The E3 Visa – Part 1: What you need to know

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I preface this post with the following – this is not nor is it intended to be legal advice. Anything written here is based solely on my own experience. Please speak with an immigration lawyer before embarking on any visa process.

Now the disclaimer is out of the way…

What is the E3 Visa?

The E3 visa is a US working visa “specialty occupations” for Australian Nationals. There are 10,500 available to be issued every year and to date, that limit has never been reached.

Unlike the H1B visa, the E3 is a relatively simple, quick and inexpensive process.

What do I need to qualify for the visa?

The official line from the US Citizen and Immigration Service is that to qualify for an E-3 visa, you must demonstrate that you:

  • Are a national of Australia
  • Have a legitimate offer of employment in the United States
  • Possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials
  • Will fill a position that qualifies as a specialty occupation

What are the academic qualifications?

You need to possess as a minimum a college degree. In the US, undergraduate college degrees are 4 years. In Australia, many degrees are only 3, the US would consider that equivalent to as US Bachelor’s degree. So don’t stress.

There are a couple of official and free websites who will give you an equivalency test just to be sure:

http://www.wes.org/evaluations/preliminary.asp

What if I don’t have a degree or I didn’t finish my degree?

Worry not, all may not be lost. If you have significant experience in that area it may count towards and be used in lieu of educational requirements. The requirements are based off of those in the H1B category. Simply put, 1 year of college = 3 years of work experience in a speciality field. So for every 1 year you haven’t completed, you need 3 years of work experience. The key here is professional experience in your speciality area. You can’t use your time as a barista to get a job in finance.

What is a Speciality Occupation?

“The specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields and at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent”

If the job advertised says “minimum Bachelor’s degree” you’re off to a good start. For each of my E3 applications, I have had a letter written by my employer stating what speciality knowledge is needed for the position, that it requires a degree and that because of my education and experience, I possess said experience and knowledge.

Again, common sense prevails. Working as a bartender is not going to cut it.

How long does the visa last?

Up to 2 years per extension with no maximum number of extensions. There are however, some exceptions.

2 years s the maximum. It’s at the discretion of the USCIS as to how long they issue the visa for. My first visa was only for 1 year.

Can I bring my better other/half with me?

Yes, however the US doesn’t recognise de facto relationships in the same way we do in Australia when it comes to visas, so you have to be married…

You can also bring any unmarried children under 21 years of age are entitled to the same E-3 classification. Your spouse is entitled to work authorization, but not your children.

How much does the visa cost?

The visa itself, save any legal fees (if you have any), is $205 USD

How long does it take?

It varies depending on where you apply, but roughly 2 to 4 weeks.

Where can you apply for the visa?

For your first E3 visa, you must apply to a consulate outside of the US (if you’re already in the country you can obviously fill out the forms etc but you have to leave for your visa interview).

Check the USCIS website for which countries and consulates will accept E3 visa interviews. Ideally they want you to apply in Australia, though if you’re already in the States, this is not always practical and can be rather expensive. On a first visa application, based on my experience and others I’ve read, I would avoid Canada, especially Toronto. Unless you’re on a Canadian working holiday visa, then you’re fine.

Dublin is a relatively inexpensive option and generally has short wait times and where I got my initial E3. London is another option but the wait times are usually longer.