Besides family and immediate relative immigration visas, the U.S also gives visas to people who qualify to work in the country. These Employment Sponsored Visas allow foreign workers who have found an employer willing to hire them to come to the U.S permanently and work without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The employment visas are denoted with the letter E and are of 5 types:
- EB-1 Visa or First Priority Workers Visa is for outstanding professors, researchers, people with extraordinary abilities in arts, science, business, athletics, or education, as well as executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S company for the past 3 years
- EB-2 Visa or Second Priority Workers Visa is for professionals with advanced degrees and people with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, or business.
- EB-3 Visa or Third Priority Workers Visa is for skilled workers with more than 2 years of experience, professionals with a higher education degree, or unskilled workers with less than 2 years of experience (EW-3 Visa).
- EB-4 Visa or Fourth Priority Workers Visa is for various religious, government, or international organizations workers
- EB-5 Visa or Fifth Priority Workers Visa is for investors in the U.S who will invest between $500K to $1 million in the U.S economy
The Employment Sponsored Visas are subject to a cap of 140,000 visas per year. They are allocated between the five visas, which creates long wait times for processing. Once the limit of the visas is reached in a year, the rest of the applications wait for their turn in the coming years. That is why those who are applying for any employment based visa need to wait for their priority dates to become current in order to qualify for immigration in the U.S.
This article will go through the EW-3 visa for unskilled workers, what it is, its requirements, application procedures, and other relevant details.
What is EW-3 visa?
Since the U.S is known for its skilled labor base, there are many employers looking for unskilled workers. Unskilled workers are those who have less than two years of experience or training in a particular job position.
To fill the gap in the unskilled labor, the U.S has created the EW-3 visa as part of its EB-3 visa or Third Priority Worker visa. U.S employers who cannot find a suitable candidate within the U.S for a job position which fits an unskilled worker can sponsor and petition for a foreign unskilled worker to come to the U.S on an EW-3 visa.
The unskilled labor position cannot be temporary or seasonal, but must be permanent and the U.S employer must be able to prove that they could not find anyone available in the U.S to work in such a job.
Since the employment based visas are subject to an annual limit, there are only 10,000 EW-3 visas given per year. This makes this type of visa highly competitive and people may end up waiting for many years before they get this type of visa.
What are the requirements for EW-3 visa?
To qualify for the EW-3 visa, there are a few requirements which a worker must meet, such as the following:
- The worker must be unskilled in terms of education and qualifications (less than 2 years of education, training, or experience)
- The worker must have a valid employment offer from a U.S employer
- The employer must prove that there are no available or willing U.S employees who want to take the job position and comply with the hiring laws and regulations of the U.S.
How to apply for the EW-3 visa?
Applications for the EW-3 visas have multiple steps which involve both the employer and the foreign employee. The application process is divided in two parts:
- The U.S employer obtains the labor certification and files the necessary petitions
- If approved, the foreign employee then applies for the EW-3 visa at a U.S Embassy in their home country
Application procedures from U.S employer
Getting the labor certification
In order to hire a foreign worker, the U.S employer must get a labor certification from the U.S Department of Labor (DOL). The certification proves that the employer advertised the job position but could not find a U.S employee who was willing, available, or qualified enough to work. They must also prove that the job requirements did not discriminate against U.S employees and that the foreign worker will be paid according to U.S wage standards and not a much lower wage.
To get the certification, the U.S employer must file ETA Form 9089 to the DOL with a description of the job positions, its requirements, qualifications of the foreign workers and other documents which prove that they could not find a U.S worker.
The DOL will then process the application and notify both the U.S employer and the foreign worker of the decision. If the application is approved, the U.S employer gets the labor certification and can move on to the next step. The foreign worker cannot be hired and cannot apply for the visa without a valid labor certification.
Filing the petition
The next step for the U.S employer is to petition to be allowed to hire a particular foreign worker. This can be done by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form is used to evaluate whether the employer is able to meet the employment conditions. The Form I-140 will require the employer to attach detailed financial documents and statements, audit documents, as well as tax returns.
If the employer meets the conditions and USCIS determines that they are able to hire the employee and pay a prevailing wage as per U.S standards, they will approve the petition. If the financial statements of the employer are poor, then USCIS will deny the petition and the U.S employer is forbidden from hiring a foreign worker.
The approved petition will go to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will assign a case number and invoice ID to the application. They will then send a package to the foreign worker with these documents and instructions on how to apply. However, since there is a cap on the number of applications per year, the package will only be sent when the priority date of the foreign worker is current, which could be after a few months or years.
Application procedures from foreign worker
File Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent
The form is found online and you will need to put in all the relevant information in each section. After you submit it, you will get a confirmation page which you need to send to the NVC with your supporting documents.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
The U.S has specific requirements regarding health and vaccination. The NVC package that you received will contain a list of the medical checkups and vaccines that you need to complete. The documents must be signed by a licensed doctor and if they are in a foreign language, they must also be translated in English.
Compile the supporting documents file
After the NVC approves your Form DS-261, you must send the supporting documents for your case. This includes the follows:
- Your passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after your intended departure to the U.S
- Your employment offer from the U.S employer
- The approved labor certification
- The approved petition
- Your DS-261 confirmation page
- Your signed medical and vaccine documents
- Two photographs meeting the Photo Requirements
- Court and criminal records
- Your educational achievements (diplomas and certificates)
- Your resume or CV
- Depending on the case, the NVC might require other supporting documents, so you must follow their instructions carefully.
Attend the visa interview
After the NVC has reviewed your documents and needs no additional supporting ones, they will schedule an interview for you at the U.S Embassy where you are applying from. You must attend the visa interview at that scheduled time. The U.S official will go through your background and documents and decide whether you should be given an EW-3 visa or not.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S.
If the U.S Embassy approves your EW-3 visa, you will receive an NVC packet. You must not open this packet under any circumstances. Instead, when you travel to the U.S to move there, bring the packet and give it to any immigration official at any U.S point of entry. They are the only ones allowed to open it and decide whether you should be allowed to enter the country or not.
What are the EW-3 visa fees?
There are many fees which your U.S employer and you as the applicant will incur for the EW-3 visa. The amounts vary and are decided by the DOL, USCIS, and the U.S Embassy in the country you are applying from. In general, your employer and you will have to pay the following fees:
- DOL Labor Certification fee (employer)
- USCIS Form I-140 petition filing fee (employer)
- Form DS-261 processing fee (employee)
- Medical examination fees (employee)
- Fees to obtain supporting documents (employee)
- Any translation fees from foreign language to English (employee)
How long is the EW-3 visa processing time?
Since the EW-3 has a cap of 10,000 visas per year only, there are extremely long wait times. If you are within the cap for that year, your visa might be processed in a few months. However, since the cap is reached very quickly, many applicants end up waiting for a few years until their visa is processed and they can go to the U.S to work.
Can my spouse and children accompany me to the U.S with an EW-3 visa?
Yes, after the EW-3 visa is processed and approved for you, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can also apply for the family visa. Your spouse will be eligible for an EW-4 visa, while your children will have to apply for an EW-5 visa. Your spouse will be allowed to work in the U.S after getting the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).