E3 visa: e3 visa for australians

By far the easiest way for an Australian Citizen to work in the USA is on an E3 Visa.

The E3 visa is a United States visa for which only citizens of Australia are eligible. It was created by an Act of the United States Congress as a result of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) for Australians going to the U.S. to work temporarily in a “specialty occupation”. A specialty occupation covers anyone with a Bachelor’s degree with a body of specialized knowledge. In my case this was a Bachelors in Computer Science, MBA and the specialty knowledge I held within the company which would ultimately help the International arm of the USA firm expand.

“The E3 visa allows for the temporary entry into the United States of individuals who are to perform services in a specialty occupation for a U.S. employer. It currently applies only to nationals of Australia, their spouses and children under the age of 21.”

How the E3 Visa looks in your passport

A bit about the E3

  • Takes around 1-2 months to organise.
  • Costs you a non-refundable application fee of US$131 and your employer (sponsor) around $4,000.
  • E-3 visa is renewable indefinitely (in 2 increments) as long as your employer is willing to sponsor you.
  • Spouses may work in the United States without restrictions on what is called E3D (D is for Dependent) once they have successfully filed and received a work permit (form I-765).
  • Your intention is to depart the United States upon expiration your authorized E3 stay.
  • Not a path to a Green Card.
  • You can only apply for th E3 within Australia. Not U.S. This creates some headache when wanting to switch to an E-3 offboard from a student scholarship or Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
  • You need to have a job offer from the U.S. before you can apply for the E-3 visa.

Why not H-1B (at first)

  • Takes longer to acquire.
  • Spouse cannot work and needs to be on a H4 dependent visa. Unless your spouse gets sponsored by a USA company for a H1B Visa.
  • Subject to the 65,000 annual world-wide visa limit. E-3 annual quota is 10,500 E3 visas to Australian’s only.

What your sponsor (the employer / their immigration attorney) may ask you for

  • Your & your partners history in the USA and where you stayed,
  • Prior USA visa details (Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is not counted),
  • Any prior refusals / cancellations to the USA,
  • Any immediate family that is a U.S. permanent resident or U.S. citizen,
  • Past 10 year history of travel around the world – for security purposes,
  • Countries which have issued you passports,
  • Your Bachelor’s degree for an “education evaluation”. Australian degrees are typically 3 years while USA 4 years. Uncle Bill needs values education highly, wants to see are a not cheap labor and are professional – nothing to worry about,
  • Your resume to show work history which may also be used to obtain the equivalent 4 year degree pass for Uncle Bill,
  • Military service details (if applicable).

What you need to do in Australia to organise the E3

Once your employer (your sponsor) has successfully lodged a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the US dept of Labor they advise you to organise an appointment with the US consulate. During this time while you wait for the LCA (green light), you should be doing your part to apply for the E3 visa.

Step 1: Get a head shot Photo from any Fuji shop. This will be a USA Visa photo and thus requirements are different then an Australian passport photo of 5×5cm. See here for a guide: http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/guide_3877.html

Step 2: Complete the online DS-160 application form and print the confirmation page. See here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

Step 3: Book an appointment online to your closest U.S. Consulate General. See here: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/ The wait time is around 2-4 weeks.

Step 4: Pay the application fee of US$131. This can only be done at the Australian Post, you walk in and tell them what you want to pay for. No need for any special document. They act like a holding bank for the US consulate.

Step 5: Gather additional required documents – your employer / attorney will provide these to you in the 1 bundle. These will be the documents the employer would have asked you (see above). You will need these for Step 6.

Step 6: Personally appear at the U.S. Consulate with:

  • Job offer letter,
  • DS-160 confirmation page,
  • Appointment confirmation,
  • Original Australia Post receipt confirming the payment of the Visa application fee,
  • Pre-paid self-addressed envelope (registered post) – make sure it’s those tough plastic envelopes since your passports will be coming back in this,
  • 2 passport sized photos for each required Visa
  • the bundle of documents your employer provided you.
  • and most importantly to get accepted in the interview, make sure you bring documents (evidence) which indicate you intend to return to Australia once employment ceases. This is done through documents like real estate investments, proof of a return airfare or financial ties. A statement is typically adequate. Don’t forget the intend of the E3 and your stay of 2 years.

It’s a bit of work from both sides but in the end it always pays off. Just don’t forget to communicate with your employer (sponsor) to speed up the process of organizing documents.


Can I apply for a Green Card on the E3?

  • There are risks. Since E3 is not a dual intent like the H visa’s, i.e. the intention to be here temporarily or to file for a green card. The way around this is to consular process for your green card. As a practical matter, when you have filed the second step of the green card process, you must disclose that on any immigration petition. An officer could decide not to renew the E3 even if you are going to consular process.

What other safer ways can I apply for a Green Card?

  • Ask your employer nicely if they can sponsor you on a H1B. You at maximum 5 months before the E3 expires. This is going to cost them a lot more than the E-3 but is definitely worth it if you and they value each others business.

What is the process of renewing the E-3

  • Start this process with your employer 5 months before your visa expires. You WILL have to leave USA to do this. You can either go back to Australia for a holiday or to Canada and apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate which processes non-immigrant petition-based visas. Read this PDF on more detail about extending your E3 visa: http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/E3_010606PR.pdf

Visa wait times

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

  • You can stay 10 days after you finish your job. This is NOT enough time to transfer your visa to a new employer (unless you started earlier) or apply for a different type of visa. You and your spouse (if under E3D) will be forced to leave the country. This is why you should carefully think about your intent in the USA before committing to anything long-term financially (house) or personally (starting a family).


Not many employers know what a E3, only H1B visa. If your company sponsored you then they know but if your spouse needs to find work on a E3D,  make sure you can educate them on the whole E3 visa, how it works and it’s similarity to the H1B visa.

If you are interested in the journey my wife had with getting the paperwork and job organized under a E3D visa as an Occupational Therapist then click here to read her story.

Check here for a reliable moving company that can arrange your move to New Zealand or Australia fast and effortless.

Online Resources

E3 Visa Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-3_visa

U.S. Consulate Genera in Australia: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/

Visa Passport requirements: http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/guide_3877.html

Consulate General of the United States – E3 Visa: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/visas/niv/e3.html
GROWUSA – International Recruitment agency that specialises in the placement of Australians and New Zealanders to work and live in the USA.

More Startups. More Jobs. – Support Innovation & Job Creation in America: http://startupvisa.com/

~ Ernest

Author: Ernest W. Semerda

Aussie in Silicon Valley. Veryfi CoFounder (#YC W17 cohort). GSDfaster Founder. View all posts by Ernest W. Semerda

20 thoughts on “E3 visa: e3 visa for australians”

  1. This was really useful, thanks!

    I’d never really considered moving to the USA but was recently approached by Amazon and then Facebook, and I had no idea how this would all work.

    1. Tom, that is great news you got approached by Amazon & Facebook. The lawyers in those companies will be familiar with the H1B. The E3 is just for Aussies and faster to get processed then the H1B. Ultimately if you want a green card you want to be on a H1B which you can do if you decide to 1st kick off your time on the E3. Best with everything and when your in the valley shoot me a msg and we can catchup.

  2. Hi Ernest. Thanks for your very informative website. I am an Aussie who has recently received a job offer from the US. They are in the process of filing for an E3. During the consular interview I am required to provide evidence that I intend to return to Australia (which I do). I’m in my mid 20s and sadly don’t have any property/investments or assets to show my ties to Australia. My family (parents/siblings) all live in Australia. Would it be sufficient to prepare a statement that I still have family ties here in Australia? I also intend to return this December for Christmas..so I’m likely to purchase a return airfare. Would this be sufficient?? I’m just worried that this might not be enough. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Hi Ernest,

    Thanks for this post!

    You seem to know a lot about the E3 and also the E3D. Maybe you will be able to help me in my situation.

    My husband is Australian and works on a E3D here in California. I am German and I have a E3D. He got his Visa in December 2011 therefore it is valid until December 2013. Consequently so is mine. When I moved over to California last summer and applied for my working permit in August, I received a working permit which is valid from September 27 2012 until October 31 2013, even though our visas are valid until December 21 2013. I am not sure why those dates were chosen.
    For this matter I will have to send again to the Homeland security my current visa to make my working permit valid until December 21 2013.

    What I am worried about now is how to have a continuous working permit in December, since my husband and I first need to leave the country, get a new visa, re-enter the country, and once back I will have to reapply for a working permit based on my new visa. This would mean that I may have up to 3 months where I won’t be eligible to work. As long as I am doing freelancing/ temp jobs it is sort of okay but should I have a chance to get a permanent position I believe that this could become a problem for my employer if I explain that I may not be allowed to work during a specific period of time.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any information concerning that matter. Should you or your wife have any suggestions I would be more than happy!

    Thanks for you help!

    1. Hi Natalie, your husband is the primary holder so he should be on E3 not E3D where D is the dependent. Unless I missed something here?

      If you are getting a new Visa then yes you have to leave the country. If you are renewing a Visa you do not. Unless you want it stamped inside your passport for outside USA travel reasons.

      If you are changing Visa’s then do it asap since this is a very long process esp if the consulate in your country delays you (had it happen to me).

      Shoot me an email so I can better understand your situation and run it past some folks I know. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for all the info 🙂

    I was just wondering, does a 3 year Bachelor’s degree from Australia qualify for the eduction requirements? There seems to be conflicting information on this topic since US Bachelor’s degrees are 4 years. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



  5. The visa is renewable unlimited times (not 2 times like the H1b). Transfer of visa to a new sponsor must be done 10 days before. It’s not as bad as you’re making out here. Apart from that, everything else looks ok.

    1. Hi Lee,
      I just saw your post. My husband and I are looking at applying for a green card based on our E3 visa. I would love to ask you a few questions about how you managed it. Can you contact me directly? siewke at gmail dot com. Thanks

  6. Hi Ernest, great article. I’m a bit worried however about the ‘intent to return to Australia’. I do intend to return but just graduated uni and have no assets or financial ties to Australia. From your experience, how strict are they with this kind of ‘proof’ and what can I do about it in my situation? Thanks!

    1. E3 will be hard without any proof of intent to return to AU. Try to get a H1B then. But either way you still need an employer to sponsor you so visit the USA and interview. Unless you want to start your own business in the US then you can come on a E2 investors visa.

    2. They are not at all strict on intent to return. Never come up as a question for me in 5 x E-3s I had prior to getting my green card.

      Ernest is right though, you need the job first. Some companies also prefer to sponsor on H-1B rather than E-3. Unless you have a spouse that you also need to have the right to work, E-3 may not necessarily be that huge of an advantage.

  7. Hi Ernest, thank you! Your blog is a great resource.

    Wondering if you or Urszula have a good link or reference for E3D visa renewal. I can’t seem to find information on what is required.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *