EB2 vs EB3: Which is the best option for you?

EB2 and EB3 visas are immigration visas for UK and other foreign nationals to enter the United States. The EB3 Visa is an immigrant visa that requires a US company to sponsor the UK citizen as a foreign worker, while the EB2 visa is an employment-based immigrant visa that allows UK citizens who hold an advanced degree to move to the US.

Should you have any questions regarding the EB2 or EB3 visas, or US immigration, you can contact our experienced immigration attorney for immigration services to discuss any concerns you may have or with help navigating the process.

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    What are the EB3 and EB2 visas?

    The EB2 and EB3 visas are both employment-based immigrant visas needing a US employer’s sponsorship. One important thing is that there cannot be any other qualified and/or willing American citizens or American permanent residents for the role.

    Both these visas offer permanent residency status in the United States, called a green card. With a green card, holders can enjoy a number of benefits:

    • The ability to live and work in the United States
    •  Straightforward entrance and exit to and from the United States
    •  Ability to sponsor your family for family-based green cards for immigration benefits
    •  As a permanent resident, you have the ability to obtain U.S. Citizenship
    •  Ability to study at school in the United States
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    Is the EB2 visa the best option for you?

    Both visas have different requirements and criteria. You will likely want to go down the route of an EB2 visa if:

    • You hold, and are able to prove you have an advanced degree professional in your field, or its foreign equivalent or possess exceptional ability within the sciences, arts, or business as skilled workers or take the national interest waiver route.

    For the Advanced Degree route:

    • You must have one or more advanced degrees to apply for the EB2A visa.
    • Have a minimum of 5 years of progressive work experience

    Required documents for the application:

    • An official academic record showing an advanced degree from a US institution or its foreign equivalent.
    • An official academic record showing a degree from a US institution or its foreign equivalent.
    • Recommendation letters from current or former employers to prove your working experience.

    For those with exceptional abilities:

    Exceptional ability means that you possess “a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, art, or business”. You must also hold a US job offer.

    To confirm that you have such exceptional ability, you will need to provide at least three of the following documentation:

    • Official academic records proving that you have a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from either a university, college, school, or other higher educational institution, relating specifically to your area of expertise
    • A minimum of 10 years of full-time experience within your chosen field
    • Your license to practice your profession and/or certification for your occupation or profession
    • Substantial evidence that shows that you have been receiving remuneration or salary for services directly relating to your exceptional ability
    • Proof of membership in professional associations directly relating to your field of expertise
    • Documentation displaying recognition from your peers, government entities, or professionals within the business of your significant contribution or achievements
    • Any other comparable evidence of your exceptional ability that you think would be applicable.

    The EB-2 requires the PERM labor process to be followed. The PERM Labor Certification process is where the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) must “test the market” to prove there are no qualified U.S. workers for the position.

    The National interest waiver (NIW) does not require a perm labor certification application or a job offer.  This is reserved for people who will bring great benefit to the  U.S. and the applicant can self-petition.

    Is the EB3 visa the best option for you?

    If the following is applicable, you will likely want to go follow the route of an EB3 visa:

    • You are a skilled worker, with a  minimum of two years of professional experience or training (some post-secondary education may qualify as training) and be doing a job that no American citizen or lawful permanent resident can do.
    • A professional and demonstrate that you hold a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent degree in the related field. If you have professional work experience and a degree, but it is not a bachelor’s degree, you will not be eligible.
    • Are an Unskilled Worker where “unskilled workers” is defined as roles that require less than two years of training or experience. ​​
    • Possess a perm labor certification, which permits labor certification companies to hire UK nationals (or other foreigners) to work permanently in the United States. This perm labor certification process requires the company to confirm that no American citizens can do the job.
    • Hold an employment offer from a US company that is based within the US, where the employment is not temporary or seasonal nature work.


    Key Similarities Between the EB2 and EB3 Visas

    The EB2 and EB3 visas both share some core similarities, both being similarly-graded preference-based employment visas.

    The main similarity is the requirement for applicants to have a full-time, permanent job offer from an eligible US-based sponsor. The only exception to this is if an applicant is applying under the National Interest Waiver category of the EB2 visa, in which case the requirement for a job offer can be waived.

    In addition to this, US-based sponsors must also present a valid, individual labor certification from the Department of Labor along with their petition for both the EB2 and EB3 visas. Once again however, there is an exception for applicants applying under the EB2 National Interest Waiver category.

    Both the EB2 and EB3 visas also result in identical outcomes if successfully applied for, which are permanent resident status in the US via employment-based green cards. Therefore, both EB2 and EB3 visa holders will be able to eventually apply for US citizenship after a certain period of time in the US (normally 5 years).

    Finally, the costs for applying to the EB2 and EB3 visas are identical. Both have a $700 filing fee for Form I-140, a $345 filing fee for Form DS-260, and a $120 filing fee for Form I-864.

    Key Differences Between the EB2 and EB3 Visas

    The primary difference between the EB2 and EB3 visas is the minimum experience and educational requirements of applicants between the two.

    The EB2 visa, being a higher-preference employment visa than the EB3 visa, has more stringent requirements than the EB3 visa and therefore will likely be available to a smaller pool of applicants. EB2 applicants primarily require either an advanced degree or the ability to demonstrate exceptional ability.

    Meanwhile, the EB3 visa is open to those with baccalaureate (or equivalent) degrees, skilled workers with at least two years’ experience, or other eligible unskilled workers.

    The requirement for the labor certification can also differ between the two visas. Applicants applying under the National Interest Waiver category of the EB2 visa will not require a labor certification to be filed by the employer, whereas all EB3 visa applicants will have to have a labor certification filed.

    Finally, as the requirements for the EB2 visa are stricter than the EB3, there is historically less of a backlog with EB2 applications than with the EB3. However, note that this is heavily dependent on the current volume of applications when you apply as well as your country of origin, both of which will influence how quickly your application may be processed by USCIS.

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      What is the processing time for the visas?

      There is a significant difference in processing time between the EB2 visa and the EB3 visa.

      The EB2 visa is known for having less of a visa backlog, where the demand for a particular visa is higher than the available supply of that visa on a yearly basis. The USCIS approves 40,000 for each subcategory for a total of 120,000 annually. The EB2 visa processing time depends on the time it takes for your priority spot to open up in the Visa Bulletin. On average, the processing time is between 6-9 months.

      It is possible to request Premium Processing Service whereby you application will be processed in 15 days. The priority premium service is not available for applicants who are seeking an EB2 via the national interest waiver route.

      In contrast, the EB3 visa often has a backlog. The whole process of applying for an EB3 visa can take anywhere between 1 and 3 years. However, employees can opt for premium processing which gives the application a shorter processing time but does not reduce the priority waiting time prior to this. This fast-track service will process your visa application in 15 calendar days.

      Switching Between the EB2 and EB3 Visas

      It is possible to switch between the EB2 and EB3 visa. Switching from the EB2 to the EB3 visa is known as downgrading, while switching the other direction is known as porting.

      Porting from the EB3 to the EB2 visa can be beneficial due to applicants being able to retain an earlier priority date for future or past applications for the EB1, EB2 or EB3 visas. Because of this, an EB3 applicant may be able to obtain their visa sooner if they port to an EB2 visa.

      Porting to the EB2 visa involves several steps. First, the applicant must confirm that they meet all the eligibility criteria for the EB2 visa. They must then be offered a job offer from an eligible US employer, where the job itself aligns with the appropriate minimum skill levels required by the EB2 visa.

      After the labor certification is filed by the employer, the applicant must then check to see if their priority date is current. If the EB2 priority date is current, the applicant should file an Adjustment of Status application to obtain their new green card.

      Alternatively, the application will be processed by the National Visa Center (NVC) if the applicant is outside of the US or has chosen consular processing.

      Similarly, applicants may opt to downgrade their prospective EB2 visa to an EB3 visa if the priority date for an EB3 moves ahead of the date for the EB2 visa. A new petition must be filed by the employer in order for this to happen.

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        How Total Law Can Help?

        The EB2 and EB3 both offer excellent routes of relocating to the United States, but with so many requirements and criteria, it can be complicated to know which to apply for and how to evidence your skills.

        For support with the EB2 and EB3 categories, the best way to apply is by contacting the Total Law law firm of qualified immigration lawyers.

        We are available to support you seven days a week, by phone or by online chat on our website.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  No, the Department of State doesn’t impose any restrictions on the number of times you may travel in and out of the U.S.

                  Advanced degrees include Master’s, Ph.D., Juris Doctor (J.D. or law degree), and M.D. (medicine). Those with a bachelor’s degree and 5 years of progressive work experience may be sufficient.