fulfill the requirements that are associated with your subcategory:
- If you are applying for the EB-3A for professional workers, you need a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent that is relevant to the field that you will use to work in the U.S. (e.g. to work as a high school physics teacher, you should have a bachelor’s degree in physics or education). Unfortunately, no amount of related experience will be able to replace this requirement.
- For the EB-3B for skilled workers, you do not need to have a bachelor’s degree. You do, however, need at least 2 years of experience in the particular job that you wish to perform in the U.S.
- The last subcategory, the EB-3C for unskilled or “other” workers, only requires that your job is not a temporary or seasonal position. You must be able to prove that you will have long-term, full-time employment.
Regardless of which subcategory you choose, your employer must first prove to the Department of Labor (DOL) that you are not taking job opportunities away from qualified U.S. workers.
To do this, your employer must apply for a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. This will involve a relatively extensive job recruitment process and will also involve submitting a prevailing wage request to ensure that you, the beneficiary, are going to be paid appropriately.
Once your employer obtains your PERM, an I-140 petition can then be filed on your behalf. Once your petition’s filing date becomes current and is approved, you will be responsible for either:
- submitting an I-485 form to adjust your status from inside the U.S. or,
- traveling to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country to apply for your EB-3 immigrant visa there.
EB-3 Green Card Processing Time
Because the EB-3 green card processing time begins with obtaining a PERM Labor Certification, you will first need to wait until your employer completes the necessary job recruitment and receives your labor certification. While this can sometimes take as little as six months, the processing time can be extended to almost a year and a half if your employer is audited.
The next step is to file the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This step can take six months or more, depending on how busy your service center is. However, if your priority date will not be current for many years, then your petition may be pushed back to a date closer to when you can apply for your green card.
What are the EB-3 Priority Dates?
The largest portion of the EB-3 green card processing time involves waiting for your petition’s priority date to be current with the most recent final action dates.
Your I-140 petition’s priority date is the day that the USCIS received the petition. The U.S. Department of State releases a visa bulletin each month that provides the final action dates for that month. When your petition’s priority date matches the final action date in your category, there will be a visa number available and you will be able to apply for an adjustment of status or obtain a green card overseas.
Here is a screenshot of the employment-based visa final action dates for March 2017:
As you can see, the priority dates for all countries in the EB-1 category are current, meaning that applicants in this category can apply for their green card as soon as their I-140 petition is approved. Only two countries, India and China, are backlogged in the EB-2 category.
However, for EB-3 applicants, the wait will be much longer. Depending on which nation is your country of origin, you may find yourself waiting a decade for your priority date to become current. This is why many EB-3 applicants seek to try and transfer their EB-3 petition to EB-2 status through a process called porting.
How Does EB3 to EB2 Porting Work?
There are clear advantages to having your petition ported from EB-3 to EB-2. The difficulty lies in qualifying for this transfer. You must first earn a relevant master’s degree or accrue evidence of exceptional ability in your field. You must then secure a position, whether through a different employer or through a promotion with your current employer, that requires your newfound education and/or abilities.
Once you have a position that both you and your immigration attorney believe will be accepted by the USCIS, your employer can file a new petition under EB-2 status, overriding the first petition if it is accepted.
Because the process of porting your status is a delicate one with very specific requirements, it is advisable to seek the help of a qualified immigration attorney before making any large decisions.
Can Premium Processing Expedite My Green Card?
Premium processing is a special service for both the I-129 and the I-140 forms that will shorten the processing time from upwards of six months to 15 calendar days for a fee of $1,225. However, this feature only expedites the petition, not it’s priority date. Unfortunately, outside of porting, there is no way to shorten the length of time that you will be waiting for your priority date to be current.
Premium processing service is much more effective for those who have current priority dates. Because none of the petitions under EB-3 are current, you will still be required to wait until your priority date matches or passes the posted final action dates.
It is important to note that each EB-3 green card case is different. In order to know if a feature like premium processing will be advantageous for your situation, consult your immigration attorney.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Our experienced team of immigration lawyers has been working alongside its clients on the road to a green card for years. We’ve helped countless people immigrate to the U.S. through the EB-3 green card and we can help you as well.
It’s not a good idea to attempt to navigate the complex landscape of immigration law alone. To get in touch with an EB-3 green card lawyer, you can fill out this form to schedule your consultation.