QUALIFYING FOR AN EB-2 VISA WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE

By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Joseph Elias

There are several employment based visa categories that allow for immigration to the US. Some categories are more over subscribed than others creating a backlog of several years before immigrant visas can be issued. It is therefore important that an occupation be carefully assessed to determine if it is one that can fit in a category with a shorter wait time.

The employment-based second preference (EB-2) immigrants are typically those who work in highly-skilled occupations that require an advanced degree. Generally, this means one needs a master’s degree or higher for entry into the field, or the equivalent. US immigration law recognizes a bachelor’s degree plus five years of progressively-responsible experience in the field as the equivalent of a master’s degree. Employment-based third-preference (EB-3), in contrast, includes occupations requiring no experience up to a bachelor’s degree with some experience. Because the EB-3 category is substantially backlogged, we are receiving an increasing number of inquiries on how an employment-based immigrant can obtain permanent resident status more quickly through the EB-2 classification.

An occupation may be classified as an EB-2 if the job normally requires a master’s degree or higher. An immigrant worker’s attainment of a master’s (or higher) degree is not sufficient by itself to qualify for EB-2 classification. The job must normally require an advanced degree and/or extensive experience. Examples include economist, physician, pharmacist, and engineering manager. These occupations also tend to require a much higher salary.

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for EB-2 if the position offered can normally require a bachelor’s degree plus five years experience, and they have the requisite experience. For example, an individual with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and at least five years of progressively-responsible experience in that field can qualify for EB-2 classification if the job offered is a high-level financial occupation, such as Controller or Chief Financial Officer (CFO). “Progressively-responsible” can include promotions, assumption of additional or more complex duties, and supervisory responsibilities. This person qualifies under the EB-2 category even though he does not have a master’s degree, and can immigrate faster than if he were offered an EB-3 position , such as an accountant or bookkeeper.

There is a modicum of good news, however, for individuals in the EB-3 category. The October 2008 State Department visa bulletin indicates that in the EB-3 skilled or professional worker category, the priority date moved from completely unavailable, to January 1, 2005 for all countries including the Philippines except China, India, or Mexico. The EB-2 category, in contrast has no backlog at all for all countries except for China and India making it a much more desirable category to qualify for.

Whether someone qualifies under the EB-2 or EB-3 category is complex and fact-sensitive for each applicant. Employers and workers seeking to find out whether they qualify for EB-2 or EB-3 category should consult a knowledgeable and experienced immigration law firm.