Certain Australian citizens and residents may need to apply for a U.S. visa. Generally, most Australian citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States. Australia is one of 38+ countries that has partnered with the U.S. on its Visa Waiver Program. Because of that program, most Australian citizens can apply for an ESTA to gain valid, legal entry to the United States.

Keep reading to discover if you are eligible for an ESTA or if you need to apply for a visa to visit the United States as an Australian citizen or resident.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for Australian Visitors

Most Australian citizens are eligible to visit the United States by simply applying for an ESTA online. The quick and painless application can be completed in minutes. Upon arrival to a port of entry, a CBP officer will take your fingerprints and verify your reason for travel. If you are found admissible to the United States, then you will be granted entry.

Your ESTA will cost $14 USD. You must complete your ESTA application (and receive approval) prior to boarding a flight to the United States. Your ESTA will last for 2 years and allows you to remain in the United States for 90 days.

Who Qualifies for an ESTA?

Most Australian citizens do not require a visa to visit the United States. However, your ESTA application may ask two questions that make you ineligible for an ESTA – even if you are a legal Australian citizen.

If you meet either of the two following requirements, then you might require a visa – not an ESTA – to enter the United States:

  • You have traveled to or were present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011
  • You have joint citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria

If you meet either of the above requirements, then you may be ineligible for an ESTA. Otherwise, most Australian citizens can apply for an ESTA without issue.

Who Needs to Apply for a U.S. Visa in Australia?

Most Australian citizens do not need a visa to visit the United States. If you are an Australian resident, however, then you may need a visa. Those who meet the following requirements may need a visa:

  • You are an Australian passport holder and citizen but you were previously rejected from entering the U.S. with an ESTA (your ESTA application was rejected)
  • You are entering the United States for purposes other than tourism or business
  • You are an Australian resident but have citizenship with a country that does not fall under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program
  • You are an Australian resident and have citizenship with a country that falls under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program but you were previously rejected from entering the U.S. with an ESTA, your ESTA application was rejected, or you’re visiting the United States for reasons other than tourism or business

Which U.S. Visas Are Available for Australians?

A number of different visas are available to Australian residents and citizens. Depending on the purpose of your visit to the United States, any of the visas listed below may apply to you.

Generally, U.S. visas for Australian citizens are eligible to choose one of the following two visa types:

  • S. immigrant visas, which allow holders to live and work in the United States
  • S. non-immigrant visas, which allow holders to visit the country short-term for business, tourism, medical treatment, education, seasonal work, etc.

E-3 U.S. Visa for Australian Citizens

The United States has a unique agreement with Australia for its E-3 visa program. Available exclusively to Australian citizens, the E-3 U.S. visa program allows Australian citizens to work in the United States at jobs that meet the following two qualifications:

  • Require the applicant to possess a higher education qualification (like a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate Degree)
  • Require the applicant to have specialized, practical knowledge that cannot be acquired from short-term training or education

Essentially, if you’re an educated professional or have unique skills, then you may be able to work in the United States under the E-3 U.S. visa program. The program is only available to Australian citizens and nationals of other countries cannot apply for the E-3 visa.

Typically, E-3 visa applicants include the following professions:

  • Engineers
  • Doctors and other medical practitioners
  • Business executives
  • Political scientists

To qualify for an E-3 visa, you must be an Australian citizen (you cannot be an Australian permanent resident). You must also have an existing job offer in the United States for a position that would qualify as a specialty occupation. Finally, the applicant must have the required educational and job experience qualifications for that specialty occupation as well as all necessary licenses required to practice that occupation.

Required Documents for Australian U.S. Visa Applicants

The specific requirements for U.S. visas vary widely depending on your visa. Generally, however, certain documents are standard requirements for Australian citizens or residents applying for a U.S. visa, including all of the following:

  • Confirmation page demonstrating that you have completed the DS-160 or DS-260 application form
  • Your interview appointment confirmation page
  • Valid passport (passport expiry date must be at least six months beyond your anticipated date of departure from the United States)
  • One blank passport page (the U.S. visa will be attached to your passport page)
  • One photo (5cm x 5cm), colored, and taken within the last 6 months (if you already uploaded a photo during the online DS-160 application, then you are not required to submit an additional photo)
  • Previous U.S. visas and old passports if you have previously visited the United States
  • An Australian National Police Certificate (from the AFP) that shows if you have ever been arrested, cautioned, or convicted
  • Letter from a licensed physician (if visiting the United States for medical treatment) explaining the reason for your trip to the United States and the reason why you cannot have the procedure performed in Australia
  • Letter of invitation (required for certain visas that are being sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States)
  • Information about any previous rejections or deportations from the United States, including the reasons for such incidents

All of the above are typically required for an ordinary visa interview to visit the United States. However, depending on your unique visa, you may require additional paperwork beyond what’s listed above.

Application Process for U.S. Visa in Australia

Applying for a U.S. visa from Australia is straightforward. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to complete:

Step 1) Check which type of U.S. visa is right for you

Step 2) Determine where you need to apply for that visa

Step 3) Complete the appropriate online form

Step 4) Pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee and other applicable fees

Step 5) Collect required documents prior to your embassy interview

Step 6) Schedule a visa appointment

Step 7) Attend the visa interview

Check Which Type of U.S. Visa You Need

First, check which type of U.S. visa you need. Some visas are sponsored by an employer in the United States. Or, maybe you have a spouse in the United States.

Most visas, however, will fall under the B-1 or B-2 visa type. The B-1 visa is for a short-term trip for the purpose of business, while the B-2 visa is for a short-term trip for pleasure or holiday.

Determine How to Apply for that Visa

With most visas, you can apply using the local U.S. embassy’s website. There is one U.S. embassy in Australia located in Canberra, although consulates are located in Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. You can visit the official U.S. embassy in Australia online here: https://au.usembassy.gov/

Complete the Online Form

Most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications require a DS-160 or DS-260 form. Complete this form online then submit it.

The form asks basic questions about your background and history. You may be asked about your education and employment, for example, as well as your biographical information.

The form will also ask various questions about your criminal background (if any). You may also be asked about your physical and mental health, or if you have ever been arrested for a drug-related offense.

Once the form has been completed, click “submit” and then print the confirmation page. You will need the printed confirmation page when you attend your interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) Fee

Your visa application comes with a mandatory fee. Typical fees range from $160 for an ordinary B-1 visa to $205 for the E-2, E-3, and E-3 visa. You can pay the fee online using your credit or debit card. The fee can also be paid in cash or via bank transfer.

Gather Required Documents

You’ll need certain documents before scheduling your visa interview. We mentioned the standard document requirements above. However, depending on your unique visa, there may be additional requirements.

Collect your documents in advance of your visa interview. Then, bring all applicable documents to your interview.

Schedule your Interview

All U.S. visa applicants from Australia between ages 14 and 79 need to attend an in-person interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate prior to visiting the United States.

As mentioned above, the United States has embassies or consulates in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. Your interview will need to be scheduled at one of these four locations.

Attend the Visa Interview

Arrive early for your visa interview. United States embassies often have unique security requirements. You will likely have to walk through a metal detector. You may also have to place your bags, keys, mobile device, and other items in an off-site storage locker. Bring all required documents to your interview.

Your fingerprints will be taken before or after your visa interview. The consular officer will ask basic questions about yourself, your background, and your reason for visiting the United States. Answer truthfully. The interview can last anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes.

U.S. Visa Application Processing Time for Australians

Typically, an ordinary U.S. visa for an Australian resident or citizen will be processed in 3 to 5 workdays. You should find out relatively soon whether your visa has been approved or denied.

For more unique visa applications – like immigrant visa applications to the United States – applications can take as long as six months. Whether your visa has been approved or denied, your passport will be emailed to you by the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

What Happens If My Visa is Denied?

If your visa is denied, then you are free to re-apply any time. However, if you don’t correct the reasons for your visa being denied, then you’ll likely face denial again in the future.

Unfortunately for you, all U.S. visa application fees are non-refundable. You will not have your original visa fee refunded to you. If you choose to re-apply, then you will need to pay that visa application fee once again.

By following the tips and strategies above, you can give your U.S. visa the maximum chance of approval whether you’re an Australian citizen or resident.