IMMIGRATION: E-3 Visa for Australians

E-3 visa regulations went into effect on September 2, 2005. Qualified Australians are now eligible to apply for E-3 visas in order to live and work in the United States. This visa is only available to Australian citizens only.

The E-3 is a new visa for Australian nationals to work in specialty occupations in the United States. It has several advantages over the H-1B, which is similar in requirements, including the ability for spouses of E-3 primary recipients to apply for work authorization after arrival in the United States.

To qualify for an E-3 visa, an applicant must demonstrate:

1.  That he or she must have a legitimate offer of 
     employment in the United States; and

2.  That the position he or she is coming to fill
     qualifies as "specialty occupation" employment; and

3.  That he or she is an Australian citizen; and

4.  That he or she has the necessary academic or other
     qualifying credentials, i.e. a university degree in a subject
     normally required for entry level in the "specialty occupation"
     employment offered; and

5.  That his or her stay will be temporary; and

6.  If required, that he or she has the necessary license or
     other official permission to practice in the "specialty occupation" -
     i.e. lawyers, certain engineers, secondary school teachers, 
     architects, etc.

___________________________________________________________________

Frequently Asked Questions about E-3 Visas:

Q: What is an E-3 Visa?

A:  The E-3 is a new visa category only for Australian citizens going to the United  
 States to work temporarily in a "specialty occupation" job that has been offered
 them by a U.S .employer.

Q: Who qualifies for an E-3 visa?

A: The new E-3 visa classification currently applies only to citizens 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. Please note that the United States does not recognize De Facto relationships, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Q: I am a permanent resident of Australia but don't have citizenship. Can I apply for an
     E-3 visa?

A: No. E-3 visas are available only to Australian citizens.

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

A: Yes. You need to have a job offer from the U.S. before you can apply for the E-3 visa.

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

A: No. You cannot apply for an E-3 visa from within the U.S. through a Change of Status (COS). You must apply for an E-3 visa at a US Consulate abroad, either in Australia or in another jurisdiction that will accept processing of the E-3 Visa. There is no other way.

Q: Can I travel to the U.S. 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?

A: Yes, you can travel on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you meet the requirements. 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. But you must leave the U.S. before applying for your E-3 visa.

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

A: Yes. You can apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate that processes nonimmigrant petition-based visas, but you cannot apply from within the U.S.

Q: Can I apply at any U.S. Consulate in Australia?

A: Yes. You may apply at the nonimmigrant visa section of the U.S. Embassy in Sydney, or at the Consulates in Melbourne, or Perth.

Q: What is a specialty occupation?

A: 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). Although there is no definitive list of occupations eligible for the E-3 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 E-3 visa, is the Occupational Information Network website O*NET Online. This is very complex, and the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer is essential.

Q: Do I need a license for a specialty occupation?

A: An E-3 alien must meet academic and occupational requirements, including licensure where appropriate, for admission into the United States in a specialty occupation. If the job requires licensure or other official permission to perform the specialty occupation, the applicant must submit proof of the requisite license or permission before the E-3 visa may be granted. In certain cases where such a license or other official permission is not immediately required to perform the duties described in the visa application, the alien must show that he or she will obtain such licensure within a reasonable period of time following admission to the United States.

Q: Do I need a petition by my employer to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?

A: No, the United States-based employer of an E-3 principal is not required to submit a petition to the Department of Homeland Security as a prerequisite for visa issuance. However, the employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application from the US Department of Labor. This is more complex than appears onits face and the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer is essential.

Q: How long is the visa valid?

A: The validity of the visa should not exceed the validity period of the Labor Condition Application (LCA). The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have agreed to a 24-month maximum validity period for E-3 visas. This validity may be renewed upon the filing of a new LCA and petition extension.

Q: What is the fee for an E-3 visa?

A: Other than the normal nonrefundable worldwide visa application fee of USD $100, there is no additional special fee for an E-3 visa.

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

A: Yes, there will be a maximum of 10,500 E-3 visas issued annually (during the fiscal year, which runs from 1 October to 30 September). We will advise on the website when the quota has been reached, it has not yet been reached for the U.S. fiscal year ending 30 September 2007. Spouses and children of applicants do not count against the quota, neither do applicants extending their E3 visas whilst still in the U.S. and working for the same employer.

Q: Do applicants need to demonstrate a "residence abroad?"

A: E-3 status provides for entry on a non-permanent basis into the United States. The applicant need not maintain a residence abroad, but similar to E-1 and E-2 treaty visa applicants, the E-3 must satisfy the consular officer that he or she intends to depart upon termination of status.

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

A: You must demonstrate to the consular officer that the established relationship exists. Usually this can be accomplished with a marriage certificate or birth certificate. You must also show that the principal applicant is the recipient of an E-3 visa. Common law marriages or other types of relationships that are not legally recognized as the union between a man and a woman are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes.

Q: May spouses work?

A: E-3 spouses are entitled to work in the United States and after arrival in the United States may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Employment is not authorized without an approved EAD.

Q: How long does it take to get an E-3 visa issued?

A: Visa appointment waiting and processing times vary from consulate to consulate.

Q: If I get an E-3 visa, how long before I start my job can I enter the U.S.?

A: You can enter the U.S. on your E-3 visa 10 days before you start your job.

Q: How long can I stay in the U.S. after I finish my job?

A: You can stay 10 days after you finish your job. After that, unlawful status begins to acrue.

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

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

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

A: Yes, your new employer must lodge a new Labor Condition Application (LCA), but the gap between jobs must be 10 days or less.

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