Indian Nationals and the U.S. Green Card — EB-2/EB-3/EB-5 Visa Categories

Sumit Singh
5 min readApr 1, 2024

Significant backlogs for Green Cards are present in the EB-2 and EB-3 visa categories, which primarily affect Indian nationals. Right now, these categories have longer wait times than any other employment-based immigrant visa in the United States, including the well-liked EB-5 visa. The impact of the backlog is most noticeable for Indian nationals, whose wait times for a Green Card can reach an astounding 134 years, according to estimates from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Longer wait times for EB-2 and EB-3 visa applications are caused by a variety of variables, but the major one is still increased demand worldwide. As a matter of fact, the number of applications for EB-2 and EB-3 visas worldwide has increased to about four times the number of visas that are available each year. Approximately 180,000 applications are filed for every 40,000 available visas. The 40,000 quota affects not just the primary applicants but also all dependents and/or family members, which exacerbates the situation.

What are Employment-based U.S. Visas

EB-2 and EB-3 visas are two categories among the United States’ employment-based immigrant visas, which comprise five different options, with several sub-categories. These are:

  • EB-1 Visa: Priority Workers and Persons of Extraordinary Ability
  • EB-2 Visa: Professional Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
  • EB-3 Visa: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers
  • EB-4 Visa: Certain Special Immigrants
  • EB-5 Visa: Employment Creation/Immigrant Investors

According to U.S. immigration rules, approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas become available between October 1 and September 30 of each year. Selected applicants are then granted permanent status in the United States. The major applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 may also immigrate to the United States on all employment-based immigrant visas, subject to certain restrictions and procedures.

What is an EB-2 Visa?

Employment Second Preference (EB-2) visas are for individuals with an advanced degree (master’s and/or doctorate degree) or its foreign equivalent, those with “exceptional ability” in their fields, or those whose employment benefits the U.S. national interest.

To show exceptional ability in science, arts, or business, foreign nationals must possess at least three of the following qualifications:

  • Official academic documents, like degrees or certificates, from a college or similar institution in their field
  • Letters from past or current employers, showing at least ten years of full-time work experience in their occupation
  • Professional licenses or certifications relevant to their profession
  • Proof of receiving a salary or other payment for their services, indicating exceptional ability
  • Membership in professional associations
  • Recognition from peers, government entities, or professional organizations for their achievements in their field

What is an EB-3 Visa?

Employment Third Preference (EB-3) visas are for skilled workers, professionals, or other workers. Foreign citizens applying for this visa across the three subcategories must possess the following qualifications, respectively:

  • Two years of job experience, education, or training
  • U.S. bachelor’s degree and/or foreign equivalent
  • Ability to perform unskilled labor that is not of a temporary nature

Current EB-2 and EB-3 Wait Times for Indian Nationals

The U.S. Department of State publishes a visa bulletin every month that contains revisions to the deadlines for processing visas. These can change frequently depending on the type of visa. Petitioners for immigrant visas may only submit an adjustment of status application if their priority date is earlier than the deadline specified in the visa bulletin. You can find the March 2024 bulletin here.

A priority date marks the day that USCIS receives an EB-2 or EB-3 petitioner’s Form I-140. Within a few weeks of submission, foreign nationals receive a notice of receipt (I-797) by mail.

Source: Visa Bulletin for March 2024 | travel.state.gov

According to the March 2024 visa bulletin, due to high global demand, no countries are in “current” status in the EB-2 and EB-3 visa categories. For India, the EB-2 cut-off date is 15MAY12 while the EB-3 cut-off date is 01AUG12. As the dates on these visa bulletin charts indicate, Indian EB-2 and EB-3 applicants currently face significant visa retrogression.

According to March 2023 data, 395,958 approved I-140 petitions are awaiting an available EB-2 visa, with 90% of these applications, totaling 358,078, originating solely from India. Similarly, 129,754 approved petitions were awaiting an available EB-3 visa, with 89%, around 115,481, of them originating from India.

Based on the March 2024 visa bulletin data, the minimum wait time to file for adjustment of status through EB-2 for an Indian national is around 12 years, with some estimations reaching over 100 years. According to a recent analysis by the Cato Institute, more than 400,000 Indian workers residing in the U.S. and seeking an employment-based green card are confronted with a wait time of 134 years. The majority of backlogged cases fall under the EB-2 category, while 19% are in the EB-3 category, which in turn, involves a wait time of about 40 years.

What is an EB-5 Visa?

Another category in the employment-based immigrant U.S. visa, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program may be a viable alternative for Indian citizens seeking a green card.

There is no sponsorship requirement for this category. Whichever state they invest in as part of the program, successful EB-5 investors are free to live and work anywhere in the US. In addition, they are able to change occupations without jeopardizing their status as permanent residents and apply for a status adjustment concurrently with their initial EB-5 application — a process known as concurrent filing.

In order to qualify for an EB-5 visa, petitioners must invest a minimum of $800,000 either directly in a New Commercial Enterprise (NCE) and generate ten full-time jobs, or indirectly through EB-5 Regional Centers recognized by USCIS.

The new rural and high unemployment reserved TEA visa set-asides are “current” for EB-5 applicants from all countries, including India, despite issues like the pandemic impacting overall processing timelines. Priority processing for EB-5 application forms related to rural project investments is underway within six to twelve months.

The EB-5 visa, like the EB-2 and EB-3 visas, enables the applicant’s family (spouse and unmarried children under 21) to receive green cards so they can live, work, and study in the United States.

The new EB-5 set-aside categories give unparalleled immigration benefits to Indian nationals who are already in the country, provided that they invest in them and make sure that they are “current” on the State Department’s visa bulletins.

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Sumit Singh

Expert in Investment Migration Programs | Advisor with Arton Capital, Dubai | Associate Member of Investment Migration Council (IMC) | SEBI Registered Advisor