E3 visa information for applicants
The E3 visa is a US visa classification exclusively for Australian nationals. It was created through the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) by the United States Congress and allows Australians to enter the US to work temporarily within a ‘specialty occupation’ for an eligible employer.
In this article, we outline key E3 visa information about the eligibility requirements and application process under this specific US immigration route.
Evidence your nationality
To be eligible for the E-3 visa, you must hold a valid Australian passport. If you hold permanent residence status in Australia, this would not be enough to satisfy the E-3 requirement.
What is a ‘specialty occupation’?
Typically the most complex aspect of the E-3 visa application is evidencing that you meet the academic and occupational requirements and that the role qualifies as a ‘specialty occupation’.
A specialty occupation is one that requires ‘theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in the professional field’. This is in addition to a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation within the US.
Examples of jobs that would ordinarily be deemed specialty occupations include software developers, architects, doctors, engineers and scientists.
If a licence is needed to perform the role in the US but is not available to gain prior to entering the US, you must confirm you will obtain the licence within a reasonable timeframe after entering the US.
If you do not have a bachelor’s degree you may in some circumstances be able to rely on a substantial amount of experience in your professional field in order to make your application. As a general guide, you would need to show at least three years of relevant experience as an equivalent to a year of university study.
The decision as to whether your education and employment credentials meet the eligibility requirements will be at the adjudicator’s discretion, as such your E3 supporting documentation should be thorough and compelling in establishing suitability under the category rules.
E3 visa sponsorship
To gain an E3 visa, you must have a firm job offer from a US employer that is willing to sponsor you for your E3 visa application.
Your employer is only eligible to be sponsor if they meet US corporation and immigrant-employment regulations and apply successfully to the Department of Labor (DOL) for a labor condition application (LCA).
The LCA is used by the US authorities to seek assurance from the US sponsor that employing the E3 visa holder would not have a negative impact on the wages and working conditions of US workers, and that the role will pay the required minimum salary.
The E3 wage threshold is determined by the position you are applying for in the region where you plan to work, as stipulated by the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center.
Only with the LCA can your prospective employer then petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to classify you as a temporary worker within the E-3 visa category.
E3 visa duration
The E3 visa can be grantefd for up to two years although the specific period will be determined by the LCA validity which may be shorter. It may be possible to apply to renew the E3 visa for a further two years, provided you continue to meet the visa requirements and there is no restriction on the number of times you can apply to extend your visa.
You should start your renewal process with your employer around five months before your visa expires. You must leave the USA to do this – either by going back to Australia or visiting Canada and applying at an Embassy or Consulate.
E3 visa application process
You can apply for the E3 visa either as a change of status application made from within the US or by filing your petition from overseas through a US embassy or consulate.
In the United States
If you are applying within the US, you should file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.
You will need to submit a number of documents with your application:
- A Labor Condition Application (LCA)
- Academic or other credentials that prove you qualify for the position you have been offered
- Job offer letter or other evidence from your employer that you will be working in a specialty occupation at the required salary
- Details of required licences if relevant to your occupation
Applying outside of the US
If you apply from outside of the US, you will again need to use Form I-129 and submit all the documents as listed above. If it is approved, a Form I-797, Notice of Action/Approval will be sent to your prospective employer who will send it on to you.
The Form I-797 approval notice is not a visa. You will need to use this form to apply for your E3 visa at a US embassy or consulate, generally in the country where you reside, for permission to travel to the US.
You will then need to schedule and attend an interview at the US Consular post where you filed your petition.
Before the interview you should compile the necessary documents to evidence your eligibility. You should refer to these in your visa interview as evidence for the adjudicator. The specific documents to take will depend on your background, circumstances and the role, which could include:
- Your job offer letter or similar
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Appointment confirmation page
- Passport or other relevant travel documents
- The original receipt from Australia Post for your application fee payment
- Pre-paid self-addressed envelope (registered post)
- Two passport-sized photos for each visa
- Evidence of your history of visits or non-visits to the USA and any immediate family connections to the US
- Proof of your academic or other relevant qualifying credentials
- Evidence that you intend to leave the US by the end of your visa period, such as evidence of family, real estate or financial ties in your country of residence
If you have a spouse and children under the age of 21, they will also be eligible to apply for entry to the country if you hold an E3 visa. Spouses are eligible to work unrestricted in the US, but children are not. Your spouse would need to apply to work through a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
Changing your employer
If you have gained entry to the US on an E3 visa, you can move to another employer within the country. The new employer needs to file a new Labor Condition Application and a new E3 visa application to become your visa sponsor, and there must not be a gap of more than ten days between the two jobs.
Do you need help with an E-3 visa application?
The key to ensuring a successful application is careful planning and ensuring you and your prospective employer complete all the stages of the process in sufficient detail and with the relevant evidence.
NNU Immigration are specialists in US work visas, including the E3 visa applications. We can also help where you are starting a new job in the US with a new employer, as a new LCA and E3 visa will be needed. Contact us for professional support with your E3 visa application.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.