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E3 Visa Occupations: Guide for Australian Workers

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

What are the E3 visa occupations?

If you are an Australian citizen looking to move to the USA to work, you may be considering the E-3 visa.

Among the E3 visa requirements is that you have to work in a specialty occupation.

What constitutes a speciality occupation is not, however, straight forward since there is no definitive list of E3 speciality occupations. Yet E3 applicants will need to ensure the role they intend to take on in the US is eligible as a specialty occupation, and that they have the necessary qualifications and experience to be eligible.

Your petition and the supporting documentation will be critical in evidencing your eligibility and suitability under the E3 route. With so much at stake, particularly as you will need to have a job offer in place in the US, it will be essential to get your application right first time.


Is the E-3 visa right for you?

The E-3 category is often the preferred US immigration option if you are an Australian worker. It is open exclusively to citizens of Australia and allows holders to live and work in the US for up to two years, with no limit to the number of extensions, provided the worker continues to be eligible.

Although the E3 category is subject to an annual limit of 10,500, this cap is less likely to be reached compared with other US work visa routes, such as the H-1B visa which each year sees the quota exceeded. This means Australian citizens generally have a better prospect of attaining the E-3 visa compared with other non-US national workers who have to apply through oversubscribed routes.

However, the E-3 visa will only be suitable if you meet the specialty occupation requirement.

If you do not qualify, you will need to consider alternative immigration options. In most cases, these alternatives will entail a more extensive petitioning process than the E-3 route.

For example, if you are an entrepreneur and you want to start or invest in a business in the US, the E2 visa is likely to be the more suitable option.

The E-3 visa does not allow visa holders to become eligible for the US Green Card. As part of the E-3 application (both the initial visa and any subsequent extensions), you must evidence your intention to leave the US before the visa expires.

If your plan is to obtain a Green Card, you will need to apply under a route which offers a path to US permanent residence.

Although, if you are already in the US with an E-3 visa you may be able to change your status to a visa which does lead to a Green Card, such as the H-1B or the O-1 visa.

You may also wish to consider your visa options based on a family relationship, such as being married to a US citizen.


What are the E3 visa occupations?

The E3 visa is only available to Australian citizens who are professionals in a “specialty occupation”.

A specialty occupation is defined as an occupation that requires:

  • A theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and
  • The attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited college or university in the specific specialty (or equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States or (2) possess a foreign degree determined to be equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree as required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.

Put simply, only Australian nations who can show they have certain qualifications and a certain number of years of work experience are eligible for the E-3 visa.

When determining if an occupation qualifies, it is helpful to refer to the standards for H1B visa specialty occupations as found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 214 (i)(1), as this is also applicable to E-3 visa roles.

You should also check if your occupation features on the Occupational Information Network directory as this can provide helpful indication of the likelihood that a profession would be considered a specialty occupation. 


Examples of E-3 visa specialty occupations

There is no definitive or official list of specialty occupations, but the following, among others, would usually qualify:

  • Accountants, auditors and related finance and administrative occupations
  • Architects
  • Arts-related professionals
  • Business managers
  • Clergy and other occupations in religion and theology
  • Commercial artists, designers, illustrators, graphic arts, product and related designers
  • Other occupations in art
  • Data and computer scientists
  • Digital, communications and computer-related professionals
  • Education and research professionals at all levels
  • Engineers across disciplines including aeronautical, electronic, civil, chemical, industrial, mechanical and nuclear
  • Lawyers, judges and other occupations in law and jurisprudence
  • Mathematicians
  • Medical and health professionals across disciplines including physicians and surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, registered nurses, veterinarians
  • Music and other occupations in entertainment and recreation
  • Sales occupations
  • Scientists across fields including astronomy, chemistry, geology, life sciences, meteorology, physics
  • Social and welfare workers
  • Surveyors
  • Writers and editors



E3 specialty occupation qualifications

You will only be eligible for the E3 visa if the role you will be performing in the USA requires a bachelor’s degree as one of the requirements or conditions for hiring a candidate.

However, that is not to say that your degree has to be in a subject directly related to your profession. It may be possible for example to rely on an arts degree if you are a lawyer. It is worth taking advice to confirm if your qualification would be acceptable under the criteria.


E3 eligibility based on experience

In some circumstances, it may be possible to be eligible for the E3 visa without a bachelor’s degree, provided you can show substantial, relevant experience within your professional field.

Generally, this would mean having 3 years of experience as an equivalent to each year of undergraduate study. As the US generally works to four years of university study, for this exception to apply you should be able to show around 12 years (and certainly more than 10) verified professional experience.


Do I qualify for the E3 Visa?

In addition to the E3 visa specialty occupation and qualification requirements, other criteria apply which you will need to evidence as part of your application.


Australian citizenship

You must be an Australian citizen with a valid Australian passport. Australian lawful permanent residents are not eligible under the E-3 category.

If you are applying with your spouse and dependants, they do not need to be Australian citizens; the rule applies only to the principal visa holder.


Job offer

You must have a firm offer of a job in the US for a specialty occupation role that pays the minimum applicable wage or more.



Your job must be with a qualifying employer who will sponsor your application and has secured a Labor Condition Application.

The LCA is required for US employers to employ foreign nationals lawfully. Through the LCA, the employer must show they were not able to find a suitable or available US employee for the position and that, by hiring an overseas worker, they are not detrimentally impacting the salary and working conditions of US employees by paying a fair prevailing salary equal to a US employee. The LCA takes up to ten days to process and there is no filing cost.

Only with the LCA granted can the job applicant proceed with their E3 visa application.


Licence to perform

Where your occupation requires a licence to practise or perform in the n the state in which employment is sought, such as an attorney, architect or surveyor, you will need to confirm you will take the necessary steps to secure the relevant permission or licence as soon as possible after arriving in the US in order to commence work.


Need assistance?

The key to ensuring a successful application is careful planning and ensuring you and your prospective employer complete all the stages of the application 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.


E3 visa occupations FAQs

What is E3 specialty occupation?

With no definitive list of E3 specialty occupations, applicants can check if their role is featured on the Occupational Information Network. Typical E3 occupations include accountants, auditors, architects, lawyers and surveyors.


What are the limitations of E-3 visa?

E3 visa holders must continue to work in their qualifying role and must not intend to settle in the US permanently. While E-3 visas are granted for 2 years, there is no limit on the number of extensions, provided the visa holder continues to meet the visa requirements.


Is E3 better than H-1B?

For Australian nationals, the E-3 visa offers a better prospect of application success since the E3 category has never met its annual quota, whereas the H1B is oversubscribed each year. There is also no limit to the number of E3 extensions you can make, whereas the H1B is limited to six years maximum.


What are the conditions for E-3 visa in USA?

The E3 visa holder must work in their speciality occupation while in the US and intend not to settle in the US on a permanent basis.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.