EB3 Processing Time: Explained Step-by-Step

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A Comprehensive Guide to the EB3 Visa Processing Time in 2024

The EB3 visa provides a pathway for U.S. companies to sponsor foreign workers for permanent residency. This guide explains the EB3 visa process in detail, including the steps involved and the expected processing times.

-Step 1: Overview of the EB3 Visa

The EB3 visa is designed for professionals, skilled workers, and unskilled workers seeking permanent residency in the United States through a full-time job offer from a U.S. employer. For a U.S. company to sponsor a foreign worker, it must first attempt to hire a qualified U.S. worker. Only if this attempt is unsuccessful can the employer proceed with sponsoring a foreign worker.

Of the total green cards available for employment-based immigrants, 28.6% are allocated to the EB3 category, which translates to approximately 40,000 visas annually. Additionally, no more than 7% of these visas can be granted to nationals of any single country, potentially leading to longer wait times for applicants from countries with high demand, such as India and China.

-Step 2: The EB3 Visa Process

The EB3 visa process consists of four main steps:

  1. PERM Labor Certification
  2. Form I-140 Petition
  3. Waiting for Priority Date
  4. Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status

Below is a detailed explanation of each step and the associated processing times.

-Step 3: PERM Labor Certification (Approximately 10 Months)

The first step is obtaining an approved PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This step ensures that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for the position. The employer must advertise the job and conduct recruitment efforts. If no qualified U.S. workers are found, the employer can then file for the labor certification. The PERM process typically takes around 10 months to complete.

-Step 4: Form I-140 Immigrant Petition (6 to 9 Months or 15 Days with Premium Processing)

Once the PERM labor certification is approved, the employer files Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with USCIS on behalf of the foreign worker. The standard processing time for Form I-140 is 6 to 9 months, but premium processing is available for an additional fee of $2,805, which guarantees a response within 15 days. If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE), it may delay the processing time.

-Step 5: Waiting for Your Priority Date (0 to 10+ Years)

The priority date is established when the PERM is filed. This date determines when the applicant can proceed to the next step, either consular processing or adjustment of status, based on visa availability as per the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by USCIS. For applicants from countries with high demand, such as India and China, the wait time can extend up to 10 years or more. For others, it might be about two years.

-Step 6: Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status (Approximately 9 Months)

Once the priority date becomes current, the applicant can either go through consular processing or adjustment of status.

  • Consular Processing: If the applicant is outside the U.S., they file Form DS-260 and attend an interview at the U.S. consulate in their home country. This process generally takes around 9 months.
  • Adjustment of Status: If the applicant is already in the U.S. on a valid non-immigrant visa, they can file Form I-485 to adjust their status to permanent resident. This process also takes about 9 months. Concurrent filing of Form I-485 with Form I-140 is possible if the priority date is current, which can save time. During this process, the applicant can obtain work authorization and travel permits within approximately 6 months.

-Step 7: Conclusion

The overall EB3 visa processing time varies greatly depending on the applicant’s country of origin. For most applicants, the process takes between 3 and 4 years. However, for nationals from high-demand countries, the wait time can extend significantly due to the per-country cap on visas.

Summary of Processing Times:

  • PERM Labor Certification: Approximately 10 months
  • Form I-140 Petition: Approximately 6-9 months (or 15 days with premium processing)
  • Priority Date Wait: 2 to 10+ years
  • Adjustment of Status or Visa Processing: About 9 months

Navigating the EB3 visa process can be complex and lengthy. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure that your application is processed smoothly and efficiently. If you have any questions about the EB3 processing time or need assistance, feel free to reach out for our guidance.