E-3, Specialty Occupation for Australians
E-3 visa classification was created by a treaty and is available only to Australian nationals. The requirements for E-3 classification are nearly identical to those for H-1B status, with some important exceptions.
E-3 beneficiaries must be coming to the United States solely to perform services in a specialty occupation. The specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields and at least the attainment of a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
To qualify for E-3 visa classification, one must:
- Be an Australian national;
- Be sponsored for U.S. employment by a United States employer who has obtained a certified Labor Condition Application on behalf of the foreign worker;
- Be entering the U.S. to work in a specialty occupation requiring attainment of a bachelor's degree or equivalent in a specific academic field; and
- Possess the necessary bachelors degree or equivalent in the required field.
Unlike most employment-based nonimmigrant classifications, E-3 status does not require that the petitioner obtain an approved I-129 petition with USCIS prior to the alien’s visa application. Rather, the applicant may apply for a visa directly at a U.S. consulate abroad (typically, a U.S. consulate in Australia, though consulates in other countries may offer Australian nationals visa processing for E-3 classification as third country nationals), without ever having obtained an approved petition.
For those E-3 applicants who are already in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status, the U.S. employer/petitioner may file an I-129 petition on his or her behalf to change his status to E-3. Often, this option is not chosen, however, due to the amount of time that it takes. E-3 petitions, like visa applications, must be supported by a certified Labor Condition Application, which takes approximately 7-10 days to process. In addition, I-129 processing can often take months, and USCIS’s “Premium Processing” service is not available on E-3s. Due to these processing delays, it is often quicker for the E-3 applicant to leave the country once the Labor Condition Application has been certified, apply for a visa abroad, and reenter the United States in E-3 status.
E-3 status is granted for an initial 2-year period and can be extended in 2-year increments with no limit on the number of extensions.
Those E-3 applicants who seek to change to a new E-3 employer must either: (1) have a new E-3 petition filed and approved with the new employer prior to changing jobs or, (2) leave the US, obtain a new E-3 visa in connection with the new employer, and return to the U.S. to begin the new employment. Again, due to the time it takes for the petition to be approved, the latter option is often chosen.
Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 are entitled to E-3 status as derivatives. E-3 spouses may obtain employment authorization by applying separately for that benefit following admission to the U.S. in E-3 status.