E-3 Visa for Australians in Specialized Professions

The E visa category is an unusual mix of two types of visas: there are two visas (the E-1 and E-2) for traders and investors. Then, the third visa in the E category, the E-3 visa, is for Australians who wish to work in the United States as a specialized professional. Although it has nothing to do with trading and investing, the E-3 visa remains popular among citizens of Australia.

If you work in a qualifying profession, have Australian citizenship, and wish to work in the United States, then you may qualify for an E-3 visa.

How Does the E-3 Visa Work?

The E-3 visa is officially called the “Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia” work visa. The visa was created in 2005 as part of a free trade agreement between the United States and Australia. That free trade agreement, AUSFTA, created a specialty visa program for highly-qualified Australian citizens who wish to work in the U.S.

Not all professions qualify for the E-3 visa. You need to have a “specialty occupation”. Typically, a specialty occupation is defined as:

  • An occupation that requires post-secondary education, including a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree
  • An occupation that requires specialized, practical knowledge

A doctor would qualify for an E-3 visa, for example, as would an occupational therapist. However, there’s no specific list of professions that do and do not qualify for the E-3 visa. If your profession requires specialized knowledge or a degree, then it’s possible that you can work in the United States under an E-3 visa.

Generally, this visa is popular for professionals like engineers, business executives, researchers, computer scientists, doctors, and highly-qualified artists or entertainers.

E-3 Visa Requirements

E-3 visa requirements vary depending on your profession. An E-3 visa applicant seeking to work as a doctor in the United States has different requirements than an E-3 visa applicant seeking to work as a movie director, for example. Generally, however, E-3 visa applicants must abide by the following requirements:

  • Must be an Australian citizen (E-3 visas are not available to Australian permanent residents)
  • Must have a job offer in the United States from a U.S. company
  • The job must be considered a specialty occupation
  • You must have the required skills, training, education, and experience to work in that specialty occupation
  • You must have any required licenses to practice that specialty occupation, if needed

How to Apply for an E-3 Visa

The E-3 visa application process is similar to the application process for any American work visa. Your employer needs to prove that they can provide a safe and appropriate working environment for the foreign worker. Then, you can begin the rest of the application. Unlike a typical work visa, your employer does not need to file Form I-129 with USCIS.

Step 1) Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor:

The first step for your employer is to obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor. If the employer has already hired foreign workers in the past, then the employer may have already received an LCA. To qualify for an LCA, the employer must prove that they are providing a safe working environment for foreign workers. Employers are also required to demonstrate that they are paying the worker a competitive wage similar to what an American worker would earn. This form can be filed electronically and is labeled ETA 9035E. Once the LCA is approved, you can start the application process.

Step 2) File Form DS-160:

Form DS-160 is the standard application form for most non-immigrant visas for the United States. Fill out the form accurately. You can find form DS-160 on the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate.

Step 3) Pay the Visa Application Fee:

The E-3 visa has an application fee of $205 USD. Pay the fee and get your receipt.

Step 4) Schedule your Interview:

All applicants between ages 14 and 79 are required to complete an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to receiving the E-3 visa. The United States has an embassy in Canberra along with consulates in Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne.

Step 5) Prepare your Documents:

You will require certain documents during your visa interview, including all of the following:

  • Valid passport
  • A photograph that meets U.S. visa photo requirements
  • Confirmation of visa fee payment, DS-160 form submission, and embassy interview appointment
  • Letter from your employer confirming the job offer and describing your salary and duties
  • Form ETA 9035 proving your employer has LCA certification

Documents proving your work in a specialty occupation, including diplomas from your degrees, certificates or licenses, and letters from previous employers or coworkers

Proof that you intend to return to Australia upon conclusion of your work term in the United States; proof can include details of family and friends in Australia, bank accounts, or property ownership documents

Step 6) Complete the Interview:

Visit the U.S. embassy to complete your interview. The consular officer will verify information on your E-3 visa application, including details of your job in the United States.

How Long Does It Take to Process an E-3 Visa?

It takes approximately 4 to 8 weeks to process an E-3 visa, although wait times can vary widely depending on your local U.S. embassy.

How Long Does My E-3 Visa Last?

Typically, the Department of Labor’s LCA will govern the validity of your work visa. The LCA may be granted for a period of two years, for example, in which case your E-3 visa may be valid for two years as well.

The E-3 visa cannot be valid for more than 2 years upon initial approval.

However, you can apply for an E-3 visa renewal or extension as long as you are still working in the United States. Your employer must get an LCA with a new validity date and file form I-129. You are also required to file Form I-539 to extend or change your status.

There is no limit to the number of times you can renew or extend your E-3 visa, as long as you can prove that you intend to return to Australia in the future.

You can also switch employers under an E-3 visa. If you switch employers, however, then your new employer is required to request an LCA from the Department of Labor.

Can I Change My Status or Get a Green Card with an E-3 Visa?

The E-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to work in the United States temporarily. It is not an immigrant visa that allows you to establish permanent residence in the United States.

In some cases, however, E-3 visa holders are able to change their status, get a different visa, or apply for a green card. If you find an employer willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, for example, then this can lead to a green card. It’s also possible to get a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen or by getting sponsored by a family in the United States.

Keep in mind that the E-3 visa is not a dual intent visa, which means you need to prove that you intend to return to Australia upon conclusion of the visa. If the consular officer or border agent believes that you intend to remain in the United States and establish permanent residency, then you may be denied.

Can My Dependents Join Me in the United States on an E-3 Visa?

The E-3 visa allows for dependents to join you in the United States. The E-3 dependency visa is available to:

  • Your legal spouse
  • Your unmarried children under 21 years of age

You can apply for an E-3 dependent visa at the same time as the main E-3 visa application. Or, you can apply afterward.

E-3 visa dependents who are spouses are eligible to work in the United States after getting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You can get an EAD by filing form I-765 with USCIS. If your EAD is approved, then you are entitled to work in the United States at any (legal) position.

By following the guide above, Australian workers in specialized professions can work in the United States on an E-3 visa.