The regulations implementing the new E-3 visa, a visa for Australian citizens travelling to the United States to work in a business or professional capacity, were published in the US Federal Register on 2 September 2005. The E-3 visa will help Australian business people and professionals capitalise on the opportunities offered under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). Qualified Australians, wishing to reside and work in the United States, now find themselves in a privileged position. They have access to a dedicated visa that is easier and less costly to obtain than the traditional H-1B business visa. Under the regulations, 10,500 E-3 visas per annum have been reserved exclusively for Australian nationals (by comparison only 900 Australians succeeded in gaining the US H-1B business visa in 2004). Unlike the H-1B visa, spouses of E-3 visa holders are now able to work in the United States, eliminating a barrier that in practice stopped many Australians from applying for the H-1B visa. E-3 visa holders will be able to apply for extensions. Australians who are interested in applying for an E-3 visa should contact their nearest US Consulate (Consulate General Sydney, Consulate General Melbourne, Consulate General Perth). Australian citizens who are currently living abroad will be able to apply for an E-3 visa by visiting the nearest US Embassy or Consulate in the country in which they are currently residing.
Frequently asked Questions
Who is eligible for an E-3 Visa? The new E-3 visa classification applies only to nationals of Australia as well as to their spouses and children. E-3 principal visa holders ("nonimmigrant aliens") must be going to the United States solely to perform services in a specialty occupation. What is a Specialty Occupation? A specialty occupation is one that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in a professional field and that requires at least the attainment of a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. The regulations governing E-3 visas incorporate the definitions contained in section 214(i)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In order to determine what constitutes a "specialty occupation" US consular officers abroad will be guided by, and will apply, regulatory criteria already developed by the Department of Homeland Security for the H-1B visa classification. Are There Other Requirements for Qualifying for an E-3 Visa? When lodging a non-immigrant visa application (form DS-156 and, if applicable, form DS-157) applicants for an E-3 visa must also present the consular official with:
An original Labor Condition Application (LCA) containing attestations by the sponsoring employer as to wages and employment conditions. The LCA must have been completed and signed by the proposed employer and lodged with and approved by the Department of Labor. Note that employers of applicants for an E-3 Visa may now use either a form ETA 9035 marked in blue or black ink “E-3 - Australia - to be processed” or a form ETA 9035E dated after 4 January 2006. If, at the time of the visa application, the applicant cannot provide the original approved LCA, the consular officer, at his or her discretion, may accept a certified copy.
A job offer letter or other documentation from the employer establishing that upon entry into the United States the applicant will be engaged in qualifying work in a specialty occupation and that the applicant will be paid the actual or prevailing wage referred to in INA 212(t)(1). Note that this job offer letter or other documentation from the employer must be supplied to the consular officer in addition to the approved LCA (often employers will have included such a letter in the supporting documentation that accompanied the LCA when it was lodged for approval by the Department of Labor. However, the letter must also be presented to the consular officer).
Evidence of academic qualifications or other qualifying credentials, or in the absence of these, evidence of education and experience equivalent to a US degree.
A certified copy of any licence or other official permission required to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment. Note that where a licence is not necessary to commence immediately in the specialised occupation, evidence that the applicant will obtain the licence within a reasonable time after admission to the United States may be required.
Evidence that the applicant’s stay in the United States will be temporary.
Evidence of payment of the Machine Readable Visa Fee (the application fee for the E-3 visa).
Must an Employer File a Petition with the Department of Homeland Security as a Prerequisite to Visa Issuance? No petition to the Department of Homeland Security is necessary. How Many E-3 Visas are Available? A maximum of 10,500 E-3 visas available annually. Spouses and children do not count against the limit of 10,500 visas to be issued annually. How are Spouses and Children Treated? Spouses and children are not required to possess the nationality of the principal E-3 visa holder. May Spouses Work? Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 214(e) (6) permits the spouse of a principal E-3 visa holder to work in the United States. The spouse of a E-3 visa holder may, upon admission to the United States, apply for an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service which an employer could use to verify the spouse's employment eligibility. Spouses of a principal E-3 visa holder may be employed in a position other than a specialty occupation. What is the Application Fee for an E-3 Visa? The application fee for an E-3 visa is A$ 130. If I am already in the United States, can I transfer from another class of visa to an E-3 visa? Australians who are already in the United States on another type of temporary/non-immigrant visa may apply to change their status to an E-3 visa. The cost of applying to change status to an E-3 visa will be $190. Can I extend my E-3 visa? E-3 visas are initially issued for up to two years. The holder of an E-3 visa can apply for a two-year extension to the visa an indefinite number of times, provided they do not intend to remain permanently in the United States. The cost of applying to extend an E-3 visa will be $190. 3 February 2006