The Difference Between the EB-3 and EB-5 Visa

The EB-3 and EB-5 are two employment-based visas in the United States.

Both visa programs allow foreign nationals to become U.S. residents. However, each serves a different purpose and has different requirements.

The guide breaks down the two visa types and examines the key differences between the EB-3 and EB-5 visas. We'll start by taking a closer look at the EB-3 Visa.

What is the EB-3 Visa?

The EB-3 Visa is an employment-based immigrant visa for foreign nationals.

The program is run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It targets three types of employment categories: skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers.

  • Skilled workers: Those whose jobs require at least two years of experience or training.
  • Professional workers: Those whose jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent foreign degree.
  • Unskilled or other workers: Those performing ‘unskilled labor’ jobs that require less than two years of training or experience.

Read our guide to learn more about the EB-3 job criteria.

With an EB-3 Visa, applicants need a job offer from a U.S. employer who acts as the sponsor.

For an EB-3 Visa to be approved by the USCIS, you can not take a job that could otherwise be filled by a U.S. worker. This requires a ‘labor certification’ from the U.S. Department of Labor, which is used to prove that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position.

What is the EB-5 Visa?

In contrast to the EB-3 Visa, which is an employment visa, the EB-5 is a U.S. investor visa. It provides a route for foreign investors to gain resident status, otherwise known as a U.S. Green Card.

The program requires a capital investment and must create 10 permanent full-time jobs for American workers. There are two primary EB-5 investment options – direct and regional center investments.

  • Direct investments: A minimum investment of $1,050,000 in a new commercial enterprise, or $800,000 if the project is in a targeted employment area (TEA).
  • Regional centers: EB-5 regional centers pool investment funds, which are used to fund large-scale projects. The minimum investment amount for this option is the same as for direct investment.

Securing a job offer is not required because the EB-5 program is not an employment visa. Instead, the EB-5 Investor Visa is centred around job creation.

This means applicants must prove their investment has created at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

What is the difference between the EB-3 and EB-5 visas?

The EB-3 and EB-5 visas can both lead to permanent residence in the U.S. However, these two visa types are different products, each serving a different purpose.

Below are some of the key differences between the EB-3 and EB-5 visas.

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Purpose of the visa

The main difference between the EB-3 and EB-5 visas is the nature of investment.

The EB-5 is based on making a capital investment and creating jobs. Meanwhile, the EB-3 Visa hinges on your employment with a U.S. company.

In other words, the EB-5 is about creating jobs, while the EB-3 is based on working for a company.

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Investment amount

There is a significant difference in the minimum investment amounts required for each visa.

For the EB-5, the investment amount starts at $1,050,000 or $800,000 if the project is in a TEA. Meanwhile, the EB-3 Visa starts at $45,000, plus an additional $3,000 for each eligible family member added to the application.

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Employment criteria

The USCIS technically classifies both the EB-3 and EB-5 as employment-based visas. However, the EB-5 is not based on employment, so there are no qualification or experience requirements.

On the other hand, prospective EB-3 Visa holders must meet specific educational or professional criteria.

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One of the biggest advantages of the EB-5 Visa over the EB-3 is the ability to self-sponsor.

The EB-3 Visa category requires a job offer and sponsorship from an employer. With the EB-5 Visa, applicants do not need to be sponsored by a third party.

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Application processing times

The time it takes to complete the EB-3 and EB-5 visa application process can vary. However, the EB-5 Visa process is often quicker than the EB-3, taking 12 and 20 months, respectively.

Securing a U.S. investor visa with Holborn

Both the EB-5 and EB-3 visas allow foreign nationals to become Green Card holders. However, the route to residency, the criteria and the purpose of each program differ.

That is why it is crucial to understand the differences between the EB-3 and EB-5 visas.

Download our EB-3 and EB-5 factsheets to learn more about each program in more detail. Alternatively, speak to one of our specialists.

Holborn Pass is an international leader in investor visas. Our expert team provides a bespoke, end-to-end service and support throughout the application process.

We are part of the wider Holborn Assets Group, a leading, award-winning financial advisory company with over $2 billion in assets under management (AUM).

We have successfully assisted hundreds of individuals and families in securing golden visas. To find out how we can help you, book a consultation with one of our advisers.

Frequently asked questions

The main differences between the two are the criteria and purpose. The EB-3 visa is aimed at those seeking employment in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the EB-5 Visa is an immigrant investor program aimed at those who want to make a sizeable investment in a U.S. commercial enterprise and create jobs.

For the EB-3 Visa, applicants must be sponsored by a U.S. employer and meet specific job requirements.

The EB-5 Visa is based on meeting the minimum investment amount and creating jobs. The minimum investment for the EB-5 program is $1,050,000 ($800,000 if it’s in a TEA). Additionally, the project must create at least 10 full-time positions for U.S. workers.

Processing times can vary based on several factors, such as visa backlogs.

Generally, the EB-3 Visa application process can take several years due to annual quotas and high demand. In contrast, the average processing time for the EB-5 Visa starts at around 12 months, making it much quicker.

Both visa types are issued in limited numbers each year. Just over 40,000 EB-3 Visas are issued yearly, while 10,000 are issued for the EB-5 program.

Both EB-3 and EB-5 visa holders can typically bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States as dependents.

These family members may also be eligible to apply for green cards and become permanent residents.

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