E-3 Visa for Australians

E-3 Visa for Australians

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What is an E-3 visa?

The E-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category specifically designed for Australian citizens who wish to work in the U.S. 

The E-3 visa allows Australian nationals to come to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation (e.g., sciences, medicine, health care, education, biotechnology, and business specialties, etc.)

The E-3 visa classification is limited to 10,500 nationals of Australia issued annually.

Key features of the E-3 visa include:

  • Specialty Occupation: The applicant must be seeking employment in a specialty occupation, which generally requires a high level of specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
  • Educational Requirements: The applicant must possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials for the position.
  • Job Offer: The applicant must have a job offer from a U.S. employer.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA): Before applying for the E-3 visa, the U.S. employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor, certifying that the employment of the Australian worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • Validity: The E-3 visa is typically granted for a two-year period, and it can be renewed indefinitely in two-year increments.
  • Spouses and Dependents: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of E-3 visa holders are eligible for dependent E-3 visas.

E-3 visa eligibility requirements

To be eligible for an E-3 visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Nationality: You must be a citizen of Australia.
  • Job Offer: You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer for a specific position.
  • Specialty Occupation: The position you are offered must qualify as a “specialty occupation.” This generally means that the job requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specific field of study.
  • Educational Qualifications: You must have the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials for the position. Typically, this involves having a relevant bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA): Before applying for the E-3 visa, your U.S. employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor. The LCA certifies that the employment of the Australian worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • Wage Requirement: Your U.S. employer must pay you the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area where you will be working.
  • Intent to Return to Australia: You must have the intention to depart the U.S. when your E-3 status expires. The E-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, and you are expected to maintain a residence in Australia that you do not intend to abandon.
  • Spouse and Dependents: If you plan to bring your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old with you, they may be eligible for dependent E-3 visas. Dependents do not have to be Australian citizens. Spouses of E-3 visa holders are authorized to work in the U.S. Children are not authorized to work but can attend school.

What is “Specialty Occupation” in E-3 visa applications?

The concept of a “specialty occupation” is central to the eligibility criteria for the E-3 visa.

A specialty occupation refers to a job that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific field as a minimum qualification for entry into the occupation. 

The field of study must be directly related to the job for which the visa is sought.

The “specialty occupation” position should meet the following criteria:

  • Bachelor’s Degree Requirement: The position must require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field as the minimum entry-level qualification. The applicant must possess the necessary educational background and qualifications for the specific specialty occupation.
  • Specialized Knowledge: The job duties must involve the application of specialized knowledge and skills related to the field of study.
  • Job Complexity: The job should be complex enough to necessitate a degree in the specific field.

Examples of “Specialty Occupation” positions include:

  • Software engineering
  • Engineers 
  • Financial analysts 
  • Management consultants 
  • University professors 
  • Teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges
  • Accountants 
  • Lawyers 
  • Architects 
  • Nurses 
  • Physicians 
  • Scientists 
  • Systems analysts 
  • Journalists and editors 
  • Psychologists 
  • Market research analysts 

How long does an E-3 visa last?

The E-3 visa is granted for an initial period of up to two years

The visa can be renewed in two-year increments, as long as the individual continues to meet the eligibility requirements and maintains their status. 

There is no maximum number of extensions of E-3 status.

Cost of E-3 visa

The E-3 visa filing fees include:

If applying in the US

If applying abroad

  • Nonimmigrant visa: $315/per applicant

E-3 visa checklist

The following documents must be submitted with your E-3 visa application (provide photocopies only):

Evidence required

Acceptable documents

Form DS-160 or Form I-129
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page (if applying outside the U.S.), or
  • Form I-129 to be filed with USCIS (if applying in the US)
Payment of fees
  • Nonimmigrant visa fee (if applying outside the U.S.): $315
  • Form I-129 fee (if applying in the U.S.): $460
Job offer
  • A job offer letter from the prospective US employer confirming:
    • That the applicant will be engaged in qualifying work in a specialty occupation
    • The applicant will be paid the actual or prevailing wage
Approved Form ETA 9035E (Labor Condition Application)
  • Certification specifying “E-3 Australia”
Applicant’s education credentials
  • A certified copy of a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree
  • A certified copy of the foreign degree and evidence that it is equivalent to the required U.S. degree 
  • Transcripts
Professional license (if applicable)
  • A certified copy of license or other official permission to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment (if required)
Proof of relationship (if applicable) If sponsoring dependents:

  • Marriage certificate (for spouse)
  • Birth certificate (for children)

How to apply for an E-3 visa in the U.S.

If you are physically present in the US and want to change status to E-3, you need to take the following steps:

Step 1. Job Offer:

  • You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation
  • The position should require a specialized skill or knowledge and typically requires a bachelor’s degree or higher

Step 2. Labor Condition Application (LCA):

  • The U.S. employer needs to file a Labor Condition Application (Form ETA 9035E) online on the Department of Labor (DOL) website
  • The Labor Condition Application (LCA) verifies that the employment conditions for the E-3 visa holder meet the prevailing wage and working conditions in the U.S.

Step 3. Petition Filing:

  • After obtaining the certified LCA, your employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS
  • Include all required supporting documents, such as the certified LCA, a job offer letter, and proof of your qualifications.

Step 4. USCIS Processing:

  • Wait for USCIS to process your Form I-129. You are eligible for Premium Processing fee. According to USCIS, it currently takes about 2 months to process Form I-129
  • If additional information or document is needed, an RFE notice will be issued by USCIS. It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays
  • Once processed, you will receive a decision on your application by mail. If approved, your nonimmigrant status will be changed to E-3 and be valid for 2 years

Visa stamping: you will need to obtain an E-3 visa stamp only if you will travel outside the US and re-enter the U.S. 

You do not need to obtain a visa stamp if you will be staying within the U.S.

E-3 visas can be issued by a US Embassy or Consulate located outside the U.S. only.

How to apply for an E-3 visa outside the U.S.

Applying for an E-3 visa outside the U.S. involves the following steps:

Step 1. Job Offer:

  • You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation
  • The position should require a specialized skill or knowledge and typically requires a bachelor’s degree or higher

Step 2. Labor Condition Application (LCA):

  • The U.S. employer needs to file a Labor Condition Application (Form ETA 9035E) online on the Department of Labor (DOL) website
  • The Labor Condition Application (LCA) verifies that the employment conditions for the E-3 visa holder meet the prevailing wage and working conditions in the U.S.

Step 3. Visa Application:

  • Schedule visa appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country of your residence
  • Pay the visa application fee and complete the DS-160 online visa application form
  • If sponsoring family members – each person must complete a separate Form DS-160 and pay the nonrefundable visa fee

Step 4. Gather Required Documents:

  • Prepare the necessary documents for the visa interview, including your passport valid for 6 months minimum, visa application confirmation page (DS-160), upload passport-style photo, LCA, job offer letter, and proof of your qualifications.

Step 5. Attend Visa Interview:

  • Attend the visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be ready to discuss your qualifications, job offer, and other relevant details regarding your proposed US position

Step 6. Visa Issuance:

  • If approved, you will receive an E-3 visa stamped on your passport.

Step 7. Travel to the U.S.:

  • Once you have the E-3 visa, you can travel to the U.S. and work for the sponsoring employer in the specified specialty occupation.

E-3 visa processing time

It can take anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to obtain an E-3 visa:

  • Labor Condition Application (LCA) review – 7 business days
  • Form I-129 processing time (if applying in the U.S.) – 2 months
  • If applicant is abroad and applying for a visa – 10 days to 3 months

To check the most current processing times for an E-3 visa:

If applying in the US

If applying outside the U.S.

Note: Form I-129 is eligible for Premium Processing

  • Check the visa appointment wait time (enter the location of the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country)

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Additionally, USCIS may issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) during the processing of your application, which can add to the overall processing time. 

It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays.

If your case is outside the normal processing time, you place an Outside Normal Processing Time e-Request or request assistance from your local congressman’s office.

What are the disadvantages of an E-3 visa?

While the E-3 visa provides Australian citizens with a unique opportunity to work in the U.S., there are some potential disadvantages associated with this visa category:

  • Limited to Australian Citizens: The E-3 visa is exclusive to Australian citizens, which means individuals from other countries are not eligible. This limits the options for individuals who may have qualifications or job offers in the U.S. but are not Australian citizens.
  • Specialty Occupation Requirement: The job you are offered must qualify as a “specialty occupation,” meaning it requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. If your job does not meet this criterion, you may not be eligible for the E-3 visa.
  • Non-Immigrant Status: The E-3 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, and holders are expected to maintain ties to their home country. If your long-term goal is to obtain permanent residency in the U.S., you may need to explore other immigration pathways.
  • Dependency on Employer: E-3 visa holders are tied to their U.S. employer, and changing jobs may require a new visa application process. This dependency on a specific employer could be a disadvantage if there are issues with the employment relationship.
  • No Dual Intent: Unlike some other visa categories, the E-3 visa does not allow for “dual intent,” meaning that the intention to apply for permanent residency (a green card) cannot be present when applying for or holding the E-3 visa.

How to change status from E-3 visa to green card

Some common pathways for transitioning from E-3 status to a green card include:

Employment-based Family-based
  • EB-1A (self-petition)
  • EB-1B Visa for Outstanding Professors and Researchers (requires US job offer)
  • EB-1C Multinational Executives and Manager Visa (requires US job offer)
  • EB-2 Visa (requires US job offer)
  • EB-2 NIW (National Interest Waiver) – self-petition
  • EB-3 Visa (requires US job offer)
  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa (self-petition)
  • Marriage-based green card
  • Spouses and Children of Green Card Holders (F2A)
  • Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Green Card Holders (F2B)
  • Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (F1) Visa
  • Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (F3)
  • Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens (F4)

Related Links:

Labor Condition Application (LCA)

Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker