What Is the E3 Visa?

The E3 visa is a specific provision for specialty occupation workers from Australia. This temporary US visa is valid for two years with possibility for unlimited two-year extensions. It also allows the spouse and dependent children to enter the US with the primary applicant through the E3-D dependent’s visa, with the spouse being eligible to apply for employment authorization to work in the US. A maximum annual cap of 10,500 visas are available each year, but the cap has never been maximized.

E3 Visa vs H1B

For Australians who wish to work temporarily in the US, several work visa options are available including the L1 and E2 visa categories. Two of the most notable examples for comparison are the H1B and the E3. While both categories allow professionals of specialty occupations to live and work in the US, the E3 is a category that is available exclusively to Australian citizens.

The H1B is a highly sought-after visa category with subscribers from all over the world who max out the annual 65,000 cap year after year. What this results in is a “lottery” to determine who is lucky enough to receive the visa. The E3, on the other hand, has an annual cap of 10,500 visas reserved solely for Australians that has never been reached, meaning there are plenty of visas to go around.

Aside from issues of availability, the E3 category has no limit to the number of extensions allowed, whereas the H1B visa has a maximum permissible stay of 6 years, at which time the visa holder must leave the US for at least one year before reapplying for a new H1B visa. Additionally, spouses of E3 visa holders are permitted to work while living in the US with the beneficiary, which is not allowed under the H1B.

E3 Visa Requirements

Similar to H1B visa requirements, the E3 visa requirements are as follows:

  • Applicants must have a legitimate offer for employment in the US
  • Applicants must possess the necessary credentials for the position being offered
  • The position being filled by the applicant must qualify as a specialty occupation
  • The applicant must be an Australian citizen

E3 Visa Processing Time

The E3 visa processing time is relatively short. For applications and renewals within the US, processing time can range from 2-3 months. For those applying through a US consulate, applicants may even be processed immediately, though it can take as long as 2 months, depending on the consulate where the application is lodged.

E3 Visa Occupations

USCIS does not provide a specific list of qualifying E3 visa occupations, only specifying that it must be a “specialty” occupation. USCIS defines a specialty occupation as one that “requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s or high degree in the specific specialty, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation.”

What this means is that skilled trades people such as plumbers, electricians, or carpenters are generally not qualified since most of these positions do not require a bachelor’s degree.

E3 Visa Without Degree

Although the E3 visa, by definition, requires a degree, there may be ways for some qualified professionals to obtain an E3 visa without a degree. According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(D), three years of the right kind of professional experience may be used to substitute for a single year of university education. Documented evidence of any such experience, education, and training must be presented at the visa interview, and eligibility will be determined by a consular officer. An experienced immigration attorney should have detailed knowledge and understanding of the regulations to guide you toward success in these more complex cases.  

E3 Visa requirements for employers

Unlike the H1B visa, the E3 category does not require the employer to petition on the applicant’s behalf. The only E3 visa requirements for employers are to submit the Labor Conditions Approval (LCA) and provide a written job offer that includes the job description. There are no fees associated with the LCA filing or other costs at any point in the process for the employer.  

E3 Visa to Green Card

With the exception of the L1 and H1B visa categories, the large majority of temporary visas do not tolerate dual intent. What this means is that E-1, E2, or E3 visa holders should not have intent to pursue permanent residence in the US at the time of entry. However, if your circumstances or intentions change while you are already in the US, there are ways to navigate your E3 visa to green card process without violating immigration laws. It is always wise to seek professional immigration counsel in such cases, and throughout any visa application process to ensure a smooth transition.

How we can help with your E3 Visa needs

The US work visa process at all levels can be complicated and daunting, and having a knowledgeable immigration attorney by your side not only simplifies your life, but also increases your chances of approval. At our boutique firm, we provide expert immigration counsel with personalized services for your investment immigration as well as professional and business visa needs. You can count on Immigration General Counsel to have your back!   

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