EB-2 vs. EB-3: Foreign Degree Equivalencies

Most if not all prospective employment-based immigrants have a robust education and experience background. Often, that education was obtained from a university in a foreign country. However, owing to certain government regulations, in many instances an individual’s education may prevent that individual from qualifying for EB-2 or EB-3 classification.

For instance, many countries around the globe, particularly India, Australia, and the United Kingdom, offer two-to-three year Bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, many of those nations also offer one-year Master’s degree programs. Therefore, it is imperative that employers and prospective employees recognize a prospective employee’s educational background has the potential to bar them from certain employment-based categories (EB-2 v. EB-3).

In obtaining an EB-2 or EB-3 approval, it must be demonstrated that the candidate possess either a U.S. Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or its U.S. academic equivalent. Generally, an EB-2 Member of the Professionals Holding an Advanced Degree classification typically necessitates at minimum a Master’s degree, or alternatively a Bachelor’s degree plus at least five years of relevant qualifying experience; an EB-3 professional classification necessitates a Bachelor’s degree at minimum.

The sticking point for many individuals is what is to be considered the “U.S. academic equivalent” of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Of course, if you have an accredited U.S. degree, there is nothing to worry about. However, in terms of foreign degree equivalency, USCIS tends to look at foreign degree equivalency solely in terms of years of study and more-or-less completely ignores the substantive requirements of the qualifying degree or what a professional evaluation service may otherwise say about the U.S. academic equivalency of the degree.

In the simplest terms, USCIS will consider four-years of post-secondary education as the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree and will consider six years of post-secondary education as the equivalent of a Master’s degree.

We see the following scenarios quite often: 1) Three- year foreign Bachelor’s degree (3 years of study), 2) Three-year foreign Bachelor’s degree plus a one-year foreign Master’s degree (4 years of study), 3) three-year foreign Bachelor’s degree plus two-year  foreign Master’s degree (5 years of study), 4) four-year foreign Bachelor’s degree plus one-year foreign Master’s degree (5 years of study), 5) four-year foreign Bachelor’s degree plus two-year foreign Master’s degree (6 years of study), and 6) four-year foreign Bachelor’s degree plus three-year foreign Master’s degree (6 years of study).

In Scenario 1, that individual will never meet the requirements for EB-2 classification. Likely, this individual will only qualify as an EB-3 Skilled Worker.

In Scenarios 2, 3, and 4, that individual may qualify for EB-2 classification if the individual can show at least 5 years of relevant qualifying experience.  If not, they will only qualify as an EB-3 Professional or Skilled Worker.

In Scenarios 5 and 6, that individual will likely always qualify for EB-2 classification.

By: Ryan Wilck

Ryan is an attorney at Reddy & Neumann PC. Ryan began with the firm in 2012 as a law clerk and has continued with the firm as an attorney from 2014. His main practice covers immigrant visa petitions with skills and experience in various non-immigrant petitions as well as criminal issues.