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EB2 vs EB3: EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Categories Compared

EB2 and EB3 are two different employment-based categories within U.S. immigration. In other words, the EB-2 and EB-3 both provide a pathway for non-citizens to become U.S. permanent residents. There are several similarities between the EB-2 and EB-3, but also significant differences.

Looking for a comprehensive comparison of the EB-2 and EB-2? You've come to the right place. We compare both immigrant visas in detail, including EB2 vs EB3 subcategories, criteria, educational requirements, waiting times, costs, and more.

EB2 vs EB3: Background on Employment-Based Immigration
Part of what makes U.S. immigration so complex is the diversity of visa types and green card paths. With so many immigration pathways, foreign nationals seeking to relocate to the U.S. have many options.

While most green card applications are family-based, many foreign nationals become permanent residents through employment-based immigration. The U.S. government has several employment-based immigration programs to choose from.

Each employment-based green card pathway aligns with a specific "preference" category ranging from first to fifth. In general, the fastest way to get a green card is by filing a first preference petition. However, first-preference green cards are the most difficult to obtain.

Introduction to EB2 and EB3 Visas

EB-2 and EB-3 are short for employment-based second and third preferences, respectively. While both visas are intended for professionals seeking permanent residency in the U.S., there are significant differences between the two. This will help you decide which one suits your professional background, qualifications, and immigration goals.

EB2 vs EB3: Criteria & Requirements Compared

Before considering which visa is best for you, you must ensure you (or an employee) meet the eligibility requirements.

Qualifying for the EB2 Visa
There are two EB-2 subcategories: the EB-2 PERM and the EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW). Both EB-2s share the same general criteria, and each have additional requirements.

A candidate must fall into one of five categories to satisfy the EB-2 general criteria (for EB-2 NIW or EB-2 PERM).

1: The candidate has a U.S. Master's or doctoral degree
2: The candidate has the foreign equivalent of a U.S. Master's or doctoral degree
3: The candidate has a U.S. Bachelor's degree AND five years of progressive work experience
4: The candidate has the foreign equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor's degree AND five years of progressive work experience
5: The candidate meets three or more EB-2 exceptional ability criteria

In addition, EB-2 NIW candidates must satisfy the NIW three-prong test, and EB-2 PERM candidates must pass through the PERM labor certification process.

Qualifying for the EB3 Visa
Like the EB2, the EB3 has several subcategories, including:

The EB-3 for Skilled Workers: Candidates must have at least two years of experience or training in a skilled occupation that requires at least two years of experience or training. They must also have a job offer from a U.S. employer for a position requiring specific skills.

The EB-3 for Professionals: Candidates must hold a U.S. bachelor's degree (or a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree). They must also have a job offer from a U.S. employer for a position requiring a bachelor's degree or equivalent.

The EB-3 for Unskilled Workers and Other Workers: Candidates must be coming to the U.S. to perform unskilled labor that requires less than two years of training or experience. They must also have a job offer from a U.S. employer for a position that requires specific skills.

In addition to satisfying the specific subcategory requirements, all EB-3 candidates and employers must satisfy the general EB-3 requirements:

  • The candidate must have a valid job offer from a U.S. employer
  • The employer must have obtained a PERM labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor

EB3 vs EB2 Timelines
One of the most significant differences between the EB3 and EB2 visas is the overall process times. Several factors impact how long the process takes, including:

The PERM labor certification process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months and must be complete before filing an EB3 or EB2 PERM petition. EB2 NIW applicants can skip the PERM. There are several steps in the PERM process, including:

  1. Prevailing Wage Request: The sponsoring employer obtains a prevailing wage from the U.S. United States Department of Labor (DOL). This typically takes about two weeks.
  2. Recruitment Process: The employer works with the DOL to gather evidence that the employee is the best candidate for the proposed position and there are no qualified U.S. workers that could be hired instead. This can take several months to complete.
  3. ETA-9089 Application: Finally, the employer submits the ETA-9089 application to the DOL. The DOL can take around six months to review and approve the application.

Petition preparation
The time it takes to prepare a Form I-140 immigrant petition may vary depending on the category. For instance, EB2 NIW visa applications can include hundreds of pages of evidence, and it can take several months to gather and organize the evidence. For the most expedited and streamlined petition preparation process, work with a full-service immigration provider.

Petition adjudication
The adjudication waiting time varies based on case type. EB3 petition adjudication tends to take longer than EB3 adjudication, but it can always change. Learn how to check average processing times online to stay up to date. Also, EB2 NIW petitions can be filed with premium processing, which guarantees adjudication within 45 days.

Country of birth, preference level, and visa bulletin
Regardless of which immigrant category you file, understanding the visa bulletin and priority dates is important. An applicant's country of birth and preference level (EB2 or EB3) impacts how quickly they can file their green card application.


Which is best for you: EB2 vs EB3?
Whether you're a foreign national hoping to become a green card holder or an employer wanting to sponsor green cards, determining which visa to apply for can be difficult. Consider partnering with our team of experienced immigration attorneys for your immigration journey. Fill out a short form to get connected with our team today.

About the author:

Jemima Owen-Jones

Jemima helps international startups and their teams navigate the work visa process so they can get approved fast and focus on what they do best.