To qualify for E-3 classification, an alien must, among other things, be an Australian national who is seeking employment in a specialty occupation requiring possession of a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent) and possess the appropriate degree (or its equivalent) in the field in which the Australian national wishes to work. E-3 nonimmigrant status is initially granted for a period of no more than two years. Extensions of stay may be granted indefinitely in increments not to exceed two years.
Congress has established a yearly cap of 10,500 new E-3 workers. For purposes of the cap, “new E-3 workers” are those who, coming from abroad, are admitted initially in E-3 classification or those who change their nonimmigrant status to E-3 classification or change employers while in E-3 status. Unlike the dependent of an foreign national in H-1B nonimmigrant classification, the dependent spouse of an E-3 temporary worker may apply for and receive work authorization.
An Australian national seeking to be admitted in E-3 nonimmigrant classification at a U.S. Port-of-Entry must posses a valid E-3 visa issued by the U.S. Department of State. Australian nationals already in the United States may request a change of status to E-3 or extend their E-3 status by filing a Form I- 129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). The cost for filing the request for change of status or extension of stay is $460. In addition to the Form I-129, applicants must include the following documentation:
- A proof of Australian nationality.
- A letter from the prospective U.S. employer describing the alien’s occupation, the alien’s anticipated length of stay, and salary/remuneration arrangements.
- Evidence that the alien meets the educational requirements for the position to be filled (a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent in the specific specialty occupation).
- Evidence that the alien meets any licensing or other occupational requirements, and
- Evidence that the prospective U.S. employer has filed with the Department of Labor a labor condition application (LCA) specifically designated for E-3 Specialty Occupations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is an E-3 Visa?
A: The E-3 is a new visa category only for Australians going to the U.S. to work temporarily in a specialty occupation.
Q: Who qualifies for the E-3 visa?
A: The E-3 visa classification currently applies only to nationals of Australia as well as their spouses and children. E-3 principal applicants must be going to the United States solely to work in a specialty occupation. The spouse and children need not be Australian citizens. The U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships or same-sex Civil Partnerships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Q: I am a permanent resident of Australia but don’t have citizenship. Can I apply for an E-3 visa?
No. E-3 visas are only available for Australian nationals. If you are a new Australian citizen or are in the process of becoming one, please note that you will need to possess an Australian passport by the time of your visa interview.
Q: Is there an upper age limit for applicants?
A: No, there is no upper age limit.
Q: Do I have to find a job in the United States first before applying for an E-3 visa?
A: Yes. You need to have a job offer from a sponsoring employer in the United States before you can apply for the E-3 visa.
Q: Can I go to the United States to find a job and then apply for the E-3 visa from there?
A: In advance of applying for an E3 visa you may travel to the United States to search for a job or attend an interview. However, you cannot apply for the actual visa from within the United States. All visa applicants must appear at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad to apply, and first time E3 visa applicants will need to apply in Australia.
Q: Can I travel to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program to find a job or attend interviews and then apply for the E-3 visa once I return to Australia?
A: Yes, you can travel on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you meet the requirements. If you do not meet the VWP requirements, you may be eligible to travel on the Combined Visa for Business or Pleasure (B1/B2 visa). You must leave the United States before applying for your E-3 visa.
Q: Can I apply for an E-3 visa from outside Australia?
A: You have the right to apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate which processes nonimmigrant visas, but you cannot apply from within the U.S.
A list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide can be found at usembassy.gov.
A guide to interview wait times and visa processing times worldwide can be found on travel.state.gov.
Please contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you plan to apply to check that they accept applications from non-residents, and for details of how to book an interview and current processing times, as these will vary from post to post. Some posts outside of Australia are not familiar with the E3 visa and may be unfamiliar with adjudication of such visas. They are also unfamiliar with Australian education institutions, and so proving eligibility will be difficult.
Q: Can I apply at any U.S. Consulate in Australia?
A: Yes. You may apply in Sydney, Melbourne, or Perth.
Q: What is a specialty occupation?
A: The definition of “specialty occupation” is one that requires:
- A theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and
- The attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
Although there is no definitive list of occupations eligible for the E3 visa, a useful general guide for applicants to check if their occupation might be considered a graduate specialty profession and thus might be eligible for an E3 visa, is the Occupational Information Network website O*NET Online.
Q: I have a degree and have found a job in a related profession in the U.S. Do I qualify for the E-3 visa?
A: The job will qualify provided that it requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specialty occupation. It is not enough that an E-3 applicant holds a particular degree; the job itself must also require a bachelor-level or higher qualification. For example, someone with a degree in Business Studies planning to work as a Personal Assistant would not be eligible for the E-3 unless the job actually required a bachelor-level qualification.
Q: I am a skilled tradesperson with qualifications and experience in plumbing/electrical work/carpentry for example. Do these kind of trades qualify as specialty occupations for the E-3 visa?
A: Not generally, because a requirement of the E-3 visa is that the job in the United States requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specialty occupation. As very few trade positions require a degree, they are not appropriate for the E-3 visa.
Q: Do I need a license for a specialty occupation?
A: An E-3 applicant must meet academic and occupational requirements, including licensure in Australia where appropriate. In certain cases where a U.S. license or other official permission is required to perform the duties described in the visa application, but such permission or license is not available prior to entry into the United States, the applicant must show that he or she will obtain such licensure within a reasonable period of time following admission to the United States.
Q: Does my employer need to file an I-129 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?
A: No, the employer in the United States is not required to submit a petition to USCIS as a prerequisite for the E3 visa. However, the employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA), from the department of labor by filing form ETA Form 9035. There is no fee to submit the ETA-9035.
Q: How long is the visa valid for?
A: The validity of the visa will not exceed the validity period of the LCA, nor will it exceed the reciprocity period of 24 months established by the Department of Homeland Security. This validity may be renewed.
Q: What is the fee for an E-3 visa?
A: Other than the normal non-refundable worldwide visa application fee, there is no special fee for an E-3 visa.
Q: Is there a limit to the number of E-3 visas?
A: There will be a maximum of 10,500 E-3 visas issued annually during each fiscal year, which runs from October 1st to September 30. Spouses and children of applicants do not count against the quota, nor do applicants extending their E3 visas whilst still in the U.S. and working for the same employer.
Q: Do applicants need to demonstrate a “residence abroad”?
A: E-3 status provides for entry on a non-permanent basis into the United States. Similar to E-1 and E-2 visa applicants, the E-3 must satisfy the consular officer that s/he intends to depart upon termination of status.
Q: How do I demonstrate that I qualify for an E-3D (dependent) visa?
A: You must demonstrate to the consular officer that the established relationship exists. Usually this can be accomplished with a marriage certificate for spouses or a birth certificate for dependent children. Please note that the United States does not recognize De Facto relationships or same-sex Civil Partnerships, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You must also show that the principal applicant is the recipient of an E-3 visa.
Q: What is the process to apply for an E-3D (dependent) visa?
A: The dependent must make a separate visa application, which involves most of the same steps as the principal applicant’s application, namely completing the required forms and scheduling a visa interview with a U.S. consular officer.
The dependent does not need to provide the principal applicant’s Labor Condition Application (LCA) or evidence of employment but needs to show that the principal applicant is the recipient of an E-3 visa by providing a copy of the visa or, if the applicant has obtained E-3 status in the U.S., the I-797 Approval Notice.
The dependent can apply at the same time as the principal applicant, but they may also apply separately once the principal applicant’s E-3 visa has been issued. The principal applicant does not need to be present at the dependent’s interview. Each dependent must make a separate visa application, but children under 14 who are Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia are not usually required to attend an interview.
Q: May spouses work?
A: E-3 spouses are entitled to work in the United States and may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). When completing the form, applicants will need to select the visa type E1/E2, as E3 is not listed as an option.
Spousal employment may be in a position other than a specialty occupation, and may be full time, part time or casual work. Please note however that the U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships or same-sex Civil Partnerships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Q: Can a de-facto partner apply for the E-3D (Dependant) visa?
A: The United States does not recognize de facto relationships for the purposes of immigration. Therefore, the de facto partner cannot apply for the derivative visa of the principal applicant, except for limited instances involving Official visas.
If the partner wishes to accompany the principal applicant to the United States, the partner must either:
- Independently qualify for a work, study or exchange visa. OR
- Qualify for a tourist visa. The length of stay permitted for visitors is determined by the Immigration Officer at the port of entry and generally, the maximum amount of time a traveler is permitted to stay in the United States on initial entry is 180 days. To request an extension of stay, the partner must apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This request should be submitted to USCIS as early as possible, but at least two (2) months before the admit until date listed on the electronic I-94.
Q: If I am approved for an E-3 visa, how long before I start my job can I enter the United States?
A: You can enter the United States up to 10 days prior to the commencement of your employment.
Q: How long can I stay in the United States after I finish my job?
A: You can stay up to 10 days following the conclusion of your employment.
Q: Can I travel outside the United States while on my E-3 visa?
A: An E-3 visa is a multiple-entry visa, so provided you have not changed employers or extended your status you may travel outside the United States and reenter on a valid, unexpired E-3 visa. If you have a change in status and exit the United States, you will need to obtain a new E-3 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad before you may re-enter.
Please contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you plan to apply to confirm that they accept applications from non-residents, and for details of how to book an interview and current processing times, as these will vary from post to post. You will need to have a visa interview, complete a new DS-160 Form and present the same supporting documents as you did for your original application (including your job offer, LCA, and educational certificates). If you are visiting Australia and plan to apply for your new E-3 visa, please see details on the U.S. consulate which falls within your territory’s jurisdiction.
Q: How long can I stay out of the United States if I have an E-3 visa?
A: There is no limit to how long you may stay outside the United States or how many times you may travel abroad during the validity of your E-3 visa, as long as you abide by the terms of your employment in the United States.
Q: Can I renew the E-3 visa? Is there a limit to the amount of times I can renew?
A: E-3 applicants are admitted for a two-year period renewable indefinitely, provided the alien is able to demonstrate that he/she does not intend to remain or work permanently in the United States.
Q: Can I change employers once I am in the U.S. and stay on the E-3 visa?
A: Yes, your new employer must submit a new Labor Condition Application (LCA), and the gap between jobs must be 10 days or less.
Q: I am already in the U.S. on an E-3 visa and want to change employers. Do I need to come back to Australia for another interview?
A: You do not need to have another interview or make a new visa application to change employers while you are in the U.S. on an E-3 visa. However, you must complete a transfer process through the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) in the U.S.
Q: How do I apply for an E-3 visa?
A: You may make your appointment for an interview as soon as you have all the documents prepared. You do not need to send your documents in advance, just take them to the interview. There is no specific application form, applicants for all nonimmigrant visas must complete the same standard application form known as the DS-160.
If applying in Australia please see the consulate website for further details. If applying outside Australia, a list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide can be found at usembassy.gov.
Q: How long does it take to apply?
A: The wait times for interview at each Consulate vary. In Australia, if an E-3 visa is approved at interview, it is normally issued within 2-3 business days. Visas and passports are returned by mail. Please see the U.S. consulate website for further details on how to apply in Australia.
Q: What requirements and documentary evidence are needed for the application?
A: Submit a job offer letter from the prospective United States-based employer.
In addition to the Electronic Visa Application Form DS-160, completed online, you may need to provide the following documentary evidence with your application for an E-3 Visa:
- An approved Labor Condition Application (LCA), which the U.S. employer obtains from the Department of Labor. You are not advised to book an interview appointment until you have received this form.
- Evidence of academic or other qualifying credentials as required under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 214(i)(1), and a job offer letter from the employer. If your degree and higher-level qualifications are from an Australian institution, you do not usually need to provide certified copies or evidence of their U.S. equivalent, but please bring to your visa interview a copy of any certificates, and if possible, transcripts for the course of study. If your qualification(s) are not from an Australian institution, a certified copy of the foreign degree and evidence that it is equivalent to the required U.S. degree could be used to satisfy the “qualifying credentials” requirement, but you may prefer to wait until your visa interview to confirm whether this is necessary. You should take a copy of any certificates and transcripts to your visa interview, and if it is also necessary to produce certified copies of certificates and evidence of U.S. equivalence, you can send these to the Consulate after the interview, although your visa will not be approved until this is received. Likewise, a certified copy of a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree, as required by the specialty occupation, would meet the minimum evidentiary standard.
- In the absence of an academic or other qualifying credential(s), evidence of education and experience that is equivalent to the required U.S. degree.
- A certified copy of any required license or other official permission to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment if so required or, where licensure is not necessary to commence immediately the intended specialty occupation employment upon admission, evidence that the alien will be obtaining the required license within a reasonable time after admission.
Q: I do not hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Can I apply for the E-3 visa based on my work experience?
A: U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(D), describes the kind and amount of experience which can be used to establish the equivalency of a university degree. As a guide, three years of professional experience may generally be used as a substitute for each year of university-level education. During their visa interviews, applicants for U.S. work visas should be prepared to provide documentation outlining their work history, education, and training. A consular officer will determine whether the educational and employment information provided meets the eligibility requirements for a U.S. visa.