By Attorneys Gregory J. Boult & Nancy E. Miller

Over a period of decades, many individuals have obtained lawful permanent resident status in the United States through an employment-based immigrant visa petition.  However, due to annual numerical limitations, the wait to obtain such a visa for the citizens of certain countries has deterred many from pursing this path.  In the last few months, the long line to obtain an employment-based immigrant visa has all but vanished for many qualified foreign nationals.  As a result, now may be the perfect time for many foreign nationals to seek lawful permanent resident status through a qualifying employer.

While employment based-immigrant visas are divided into several distinct categories, the most popular has historically been the “EB3,” category.  EB3 encompasses a wide range and covers three sub-categories.  These sub-categories include professional workers (those with a Bachelor’s degree, or a foreign equivalent), skilled workers (those with at least two years of training or experience), and unskilled workers (those with less than two years of experience or training).  Given the broad nature of the EB3 category, it has proven an appealing category for many foreign nationals.  However, over time, the popularity of the EB3 category has waned considerably due to the corresponding wait for visa availability.  Nowhere has this waning popularity been more evident than for citizens of the Philippines.

The discouraging wait associated with the EB3 category for Filipinos reached a peak in December 2013.  At that time, the wait for an EB3 visa for a citizen of the Philippines was a staggering six years and ten months.  Yet, in an unprecedented and welcomed development, this extremely long wait for an EB3 visa has all but disappeared.  In a period of just over one year, the wait for an EB3 visa for a citizen of the Philippines has fallen from six years and ten months to a mere six months!  And, as a result, a viable means has opened to pursue lawful permanent resident status without the horrific waiting which most Filipinos encounter when seeking to immigrate to the United States – even those seeking to immigrate through an immigrant visa petition filed by a spouse, parent, child, or sibling.  However, it is not just the citizens of the Philippines who benefit from this recent development – citizens of all countries except China and India are equally presented with this unique opportunity.

While this is a unique opportunity, it is not one which will last.  While attempting to guess visa availability for any given month in the employment-based immigrant visa categories is often more of a guessing game than an exact science, no one believes that the EB3 category for all countries except China and India will remain at its current six months for long.  Eventually, visa availability will begin to regress as many take advantage of this opportunity and once again a prolonged wait will exist.  As a result, it is important to pursue this opportunity now as it will almost certainly not exist later.

In examining this dramatic development, it is very important to note that this is not a change in the law – the law has not changed, only the wait associated with obtaining an EB3 visa for certain foreign nationals.  The same requirements for employers in the United States, and the foreign nationals whom they may petition, remains completely unchanged.  

Pursuing an employment-based immigrant visa is not a simple task in any category.  Pursuing an EB3 visa requires three separate steps.  The first is obtaining an approved Labor Certification from the United States Department of Labor.  And the second is obtaining an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The final step of the process is either seeking adjustment of status before Citizenship and Immigration Services, or an immigrant visa abroad through the Department of State.  Therefore, given the complicated, multiple steps required to obtain lawful permanent residence through an EB3 petition, such an effort should only be undertaken with professional assistance to ensure the highest possible chance of achieving a successful result.  An experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney will be readily able to fully discuss the viability of pursuing an EB3 petition with any interested employer or potential employee, as well as provide the legal representation necessary to competently complete all of the steps required to successfully conclude the challenging process.