Some work visas are designed to bring highly-specialized professionals to the United States. Other work visas, however, are designed to bring skilled and unskilled laborers to the country. The EW-3 work visa is designed to bring unskilled workers with fewer than two years of experience to the United States.

The EW-3 visa was originally a separate visa subcategory. Today, however, the visa is bundled under the EB-3 visa. It’s one of five main visas within the EB work visa category:

EB-1 Visa for First Priority Workers:

The EB-1 visa is for individuals who wish to work in the United States in a highly specialized or skilled profession. This visa is for those with extraordinary ability in arts, science, business, athletics, or education, for example. It’s also for professors or researchers who are outstanding in their fields. Some EB-1 visa holders are executive managers who have worked at a foreign branch of a U.S. company for the past three years.

EB-2 Visa for Second Priority Workers:

The EB-2 visa is for professionals who have advanced degrees or specialized education and skills. This visa is also for individuals with extraordinary ability in arts, science, or business.

EB-3 Visa for Third Priority Workers:

The EB-3 visa is for skilled workers with more than two years of experience or professionals with a higher education degree. This visa is also available to unskilled workers who have less than two years of experience, in which case you would receive the EW-3 visa.

EB-4 Visa for Fourth Priority Workers:

The EB-4 visa category is for immigrants coming to the United States to work in various religious, governmental, or international organizations.

EB-5 Visa for Fifth Priority Workers:

The EB-5 visa category is for investors willing to invest between $500,000 and $1 million into the U.S. economy. Investors willing to invest this amount may qualify for permanent residency (a green card).

All of these visas are considered employment sponsored visas. There’s a cap of 140,000 visas per year allocated across all of the five categories. The visas typically come with long wait times. Plus, once the 140,000 visa limit is reached, the remaining applications are rolled over until the next year.


Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about the EW-3 visa, which is a type of EB-3 visa designed to bring certain unskilled workers to the United States.

How Does the EW-3 Visa Work?

The EW-3 visa is designed to help U.S. employers bring certain unskilled laborers to the United States. Some U.S. employers struggle to find unskilled U.S. workers willing to perform a specific job. If an employer cannot find U.S. employees willing to perform an unskilled job at a competitive wage, then the employer may rely on the EW-3 visa program.

If the employer wishes to bring an unskilled laborer to the United States, the employer needs to sponsor and petition USCIS to bring that individual to the country on an EW-3 visa.

Other unskilled laborer visa categories are designed specifically for farm workers. These positions are often seasonal and temporary. However, the EW-3 visa category is exclusively for permanent positions: this visa does not apply to temporary or seasonal workers.

To qualify for an EW-3 visa, the U.S. employer typically needs to prove that they could not find an American worker available to perform the job at the desired rate.

In total, the U.S. government awards 10,000 EW-3 visas every year. This makes the visa highly competitive. Some unskilled workers must wait years before qualifying for an EW-3 visa.

EW-3 Visa Requirements

EW-3 visa requirements include all of the following:

  • The worker must be considered unskilled in terms of education and qualifications; an “unskilled” laborer has typically received fewer than two years of education, training, or experience
  • The worker must have a valid job offer from a U.S. employer
  • The employer must prove that they could not find any U.S. workers willing to perform the job at a competitive wage
  • The employer must comply with all hiring laws and U.S. labor regulations

How to Apply for the EW-3 Visa

The EW-3 application process begins with the U.S. employer. The employer must verify that they can host a foreign worker. The employer must then petition USCIS to bring an EW-3 visa applicant to the United States. Then, the EW-3 visa applicant must go through a separate process before arriving in the United States.

Step 1) The Employer Must Receive Department of Labor Certification

First, the employer in the United States must receive a labor certification from the Department of Labor. This certificate verifies that the employer can legally and safely host a foreign worker. It demonstrates that the employer has provided a safe working environment for the employee. It also demonstrates that the employer will pay the foreign worker based on U.S. wage standards. In other words, an employer cannot bring a foreign worker to the United States and pay the worker half as much as they would pay a U.S. worker in a similar position.

The employer will file Form 9089 to the Department of Labor. The form asks for job descriptions, job compensation, and qualifications of any foreign workers, among other information. The form will also require the employer to demonstrate that they were unable to find a U.S. worker.

Next, the Department of Labor will process the application and return a final verdict. If the Department of Labor approves the employer and awards a certificate, then the employer can move onto the next step.

If the employer has already brought foreign workers to the United States in the past, then the employer may have already received Department of Labor certification.

Step 2) The Employer Files the Petition

Next, the employer will file a petition to bring the foreign worker to the United States. This petition is done by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form verifies that the employer meets labor standards. The form also asks for various financial information from the employer, including tax returns, as well as information about the employee.

Once it has been determined that the employer meets these conditions, USCIS will approve the petition. The approved petition will go to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will then assign a case number and invoice ID to the application. Then, the employee can move forward with the application.

Step 3) File Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent

The employee will first file Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. This form can be found online on the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate. It asks basic biographical details about yourself and your background. Once complete, you will receive a confirmation page. Send this confirmation page to the NVC along with the supporting documents below.

Step 4) Complete a Medical Examination and Vaccination

The United States has specific requirements regarding health and vaccinations for foreign workers arriving in the United States. The NVC requires you to complete various medical checkups and vaccines. If you do not already have this, then you will need to complete it prior to arriving in the United States. The documents must be signed by a licensed doctor and translated into English, if applicable.

Step 5) Attach Supporting Documents

You may be required to submit a number of documents prior to arriving in the United States on an EW-3 visa. These documents may include all of the following:

A valid passport that expires no sooner than 6 months from your intended date of departure from the United States

  • A job offer from a U.S. employer
  • An approved labor certification
  • An approved petition from your employer
  • DS-261 confirmation page
  • Signed medical record and vaccine documents
  • Two photographs that meet U.S. visa photo requirements
  • Resume or CV
  • Criminal record (if applicable)
  • Educational record (if applicable), including any diplomas or certificates

The NVC may require you to submit other paperwork prior to your arrival in the United States. Specific documents vary on a case-by-case basis.

Step 6) Schedule and Attend your Visa Interview

Once you have submitted all of the documents listed above, the NVC will verify that no further documents are required. At this point, the NVC will schedule an interview for you at the U.S. embassy in your home country. During your interview, a consular officer will verify the information on your application before making the final determination on whether or not you can enter the United States on an EW-3 visa to legally work.

Step 7) Receive a Packet from the NVC

After your interview, you should receive a package from the NVC. This package cannot be opened. Instead, you bring the package to the U.S. port of entry and give it to the immigration official at that port of entry. The immigration official – like the CBP officer – is the only individual permitted to open the package. This official has the final say as to whether or not you can enter the United States.

EW-3 Visa Application Fees

Like most work visas, the EW-3 visa application fee is paid largely by the employer. However, some employees will need to pay a Form DS-261 processing fee of $190. This fee can vary between countries, and some employees will not have to pay the fee.

How Long Does It Take to Process My EW-3 Visa?

As mentioned above, the United States government only awards 10,000 EW-3 visas every year. Once the visa limit is reached for a year, all remaining EW-3 visa applications are rolled over to the following year.

It’s not unusual for applicants to wait several years for their EW-3 visa to be fully processed.

Can My Dependents Join Me in the United States on an EW-3 Visa?

The EW-3 visa, like most other work visas, allows your dependents to join you in the United States for the duration of your work term. Your family may qualify for an EW-3 dependency visa if they fall into either of the two categories:

  • Spouse of an EW-3 visa holder
  • Unmarried children under age 21 of an EW-3 visa holder

If your family fall into either of these categories and wish to join you in the United States, then they may qualify for a dependency visa. Spouses will be eligible for an EW-4 dependency visa while children will be eligible for an EW-5 visa. Your spouse will be allowed to work in the United States after getting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Ultimately, the EW-3 visa is a rare visa that falls under the EB-3 visa category for third priority workers. With only 10,000 EW-3 visas awarded to unskilled workers each year, the waiting list for this visa can stretch several years. Nevertheless, thousands of workers arrive in the United States every year with an EW-3 visa.