The E-3 visa program was launched in 2005 to allow Australian professionals access to opportunities created by the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). The E-3 is similar to the H-1B specialty occupation visa, but solely reserved for Australian professionals. However, there is another stark difference; whereas an H-1B is a duel intent visa, an E3 is not. Therefore you must be planning to leave the United States upon expiration of your nonimmigrant work visa.

How do I qualify for the E-3?

To qualify for an E-3 visa, you must be an Australian national. In addition, you must have an offer for a job in the United States that requires at least a bachelor’s degree and other specialty skills. Finally, you must actually possess the requisite qualifications and academic degrees to fill the job.

What jobs qualify as a specialty occupation?

The E-3 is only available if you will be working in the United States in a specialty occupation for which you are qualified. A specialty occupation requires a bachelor’s degree or higher for entry into the profession and application of a specialized body of knowledge.

Your qualifications must match these criteria. For example, if the profession requires an engineering degree and license, you must have both. If the job requires a juris doctor or higher degree, you must have attained that higher degree.

How do I apply?

You petition for an E-3 visa approval on form I-129. Attach the following documents to your application to USCIS:

  • An approved Labor Condition Application, which verifies that your wages, benefits and working conditions are the same as other similar jobs within the geographic area;
  • A copy of your degree, and proof of equivalency if obtained outside the United States;
  • Proof that you meet all other qualifications for the job, such as licenses and experience;
  • Your employer’s letter offering you the job at or above the prevailing wage.

Can my family join me in the United States?

You can include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 as dependents on your application. Your dependents do not have to be Australian nationals. They can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which allows them free range to work for any employer while under the E-3 dependent status (E-3D).

Is there a cap on number of applications?

The E-3 visa is subject to an annual cap of 10,500, which includes only primary applicants, not dependents. However, the number of applications approved each year is generally just 3,000 to 4,000, demonstrating another significant advantage over the H-1Bs in which the cap is hit very soon after filing opens for the year.

How long is an E-3 Visa Valid?

The E-3 visa has a maximum period of 24 months, but the visa can potentially be extended indefinitely. Nonetheless, you should be prepared to prove your ties to Australia at all times. An intention to remain permanently in the United States may be grounds for denial. Ties to Australia may include a home, a return airline ticket, family connections or future job opportunities. You should also be unambiguous in your language if asked about your intentions to depart the United States upon expiration of your E-3 visa.

*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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