Wow, I’ve really been inundated with emails from visitors to my weblog asking about the E3 Visa. I’ve done the best I can in answering everyone’s questions but now it’s gotten so frequent (particularly in the last couple of months) that I just decided to just post up this FAQ up. Most of the information I provide here is available from government sites and other blog/FAQs, but here I’ll answer for you in Layman’s terms.
Please remember I’m not an immigration lawyer and I don’t take any responsibility for the correctness of any of the info I just provided. Read at your own will!
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If your question isn’t answered here, please feel free to send me an email, but please remember I am a really busy guy but will do my best to answer your question in a timely manner.
I’d like to thank all the people who have helped me keep this information up to date including applicants and immigration lawyers.
Best of luck to everyone
These are the most common questions asked (last update April 24 2010):
1. Who qualifies for an E3 visa?
An E3 visa can be granted to an “Australian Citizen” whom has found a sponsor for employment in the United States. The job must be categorized as a “specialty occupation”. This term is a little vague but it generally goes for professionals such as IT occupations, Engineeering, Medical Professionals, etc. Typically a bachelor’s degree from a credited university or equivalent work experience is required (3 years experience for every year of education lacking). The speciality occupation category is the same as that defined for the H1b visa.
2. How long does the whole process take?
Typically from what I’ve seen from others who have successfully attained an E-3, It takes about 3-4 weeks. That said, mine has taken approximately 3 months, but I had a special case as mine underwent administrative processing.
3. What is the process?
Well, first thing is first, and go and find yourself a sponsor!
Let them know that you are Australian and are eligible for one of those nice and cheap E3s (compared to H1bs).
Second, you or your employer (most likely employer) will need to lodge a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the US dept of Labor. This is form ETA 9035 and MUST be annotated with the words: “E-3 – Australia – to be processed”. You should have your LCA returned to you within 7 days. If the employer’s FEIN has not been verified by filing an LCA in the past, it can take longer.
It seems you can do this online now and receive your LCA immediately at http://www.lca.doleta.gov/
Once you have your LCA, you then make an apointment with the US consulate and apply for the E3 visa. Depending on which consulate you go to, you should make your appointment as soon as you get your LCA as the wait times (especially in Sydney) are super long, and you may need to wait up to a month before you actually attend your appointment.
At your appointment, you must not forget to bring with you the following:
1. Your LCA
2. A completed visa application (DS-160)
3. The letter of job offer from your employer
4. Evidence of Academic or equivalent qualification (typically your bachelors degree)
5. Evidence of ties to your country, e.g. Real Estate, Family, Educational, Financial ties etc.
6. 2 passport sized photos (American passport photos are (5x5cm)
7. Your current Passport
8. A reciept from Australia Post saying that you paid the “US non-immigrant visa fee”
9. A self addressed stamped envelope (preferably registered post) for the return of your passport
ok, phew so after all that! If all goes well in your appointment, you might be lucky enough for them to tell you to come and pick up your passport the next day with the visa in it.
4. Is the visa dual intent? Can I apply for Permanent Residency/Green card later?
“Technically”..No! That said, if you speak to an immigration lawyer, they maybe able to accommodate you by knowing the specifics of your case. Generally, you must provide evidence that Australia is your No.1, and that you intend to return to it once employment ceases. I had family, educational, and financial ties to show as evidence of my intent to return. Usually a statement to the consulate officer is sufficient.
5. Well, can I switch to H1b from E3?
You are going to have to do some great convincing to your employer though on why they should switch you from a cheap E3 to an expensive H1B but technically yes you can. In fact I have done this after my E-3 visa expired.
6. How long is it valid for?
The visa expires after 2 years but it is indefinetly renewable, so as long as your employer is willing to sponsor you, you can potentially stay as long as you like. (But forget about residency!)
7. How do you find a job?
Well, it’s about the same way you would back in Australia. So whatever approach you would use there, it’s the same way here
Just ring around, research your industry, find those companies that would be desperate for your ‘special skills’ and get in contact with them. Might even be worthwhile giving the US a visit.
Be weary of agents who claim that they can help you with this. Make sure you research any company or agent thoroughly before signing anything.
8. Is it possible to work freelance with this Visa?
I seriously doubt it! Although I can’t find any official information on this regarding the E-3, I’m taking an educated guess!
Since the E3 practically follows 90% of the rules and regulations governing the H1B…
Under H1B, the visa holder MUST ONLY WORK for the sponsoring employer and MUST ONLY do the job duties specified in the visa petition. Under H1B, You can however change employers by having the new employer file an I-129. The I-129 (Petition for non-immigrant worker) also just happens to be the same form used to extend an E-3 visa and the same details regarding your employer, work, qualifications must be submitted again.
E-3D (E-3 dependent) visa holders however are entitled to work without restriction once they have successfully filed and received a work permit (form I-765).
It is often annotated on your E-3 visa who your sponsoring employer is.
9. How do you transfer an E3 visa from one employer to the next?
To be honest, not 100% sure cause there is still currently a lack of information on it. However, if it is anything like the H1-B process (which it likely is), then all you would need to do is to tell your new sponsor to apply for a visa transfer which will likely involve filling out a form I-539 (change nonimmigrant status) and maybe a new I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant worker). You will probably need to obtain a new LCA too. All you need then is your current I-94 and a few pay stubs from your original sponsor. You wouldn’t need permission from your original sponsor.
Unfortunately though, one thing is for certain, and that is that portability provisions do not apply to E-3 holders so unlike the H1-B you can’t move to a new employer until you have a new E-3 approved.
If you change employers or renew the E-3 with USCIS in the US, you need to file an I-129 (petition for non-immigrant worker) and I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) for family members.
10. How did you qualify for the visa?
I am currently a motion picture digital effects specialist (Technical Director). I use to work for one of Australia’s leading post-production houses. When I first filed for my E-3, I had a job offer with a major digital effects company in Los Angeles to work on the feature film “Beowulf”.
11. Can you change status to E-3 after entering on the visa waiver program?
No!, you can’t change status to any visa on the visa waiver program. You must leave the country.
12. How long should you wait before re-applying for an E3 visa if denied?
If you were denied your visa, you may re-apply for the visa any time you wish. You should only re-apply if the circumstances that had you denied in the first place has changed, or if you have additional information that was missing last time. If you were denied due to lack of proof showing ties to your country, then it might be a good idea to hang around for a bit before re-applying. You will need to pay a new application fee.
13. How long can you stay in the US after you have quit/lost your job, and do you have time to transfer to a new employer?
You have 10 days to depart the US after termination of employment. I think it’s difficult to get a visa transfered within 10 days as it should usually take around the same time as it did when you applied for one in the first place. The only way I see this working is if you had a new job lined up before you quit your old one, and thus began the transfer process well before you actually quit your first job. This is how some of my friends on H1-b have gone about it.
14. What is administrative processing, and why did the consulate not give me my visa?
Unfortunately, I know all about this one, as it’s happened to me not once, but twice!
Administrative processing is a blanket term for “background checks” on the applicant. Something in your application may have triggered it, and I don’t know specifically but my guess from experience is that it could be something as simple as a “name check”, a “dual citizenship”, whatever..
The Consulate needs to clear any conflicts before issuing you a visa. Funnily enough, the system is so bureaucratic that it doesn’t matter if you’ve gone through it once before, each case is considered a “new case”, so if you’ve had to go through it once, then sadly you will most likely have to go through it again the next time you apply for a visa.
15. How long does administrative processing take?
When I applied for my E-3 in early 2006, it took 6 weeks, the second time when I applied for my H1-B in late 2008, it took 4 months!
There seems to be no real schedule for how long this process takes. I’m sorry.
16. Is there anything I can do to speed up my administrative processing?
Unfortunately no. Some people however claim that consulting with a local congressional representative seems to help out but I can’t verify this nor do I advise it (in case it could make matters worse).
Anyway, I’ll keep adding to this post as more questions keep coming up! I hope this helps a bit! If you found this post helpfull, then leave a nice little comment will ya?
Also, if you have any updates or notice any misleading information on this FAQ, I would appreciate an email so that I can update accordingly.
….oh yes, and this is all subject (and likely) to change in the future, so don’t come back in 5 years and tell me I was wrong.