Australian Specialty Visa – E-3 Visa: Frequently Asked Questions

The E-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa category which provides Australian citizens with the opportunity to work in the United States for a period of two years on a renewable basis. The E-3 visa category permits Australian citizens to work in the U.S. in “specialty occupations” which require at a bachelor’s degree in a specific field. In order to qualify for the E-3 visa category, the Australian citizen must also possess the required bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in education or work experience.

These E-3 Visa FAQ are designed to provide a better understanding of some commonly asked questions surrounding the application process for the E-3 Visa. The following provides basic information, sometimes about fairly complex topics, which should be followed up with legal advice tailored to your personal circumstances.

Is There an E-3 Visa Quota or Cap?

There is an annual E-3 visa quota or cap of 10,500 but this number has rarely been reached since the visa category’s inception.

Must I Be a Full-time Employee or Can I Be a Part-time Employee Under the E-3 Visa?

You may apply for an E-3 Visa for a full-time position or a part-time position, but please note that there is no shortcut process for a part-time E-3 Visa application. The process is the same and you will still need to obtain an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) prior to your interview.

How Do I Transfer Employers Under the E-3 Visa?

You can transfer your E-3 Visa from one employer to another. There is no limit on the number of E-3 Visa transfer applications that can be filed. You can either transfer your E-3 Visa to a new employer by submitting a I-129 petition in the U.S. to the USCIS or you can re-apply for the E-3 visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Timing between employers can be tricky under the E-3 visa, and note that if you elect to remain in the US, you may not commence your new position until you have received a notice of approval of your I-129 petition by the USCIS. A petition must be filed within 10 days of termination of previous job and receiving an approved petition can take anywhere from 30-90 days. This is why many Australians elect to exit the country and re-apply for the E-3 Visa, so that they can minimize time and stress between employers and commence working at an earlier date.

Employers must resist any temptation to have potential employees begin working, even in what might be considered volunteer positions, without the proper work authorization. Hiring employees without the proper work authorization can subject the employer to penalties and subsequent scrutiny under immigration law.

Can the Spouse of an E-3 Visa Holder Obtain Work Authorization?

Spouses of E-3 visa holders will also obtain an E-3 visa and may apply for work authorization in the U.S. Once the spouse has received authorization, the E-3D visa permits the spouse to work in any capacity. Work authorization is completed once the spouse is in the U.S. This is a big advantage as compared to H4 status (the status of spouses of H1B Visa holders), as H4 Visa status does not allow work authorization.

How Long Can I Be On the E-3 Visa?

Unlike the H1B status, there is no limit as to how long you can be on the E-3 visa, which means that you can continue to renew this visa every two years for so long as you have valid employment. This is a huge advantage compared to the H1B.

How Many Employees Must the E-3 Visa Employer Have?

An E-3 visa petitioning employer can be of any size. We have successfully obtained E-3 visa approvals for companies with 1,000s of employees just as we have obtained successful approvals for companies with very few employees. What is important is that the company is a legitimate operation and that they have a need for an individual of a certain occupation.

Are There Any Alternatives to the E-3 Visa?

As the E-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa, you are not permitted to petition for a green card under this classification. The following are some alternatives to the E-3 visa which may lead to permanent residency: the L-1 visa for intracompany transferees, O-1 visa for extraordinary individuals, or the H1B. Other visas that may be suitable depending on the nature of the situation, are the J-1 visa, the E-1 treaty trader visa, or the E-2 treaty investor visa, but note that these visa categories cannot lead to permanent residency.

How Long Does the E-3 Visa take to Process?

An E-3 visa application can be prepared in as little as 2 weeks, but allow 4 weeks to accommodate an interview with the U.S. Embassy of your choice and related travel.

Can I apply for the E-3 Visa Outside of Australia?

If you are not currently on a visa, then you must attend an interview at a consulate or Embassy outside of North America. Our clients have had successful applications in Singapore, London, Madrid and Paris, to name a few. Once you have obtained your initial E-3 visa and are in need of a renewal, you may travel to other parts of North America such as Canada and Mexico to attend your interview.

For the most up to date information regarding the processing of E-3 Visas, please contact the Immigration Practice Group at IBV Advisory Group Inc. – info@ibvadvisorygroup.com | www.ibvadvisorygroup.com