Common E-3 Visa Questions
What is an E-3 Visa?
The E-3 visa is a relatively new visa category established in 2005 for nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia. With an E-3 Visa, Australian nationals can enter the United States and work in a specialty occupation. E-3 Classification was created as part of Public Law 109-13, “The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” which established the category for Australians in specialty occupations. Similar to the H-1B there is a limit to the number of E-3 Visas available to Australian nationals, however most of these numbers go unused each fiscal year. And even with the numerical limitation there are several advantages to opting for an E-3 Visa.
Do I qualify for an E-3 Visa?
Although the best way to answer this question is via a free, no-obligation evaluation with an attorney, there are some general requirements that must be met:
- The beneficiary must be an Australian national;
- The prospective employment must be a specialty occupation;
- The beneficiary must have the required academic background for the offered specialty occupation; AND
- The employer must be willing to pay the minimum prevailing wage for the position.
What is a specialty occupation?
According to the regulations, a “specialty occupation” is a job that requires “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge to perform the occupation”. Generally speaking, a “specialty occupation” must meet at least ONE of the following criteria:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher or the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree is normally the minimum requirement for entry into the position;
- This requirement (a bachelor’s degree, its equivalent, or higher) is common to the industry (i.e. similar companies offering parallel positions also require a bachelor’s degree or higher) or, in the alternative, the employer may show that its particular position is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by an individual with a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent;
- The sponsoring employer normally requires a bachelor’s degree, or higher, or its equivalent for the position; OR
- The job duties are so specialized and complex that knowledge required to perform the job duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The above are guidelines as to what constitutes a specialty occupation. There are numerous occupations that are frequently considered specialty occupations including: architects; engineers; professors; teachers; lawyers/attorneys; other related legal positions; programmers; computer systems analysts; database administrators; computer-related occupations; accountants; financial analysts; budget analysts; economists; management consultants; public relations and communication specialists; doctors; dentists; physical therapists; dietitians; medicine and health related occupations; writers; editors; artists of varying types; librarians; archivists; marketing and advertising positions; social workers…and the list goes on! It is impossible to list each and every job that could be considered a specialty occupation, so please don’t panic if you don’t see yours here. Just contact us!
What if I don’t have a Bachelor’s Degree?
Will I still qualify for a specialty occupation? It is possible to substitute experience for education. As a general rule of thumb three (3) years of experience in a specific job is equal to one (1) year of education, so the lack of a bachelor’s degree doesn’t automatically disqualify you from E-3 status.
What if my degree is unrelated to the specialty occupation?
This is where experience matters, and Lightman Law Firm has the experience needed to guide you the E-3 process. A good Immigration lawyer will closely evaluate your unique circumstances and find the connections between specific coursework and your work experience. Using this strategy it may be possible to obtain an evaluation equating your education and work experience (or just education) to the equivalent of a certain degree.
What type of documents and information do I need to submit for an E-3 visa application?
Documentation requirements vary depending on whether you apply directly at the consulate or go through a USCIS service center. Either way you’ll still need to provide a certified Labor Condition Applicatoin (“LCA” or “ETA-9035”), a letter from the prospective employer or other documentation offering work in a specialty occupation at a salary that meets or exceeds the prevailing wage for that occupation, and proof that the beneficiary’s academic or other credentials meet the requirements for the offered position. For certain professions, you will also need to submit certified copies of licenses or other permission(s) to practice as needed. For a general overview of the specific information and documents needed, please view the following video:
Where do I file an E-3 visa application?
An E-3 visa application can always be applied for directly at a United States Consulate abroad. If the applicant is in the United States in a valid nonimmigrant status, the E-3 may also be applied for by submitting a change of status applicaton to a USCIS Service Center. For more info on where to file, please see the following blog post: Learn Where to Apply for an E-3 Visa.
Does it matter if I go to a United States Consulate abroad or file with USCIS?
If you are situated outside of the US, you must apply directly at a United States Consulate. If you are in the United States in a status that tolerates a change of status (the visa waiver ESTA program does not tolerate a change of status), then you may trigger E-3 status by either applying in the United States through the Vermont Service Center or by applying at a United States Consulate abroad. It is usually more logical and efficient to apply for an E-3 visa at a United States Consulate abroad regardless of your circumstances since it could take 2-3 months to trigger the E-3 status in the United States (premium processing is not available for E-3s) and if you ever want to travel internationally you will need to apply for an E-3 visa stamp from abroad anyway. The E-3, like the E-2 and E-1, is one of the few visa statuses that does not require a petition approval in the United States through USCIS in order to obtain the status as it allows for applications to be submitted directly at a United States Consulate without a prior petition approval. For example, the H-1B and O-1 always require a petition approval in the United States no matter where you’re situated.
If I’m applying for an E-3 visa at a United States Consulate, does it matter which Consulate I go to?
If possible, we usually advise clients to apply for their E-3 visas at a United States Consulate in Australia. Obviously, if you’re in the United States or another country, a trip to Australia can be quite lengthy. In some scenarios, you may be able to apply for an E-3 visa at a third country Consulate, such as in Canada, Barbados or the United Kingdom.
While every case is different, Australian nationals should definitely explore E-3 Visa options. The consular processing option can greatly reduce the turnaround time on visa approval and entrance into the United States. Additionally as E-3 visa petitions are not subject to Fraud or ACWIA fees, filing one is less costly than applying for an H or an L visa. Finally, there is no max out date for E-3 visa holders, and an E-3 visa can be extended indefinitely.
How long can I maintain E-3 status?
E-3 visas are granted for a period that cannot exceed the validity of the LCA. An LCA for an E-3 can be requested for a time period of up to two (3) years. Extensions of stay in two (2) year increments can be granted indefinitely as long as the LCA is valid. This means that with E-3 status, you never have to worry about “maxing out” of your status.
What if I have a spouse and/or children?
The spouse and children of E-3 Visa holders can also apply for E-3 visas. Additionally your dependents do not need to be Australian nationals, and are not subject to the E-3 quota. E-3 status will allow your dependents to enter the US, attend school, and maintain valid legal status. Additionally, the spouses in E-3 status can apply for employment authorization. The spouses of H1B holders (H4) cannot work in the United States.
What is a Labor Condition Applicatoin and where do I get one?
As part of our services, we will prepare and submit a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) online on behalf of your employer. We will work closely with you to identify the right combination of education and experience for your position, determine the prevailing wage, and file the LCA online. You must have a certified LCA in order to apply for an E-3 visa.
What start date can I request for my E-3 visa employment?
Since the quota for E-3 visas is rarely reached, E-3 visa holders can start at any date within the calendar year, and are not required to start on October 1st like new H-1B visa holders.
What if I don’t live in New York City?
Don’t live in New York City? No problem! We take great pride in offering the same stellar level of service to individuals whether they are located across the street, across the country, or across the globe. Whether we meet in person, over the phone, or using the internet, our strong communication will be an asset to your case.
How long does it take?
Turnaround time really depends on how long it takes our clients to gather the information required to submit an application. Generally turnaround time is 7 days once we have all the required information. Visa approval time depends on whether you opt for consular processing or file for a change of status with USCIS. Consular processing can generate an approval almost immediately whereas an application filed in the United States with USCIS can take up to a couple of months. Premium processing is not currently available with E-3 visas. In most E-3 visa situations, consular processing is advised.
How much are the E-3 visa application fees?
If filing directly at a United States Consulate abroad, you will have a visa application fee of $205. If you are filing in the United States because you are already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status, you will have a petition fee of $460. Keep in mind that if you want to travel internationally, you will have to apply for a visa anyway at a Consulate abroad and therefore incur the $205 fee. Please call use to discuss our legal fee. Rest easy, Lightman Law Firm takes great pride in offering the highest level of service at an affordable FLAT rate, and we will never pressure you to work with us.
What are the E-3 Visa Lawyer legal fees for E-3 representation?
Give us a call and we will be happy to discuss our fees with you. Rest easy, Lightman Law Firm prides itself in offering the highest level of service at an affordable FLAT rate. You will never experience any pressure or obligation to work with us.
Put our E-3 Visa Lawyer experience to work for you. Contact us to discuss your case: 212-643-0985, email us or fill out the contact form above.