EB-3 immigrant visas allow certain professional workers, skilled workers, and unskilled 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.
Here is further explanation of the three different types of worker who may qualify for an EB-3 visa:
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 August of 2019, you would have seen a date for the 3rd preference saying "01JUL16." That would have told you that, among professional and skilled workers, those who had been waiting for a visa since July 16, 2016 were finally receiving them, after a six-year wait.
The same chart would have told you that, in the "Other Worker" subcategory, people who also had been waiting since 01JUL2016 (the same date) were receiving their visas. The dates are not always the same, as in this example, so you need to check the chart carefully.
To add a layer of complexity to the timeline, when you review the Visa Bulletin, you will see two charts: Final Action Dates and Dates for Filing. Each month, the State Department includes both charts in its Visa Bulletin. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services then announces on its website several days later which chart you must follow for submitting your green card application (I-485 Application to Adjust Status). Therefore, be sure to review the USCIS guidance to make sure you follow the correct chart.
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, like an H-1B), 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.
The main steps involved in getting an EB-3 visa are:
Completing all these steps can take several years.
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:
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.
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, already have an immigration lawyer on staff.