What Is the Difference between the EB2 and EB3 Preference Categories?


When a foreign national working in the United States wishes to obtain a green card to stay in the country permanently, he or she often does so through the PERM labor certification process. While there are other avenues for obtaining permanent residency, the PERM labor certification is perhaps the most common.

Under the labor certification process, there are five preference categories:

  1. First Preference (EB1) is available for of priority workers, including persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational organization executives and managers.
  2. Second Preference (EB2) is available for professionals holding advanced degrees (or persons of exceptional ability) working in a position that requires an advanced degree or the equivalent.
  3. Third Preference (EB3) is available for professionals and skilled workers if the job requires a bachelor’s degree or two years of specialized training or experience.
  4. Fourth Preference (EB4) includes special immigrants, such as religious workers and some government workers, among others.
  5. Fifth Preference (EB5) is available for investors who make a substantial U.S. investment that create jobs for U.S. workers.

Although the EB2 and EB3 categories seem very similar, there are some important differences between the two and it is important to understand these distinctions so that you can submit the appropriate information with your I-140 petition. When an adjudicator reviews an applicant’s I-140 petition, he or she will assess the preference classification in accordance with the legal guidelines for each category.

EB2 Criteria

As mentioned above, the EB2 category is reserved for those individuals who are members of professions that require an advanced degree. One of the most common ways for a sponsored individual to qualify for the EB2 category is a showing that the employees needs an individual with an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, to fill a vacant position and the sponsored individual possesses that degree.

Alternatively, a sponsored individual may qualify for the EB2 category if (1) he or she has a bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent) AND five years of post-degree experience; or (2) he or she has exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, and will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.

EB3 Criteria

The EB3 classification is available for skilled workers with at least two years training or experience that is not of a temporary or seasonal nature and professionals who hold at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree (or a foreign equivalent). Additionally, there are certain other workers who may also qualify for the EB3 category if they are capable of performing unskilled labor.

Knowing Your EB Category

It is important to know and understand your EB preference category and the priority date assigned to the I-140 petition since the preference category will impact the cut-off date for priority status of your application. The EB category assigned to your application can be found on the I-140 receipt and approval notices.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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