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Understanding the Priority Date on National Interest Waiver Visas (EB-2) Compared to Labor Certifications (EB-3)

Written by Laura Quintero

June 11, 2024

When it comes to employment-based immigration in the United States, understanding the nuances between different visa categories can be crucial. Two common visa types are the EB-2 and the EB-3, each with unique characteristics and processes. Within the EB-2 category, the National Interest Waiver (NIW) option stands out for its flexibility and efficiency. This article explores how the priority date for NIW visas differs from that of labor certifications in the EB-3 category, and why EB-2 visas are generally faster.

What Is a Priority Date?

A priority date is essentially your “place in line” for obtaining a visa. It’s determined by the date on which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives a properly filed application. In the context of employment-based visas, the priority date is significant because it dictates when you can apply for a green card according to the Visa Bulletin that is released every month.

Comparing EB-2 and EB-3 Categories

The EB-2 and EB-3 are both employment-based visa categories, but they differ in terms of eligibility requirements, processing times, and overall complexity.

  • EB-2: This category is for professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities. Within this category, the National Interest Waiver allows applicants to bypass the usual labor certification process if they can demonstrate that their work is in the national interest of the United States. This can significantly speed up the process.
  • EB-3: This category includes professionals, skilled workers, and other workers. To obtain an EB-3 visa, employers must go through the labor certification process, proving that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position.

Why EB-2 Visas Are Generally Faster

One of the primary reasons EB-2 visas, particularly those obtained through the National Interest Waiver, are faster than EB-3 visas is the elimination of the labor certification process. This process can be lengthy and complex, involving recruitment efforts and various approvals from the Department of Labor. By contrast, EB-2 NIW applicants can proceed directly with their immigrant petition, saving significant time.

How the Priority Date Affects the Process

For both EB-2 and EB-3 categories, the priority date determines when a visa number becomes available. While both categories have backlogs, EB-2 is typically less burdened, allowing for faster progression through the visa bulletin. This means that those with EB-2 priority dates can often move forward with their applications more quickly than those with EB-3 priority dates.

Additionally, because EB-2 NIW applicants do not need employer sponsorship, they have more control over their immigration process. This flexibility can lead to a faster overall timeline compared to EB-3 applicants, who must rely on their employers to complete labor certification and other requirements.


In summary, the EB-2 National Interest Waiver visa offers a more streamlined path to a green card compared to the EB-3 category, primarily due to the elimination of the labor certification process and a generally shorter backlog. The priority date is a critical factor in the immigration process, and those applying through the EB-2 NIW route typically experience faster processing times and greater flexibility. If you’re considering an employment-based visa, it’s essential to understand these differences to make the best decision for your situation.

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