The E3 Visa: A Simple Guide

The E3 Guide by visa guru and Billabout Swagman Zjantelle Cammisa Markel

Aussies, here’s the gist:

The E-3 visa was established in 2005 to allow Australian professionals to come to the U.S. and work for a U.S. employer for a temporary period (up to two years) in a specialty occupation.

What does this all mean? What are the requirements?

You must be an Aussie – the E-3 visa is only available to nationals of Australia. Don’t think you can fudge it either – just saying “put a shrimp on the barbie” or “a dingo ate my baby” in your best Aussie accent won’t be enough evidence of your nationality. You’ll need to show your birth certificate (if born in Australia) or your Australian passport.

You must have a degree (or the equivalent of a degree in education and work experience) – You’ll finally be grateful your parents forced you to go to university. You will need a copy of your degree certificate and transcript.

What if I don’t have a degree? OK, you’re not completely out in the cold. Take a look at your resume. How many years of work experience do you have? Here’s where age can actually be on your side – every three years of work experience is the equivalent of one year of university. This means that if you have 12 years of work experience in a particular field, then you most likely have the equivalent of a U.S. degree in that area. Note: The average U.S. undergraduate degree is four years in length. You will need reference letters from your past employers showing this experience. Your immigration lawyer will arrange for a credential evaluation for you, which will show that you have the equivalent of a degree. Please note that any university or TAFE (Technical and Further Education institute) or post-secondary education can be helpful, even if you never completed the course. So gather any and/or all certificates and transcripts from whatever post-secondary education you may have commenced or completed.

You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer. (What if I don’t have a U.S. employer? Can I enter the U.S. anyway?) As an Aussie, you are able to enter the U.S. without a visa under the visa waiver program as a tourist for a period of up to 90 days. While you are not permitted to work while here in visa waiver status, you can be offered a job while you are here in that status. To accept the employment, and commence working, however, you will need to get the visa issued into your passport at a consulate abroad before returning to the U.S. to start working. If you know that you want to remain in the U.S. for more than 90 days as a tourist, then you can get a B1/B2  tourist visa put into your passport before you visit the U.S. This visa will allow you to remain in the U.S. for up to 180 days at a time as a tourist.

The job offer must be for a “specialty occupation.” Basically, this means that the position you are being offered must be one that requires a degree – the degree that you either have, the equivalent in terms of work experience or a combination of the two.

Your employer must offer you the prevailing wage for your position – so no “cheap labor” for you! – There is a requirement that your U.S. employer pay the prevailing wage for your position in the geographical area of your employment in the U.S.. The U.S. employer will need to provide a certified Labor Condition Application that attests to this. Your immigration lawyer will help your employer prepare this.

What about the other nitty gritties?

How many of these E-3 visas are there? There are 10,500 E-3 visas available annually. So far, there has been no threat of them running out each year.

Where do I apply for an E-3 visa? – An E-3 visa needs be applied for at a U.S. Consulate outside the U.S. Applying for it at the Australian Consulate in the U.S. is a no go. If you are already in the U.S., you will need to obtain the visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Note also that you do NOT have to go all the way back to Australia to get the E-3. You can get it at any U.S. consulate outside the country. Fancy a trip to Mexico? Canada?

How long can I stay in the U.S. in E-3 status? You may initially obtain a two-year stay in E-3 status. Note that your U.S. employer can only provide a job offer covering a two-year period. However, at the expiration of your initial two-year stay, you may extend your E-3 visa status indefinitely in increments of two years at a time.

Can I work for multiple employers with my E-3 visa? Your E-3 visa is employer-specific, so you can only work for the employer that has sponsored your E-3.

Can I change employers? – You can change employers, but you will need to file for a new E-3 visa each time that you do. This is because the E-3 is employer specific, which means that the employer you are working for must be the employer originally authorized by U.S. immigration.

What if I have a spouse and kids? – Good news – you’ll be able to bring them to the U.S. with you for the duration of your stay. They will get an E-3 dependent visa.

Does my spouse have to be Australian to be able to get the E-3 Dependent visa? No – s/he just needs to be married to you – and you must be Australian.

What if I get married after I entered the U.S., and after I got my E-3 visa? – While your spouse won’t be able to enter in E-3 dependent status until you are actually married, once you are married, s/he can always obtain that status.

Will my spouse be able to work in the US? – Even better news, you won’t have to be the only one bringing home the bacon – your spouse will be able to work in the U.S. Once your spouse arrives in the US in E-3 dependent status, s/he will need to apply for a work authorization document (which his/her E-3D status permits). It takes 90 days to receive the work authorization document from the date of filing for it, so apply for it as soon as your spouse gets here. The document will allow your spouse to work for any employer, unlike your E-3 that allows you to only work for the employer of record.

Will my kids be able to work in the U.S.? – Nope! Only your spouse can get work authorization on the E-3 dependent visa. Besides, child labour is cruel, mate!

I have so many other questions that were not answered here….

If that’s the case, then please contact a U.S. immigration attorney. It is recommended that before you proceed with obtaining any U.S. visa, you consult with an immigration lawyer first. It might be the case that the E-3 visa is not the best visa option for your purposes. Or, if you do not qualify for an E-3 visa, an immigration lawyer will be able to strategise with you as to which visa you may qualify for.

Feel free to contact me at the below details:
Zjantelle Cammisa Markel
U.S, Immigration Attorney & Principal (Swagman)

111 Broadway, Suite 404
New York, NY 10006
Tel.: +1 (212) 227-7766
Fax: +1 (646) 706-0082
Cell: +1 (917) 664-1091

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