Australian Professional Specialty

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Qualifying for the E-3 visa

Who qualifies for the E3 visa?

The E-3 visa classification 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. However the U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate.

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.

Is there an upper age limit for applicants?

No, there is no upper age limit.

What is a specialty occupation?

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.

In determining whether an occupation qualifies as a “specialty occupation,” follow the definition contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 214 (i)(1) for H-1B nonimmigrants and applicable standards and criteria determined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Please see the USCIS  page for more information.

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 .

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?

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.

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?

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.

Do I need a license for a specialty occupation?

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.

I do not hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Can I apply for the E-3 visa based on my work experience?

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. This means you would need to show 12 years' experience in the field you are applying to work in. 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.

Applying for a visa and looking for a job

Do I have to find a job in the United States first before applying for an E-3 visa?

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.

Can I go to the United States to find a job and then apply for the E-3 visa from there?

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.

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?

Yes, you can travel on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you meet the requirements (please see our page on the Visa Waiver Program). If you do not meet the VWP requirements, you may be eligible to travel on the B-1/B-2 Combined Visa for Business or Pleasure.

You must leave the United States before applying for your E-3 visa.

Can I apply for an E-3 visa from outside Australia?

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 on usembassy.state.gov .

A guide to interview wait times and visa processing times worldwide can be found on travel.state.gov.

However, 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.

Does my employer need to file an I-129 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?

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 ETA9035.

How do I apply for an E-3 visa?

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 our website for further details, and for links to the visa appointment website, and to the DS-160 application form, see our page on how to apply.

If applying outside Australia, please find a list of U.S. Consulates and Embassies overseas.

A guide to wait times for interviews and visa processing times  at all posts worldwide.

How long does it take to apply?

The wait times for interview at each Consulate vary, you can check the latest timeframe for interviews in Australia on our website whilst making an appointment.

In Australia, if an E-3 visa is approved at interview, it is normally issued within 5 business days. Visas and passports are returned by courier, so please also allow time for this. Please see our website for further details on how to apply in Australia.

If applying outside Australia, please see the FAQ above for a link to interview wait times and processing times worldwide.

For the LCA processing time, please contact the Department of Labor: www.dol.gov 

What requirements and documentary evidence are needed for the application?

In addition to the Electronic Visa Application Form DS-160, completed online (http://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ ) you may need to provide the following documentary evidence with your application for an E-3 Visa:

  1. An approved Labor Condition Application (LCA), which the U.S. employer obtains from the Department of Labor. You are advised not to book an interview appointment until you have received this form.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 

Dependants

How do I demonstrate that I qualify for an E-3D (dependent) visa?

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, and to qualify as a spouse you will need to provide a marriage certificate. You must also show that the principal applicant is the recipient of an E-3 visa.

What is the process to apply for an E-3D (dependent) visa?

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, paying the application fee, and scheduling a visa interview with a U.S. consular officer. Further details can be found on our page on how to apply.

Please note, when completing the DS-160 form and scheduling an appointment you will need to select 'E-3' for dependents. There is no option to select 'E-3D', but the correct visa type will be entered when the application is submitted at the interview.

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.

May spouses and children work?

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.

Children on an E-3D visa are not permitted to work.

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 for the purposes of immigration.

Can a de-facto partner apply for the E-3D (Dependant) visa?

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:

(a) Independently qualify for a work, study or exchange visa. Further details on these types of visas can be found on our website at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/au/au-niv-visatypeinfo.asp 

or

(b) 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 departure date stamped on the I-94 entry card.  Please see the USCIS website for more details: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis 

Further details on B-1/B-2 visas can be found at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/au/au-niv-typeb1b2.asp

Changing employers and renewing visas

Can I renew the E-3 visa? Is there a limit to the amount of times I can renew?

E-3 visa applicants may be admitted for up to a two-year period, which is renewable indefinitely, provided the alien is able to demonstrate that he/she does not intend to remain or work permanently in the United States.

There is no limit to the number of E3 visas that an applicant may hold over the course of their life.

Can I change employers once I am in the U.S. and stay on the E-3 visa? Can I change employers once I am in the U.S. and stay on the E-3 visa?

Please refer to USCIS's website on E-3 Visas

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?

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.

Please direct any inquiries about the transfer process to USCIS, as once you are in the U.S. you are responsible for maintaining the correct immigration status with USCIS. Please see USCIS’s website at http://www.uscis.gov/  or contact their National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.

Please note, changing or extending your status via USCIS is not the equivalent of a visa. If you change or extend your status then leave the United States, you must still apply for a new visa in order to re-enter.

I am already in the U.S. on a different category of visa and want to change to an E-3 visa. What should I do?

Once in the United States you are responsible for maintaining the correct immigration status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You may apply to change or extend your nonimmigrant visa status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible. You should apply for a change of status/extension of stay from the USCIS office in your area before your authorized stay expires; this date is indicated in the lower right-hand corner of your Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record), which is stapled inside the passport on arrival. To locate USCIS services in the area, you may refer to the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis  or contact their National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.

You may not apply to extend your stay if you were admitted to the United States in one of the following entry categories:

  • (VWP) - Visa Waiver Program
  • D - As a crewman
  • C - As an alien in transit or in transit without a visa
  • K - As a fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé
  • S - As an informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime

Please note: Only a U.S. Consulate or Embassy can issue a visa.  If you have a change in status and exit the United States, you will need to file an application for a new visa before you may re-enter.

Additional information

How long is the visa valid for?

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. Any validity period extensions will be based on LCA extensions.

What is the fee for an E-3 visa?

The standard non-refundable worldwide visa application fee for the E3 visa can be found here. There are no additional issuance fees for the E-3 visa, additionally, there is no cost to the employer, as there is no filing fee for the LCA.

Is there a limit to the number of E-3 visas?

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. We will advise on the website if the quota is reached. 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.

Do applicants need to demonstrate a “residence abroad"?

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.

If I am approved for an E-3 visa, how long before I start my job can I enter the United States?

You can enter the United States up to 10 days prior to the commencement of your employment.

How long can I stay in the United States after I finish my job?

You may stay up to 10 days following the conclusion of your employment.

Can I travel outside the United States while on my E-3 visa?

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 re-enter 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.A guide to wait times for interviews and visa processing times at all posts worldwide.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 application form, pay a new application fee 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 here, please see details of how to apply.

How long can I stay out of the United States if I have an E-3 visa?

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.

Do I need to use a lawyer or visa facilitator to apply for the E3 visa?

If you or your potential employer wish to engage the services of a lawyer or visa facilitator you may, but the visa does not normally require you to as there is no petition.

Do I need to bring the original signed LCA to the interview?

No, a copy of the LCA is sufficient.

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