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.”
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.
- 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.
Can I apply for a Green Card on the E3?
- 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 other safer ways can I apply for a Green Card?
- 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
What is the process of renewing the E-3
- The following website lists updated wait time to receive an interview appointment to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and typical wait time for your visa to be processed: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html
Visa wait times
- 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).
How long can I stay in the U.S. after I finish my job?
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.
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/