Among the non-immigrant employment visas you will come across the E-3 visa that is exclusively intended for specialized Australian workers.
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What are E-3 visas for the United States?
The category of E-3 visas allows US employers to hire Australian workers to perform services in a specialty job or occupation. For an E-3 visa sponsorship, Australian workers are required to have bachelor, postgraduate or equivalent degree in a specific specialty.
This visa was created on the occasion of the Australia-USA Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).
Although the E category has three types of visas: E-1 and E-2 visas issued to traders and investors, these are not related to the E-3 visa for highly skilled Australian workers. The E-3 visa is a variant of the H-1B visa for skilled workers of any nationality.
Requirements for E-3 visas
To qualify for the E-3 visa, the alien worker must show that they:
- Are an Australian citizen;
- Have a legitimate job offer in the US;
- Have an occupation that qualifies as a skilled job;
- Possess the requested academic education or other credentials.
E-3 visa application process
The process for applying for the E-3 visa depends on the location of the applicant: If the Australian worker is:
- Within the US: They can file Form I-129 with USCIS, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker after the employer obtains the Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DOL). Once USCIS approves the petition, the worker can go to the US consulate to receive their E-3 visa.
- Outside the US: You can apply for the E-3 visa through the following steps:
- Complete Form DS-160;
- Pay the application fee;
- Schedule the interview with the US embassy or consulate;
- Attend the interview.
Supporting documents to apply for the E-3 visa
The I-129 petition to apply for the Australian E-3 visa must include the following documentation:
- Labor condition application;
- Academic or other credentials to show that the Australian worker qualifies for the job;
- Offer of employment and other documents issued by the US employer showing that the Australian worker will perform a specialized job position and will be paid a salary higher than their current salary;
- If required, before the Australian worker begins skilled work, they must hold a license or other official permission to engage in the occupation.
Documents required by the Australian worker
- Valid and current passport;
- Passport-type photograph according to the specifications on the embassy website;
- Receipt of payment of the fee established for the visa;
- Copy of Form DS-160 and proof of interview appointment schedule;
- Employer letter containing the following:
- Confirmation of the job offer;
- Type of employment, position and obligations within the company;
- Salary amount.
- ETA Form 9035 to prove the LCA certification to the employer.
Period of stay or extension of an E-3 visa
The E-3 visa has an initial period of stay of 2 years. However, it is possible to extend this period up to 2 years for each extension without a maximum limit, but with certain exceptions.
Change of employer
Australian workers can change employers while they remain in the US. To do so, the new US employer must apply for and obtain an LCA for the position in which they employ the alien national and file an I-129 petition with USCIS.
The I-129 petition must be approved before the Australian citizen begins work for their new employer. USCIS may consider the Australian worker to keep their E-3 visa after employment ends, up to a maximum of 60 days during the validity period of the petition.
Can family members of E-3 visa holders accompany them?
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of E-3 visa holders may be eligible for the E-3 dependent classification. However, the following should be considered:
- Children cannot work in the US;
- Spouses may work based on their status and do not need to apply for employment authorization through Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, but may do so if they wish;
- Obtaining the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) serves as evidence of identity and work authorization.
DHS takes certain steps to modify the I-94 permit to evidence the nonimmigrant status of “E” dependents. In this way, the spouses of the children can be differentiated on the front of the document.
Automatic extension of their Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Certain E-3 dependent spouses qualify for an automatic extension of their EAD, as long as they:
- File Form I-765 to renew the EAD based on the E-3 classification;
- Have a valid I-94 permit showing their E-3 nonimmigrant status.
The automatic EAD extension will continue until one of the following occurs first:
- The expiration date of the dependent spouse’s I-94 permit showing valid E-3 nonimmigrant status;
- Date the EAD renewal application is approved or denied;
- 180 days from the date shown on the “Card Expires” on the front of the EAD.
Eligible spouses may submit employers with the following documents as evidence of the automatic EAD extension:
- Form I-94 indicating current E-3 nonimmigrant status;
- Form I-797C EAD Renewal Application indicating “selected class” (a)(17);
- The EAD issued under category A17.
What is the cost of the E-3 visa?
The E-3 visa fee is $270, which is a standard non-refundable fee.
Other possible additional costs could be:
- Visa issuance fee: $100; (double if accompanied by your spouse)
- Consular application fee: $131; (double if accompanied by your spouse)
- If the spouse wishes to work, they will have to pay an additional fee of $340.
In total it is easy to end up paying around 1000 USD. This is also much less than what it would cost to obtain the H-1B visa.
What is the E-3 visa processing time?
The processing time for the E-3 visa is approximately 2-3 months, after the LCA and I-129 petition have been filed. However, applications made through the US embassy may have a variable time frame.
Is it possible to obtain the Green Card with the E-3 visas?
One way to get a Green Card based on employment is through a sponsor who is willing to petition for an H-1B visa. The other is to apply for residency through a family petition.
Our experienced immigration attorneys will be able to determine what options you have to become a lawful permanent resident.
Differences and similarities between the E-3 and the H-1B visas
|E-3 Visa||H-1B Visa|
|Allows temporary work in the US in a “specialty occupation.” Postgraduate degree or bachelor.||Allows temporary work in the US in a “specialty occupation.” Postgraduate degree or bachelor.|
|Requires a sponsoring US employer.||Requires a sponsoring US employer.|
|It is awarded only to Australian citizens (10,500 each year).||It is awarded to workers of any nationality (65,000 each year and an additional 20,000 for professionals with a bachelor or doctorate degree in the US).|
|Spouses (even if not Australian) have the right to work in the US.||Spouses do not have the right to work in the US. However, certain exceptions apply.|
|The E-3 visa renewal is for periods of 2 years.||Valid for a maximum period of 6 years.|
|The employer-sponsor is required to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the US Department of Labor.||The sponsoring employer is required to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor and a I-129 Worker Petition with USCIS|
Frequently asked questions about the E-3 visas
Occupations such as electrician, carpentry or plumbing are generally not eligible for the Australian E-3 visa. To be elegible, you must have a qualifying degree or its equivalent.
The E-3 is a multiple entry visa, so you will be able to travel abroad. However, if your visa status changes while you are outside the US, you will need to reapply for a new E-3 visa.
Only Australian citizens can apply for the E-3 visa. Permanent residents of Australia do not meet the eligibility requirement for this visa.
You can legally stay in the US for up to 10 days after your employment ends.
Spouses of E-3 visa holders do not need to be Australian citizens to accompany them to the US.
You may be able to change your status while in the US, but it depends on certain circumstances to do so. Our lawyers will be able to help you in this scenario.
Form I-907, Premium Processing Application, is not currently available for the E-3 visa.
You may be able to get an E-3 visa, as long as you submit an equivalency to a bachelor’s degree or higher. Our lawyers can help you in this management process.
If you are an American employer and need to process this visa, feel free to call us. We can advise you on everything related to the processing of these visas and the petition of the immigrant worker. Call now for a private, no obligation consultation.
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