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The difference between extending an E3 status (I-129) and renewing an E3 visa 2024

There is basically constant confusion online as to the difference between extending your E3 status in the United States, and actually renewing your E3 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. So what's the major difference between the two and which one should you do? Do they impact each other and can they help each other?

I spend a lot of time on Facebook groups and in chats with people asking each other how to make sure they can stay working in the United States on an E3 visa. Ultimately this comes down to two choices: renewing your E3 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate, or, extending your E3 status in the United States through USCIS (via an I-129).

The two of these are significantly different, and it's important you understand the differences between the two before deciding on a path.

What's the difference between “status” and a visa?

This is at the core of the question and it's good that you're asking, here's immigration lawyer, Doug Lightman from Lightman Immigration talking with me about it.

Here's the breakdown: “A visa allows you to request entry into the United States.” When you enter, you are now in an E3 visa “status”. The visa allows you to enter into a status in the United States.

Now, let's explain the process for each:

How to renew your E3 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate

In this scenario you are ultimately going to end up with a new visa sticker (they call it a stamp, but it's a sticker) in your passport. This will have a date that is up to 2 years in the future and the visa is the pass that allows you to enter the United States from overseas.

A renewal of an E3 visa is virtually identical to getting the inital E3 visa that you already have:

  1. You get a new certified LCA for the dates of your employment;
  2. You fill in a DS-160;
  3. You make an appointment at an embassy or consulate*
  4. You attend an appointment with all of this in your hand;
  5. You get approved and they take your passport;
  6. You collect (or are sent) your passport with a new visa stamp in it.

You'll find the step-by-step process to getting an E3 visa here and there are guides for how to do all of these steps on there.

This is the ideal scenario, but you'll notice I put a little * next to #3, because right now, due to COVID, this step is nearly impossible to achieve without an approved emergency appointment or some extreme luck. More on that below.

How to extend your E3 status while staying in the United States (via USCIS)

This is a slightly more difficult process because USCIS scrutinizes applications a bit more closely than the embassies and consulates do. The concept is the same, but the practice is different.

If you are in legal status in the United States, you can file to extend that using a new LCA and an I-129 (but not in all cases). It's a bunch of paperwork sent off to USCIS and while that's processing you generally have to stay in the country.

When you file internally to extend your status, you also immediately get 240 more days status (your status is defined by your I-94) without even getting the approval back. This is a great stop-gap while we wait for consulates and embassies to re-open!

This paperwork gets returned with an approval or an “RFE” (Request for Evidence) which requires you to send more information about yourself, the job, and the employer (all or some of this).

Once you are approved, you can stay in the country for as long as your status has been extended (generally in-line with your LCA).

Please note: If you have dependents, or if your visa isn't an E3, or a multitude of other conditions, this might not be right for you. Be sure to consult with an immigration attorney before you do this, because I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Update February 24, 2021: USCIS has recently announced premium processing for E-3 visas meaning that internally changing status has come down from months to weeks!

So what's the difference between the two?

The fundamental difference between the two is that the visa allows you to remain in the country AND then re-enter if you leave (on holiday, or for any other reason), whereas the status allows you to remain in the United States only.

If you extend your status in the United States, you can keep working and remain legally in the country, but once you leave, you're out, you have to go through the whole application at the embassy or consulate from above if you want to re-enter.

Why would I want to extend my status and not get a new visa (especially during COVID)?

So the question I get asked a lot is why would you need to use this path?

The answer is that throughout COVID we've seen that many places where you would normally get a new visa or renew an old visa are no longer open to applications and you therefore can't actually use their services!

For this reason, the extension of status is a great solution so you can remain working with your current employer and remain legally in the country for longer! Once embassies and consulates open again, you would then go there, get a new visa, re-enter and we're back to square one!

When you file internally to extend your status, you also immediately get 240 more days status (your status is defined by your I-94) without even getting the approval back. This is a great stop-gap while we wait for consulates and embassies to re-open!

Can you change employer with a change of status and remain in the United States?

Yes, but it's tough because right now it's taking around 6-9 months to get the confirmation back and you can't work with the new employer during that wait time. You also can't leave the country and return (if your visa has expired already).

A new visa would allow you to get a new employer and re-enter right away.

Does an extension in the US affect my E3 visa renewal when I do leave the United States and file for a renewal?

When you receive an approval in the US and are holding an I-797A there may come a time where you want to leave the US and get an actual visa.

This USCIS internal extension doesn't really do anything when it comes to filing for a new visa at a US Embassy or Consulate (unfortunately). You should definitely bring it along and have it on-hand as it would be supportive of your application, but in and of itself it doesn't really change anything.

The process is the same: You need to do everything like you would if you had not gotten the internal extension.

Can I re-use an LCA for an E3 visa renewal if I used the same LCA fora USCIS extension?

Yes, but you likely don't want to.

LCAs don't get “used up”, they are simply a document from the Department of Labor that says your employer has the legal right to offer employment to you. You then take that support with you when you get an extension or renewal, but it's not attached to that particular extension/renewal in any way.

So yes, you can file again with the same LCA, but you likely don't want to do that because it will mean that you are missing out on good visa time available to you.

Why do I say this? Well let's say you filed internally, and got a 2 year extension, then stay in the US for 1 year. Half way through your extension. If you leave the US and go to a Consulate or Embassy for a renewal, and use the same LCA, the LCA will show that you are only able to be employed for one more year (in line with your extension) so your visa will reflect that too.

If you instead filed for a new LCA, then you would be able to keep working for up to two years on that approved visa. A much better solution, especially when getting a visa appointment is such a painful process.

How early can I apply for a new E3 visa?

In theory you can apply for a new visa the day after you got your current one. There's no actual limit to how early you can apply because you're going through the whole process from start to finish (so it's the same as getting a new one).

In practice, though, it's easiest to hold out to within 6 months of your last one expiring if you're staying with your current employer, just because you might get asked why you're doing it so early. Officers can add more scrutiny of they don't understand what you're doing, so if you are going early, just be sure to have a reason (e.g. “I was visiting family and this timing worked best!”)

How do I do all this extending and renewing?

Speak to an immigration attorney, here are some I trust!

This stuff isn't all that straight forward and you don't want to run afoul of immigration, especially if your plan is to live and work in the US for a while longer.

Don't mess around.

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

87 thoughts on “The difference between extending an E3 status (I-129) and renewing an E3 visa 2024”

  1. Hi there Josh,

    I am currently in the US and I am about to start the renewal process with my work for another E3 visa. Do I need to be out of the country to submit the LCA and/or the DS-160?

    Thanks!!

  2. I am in the process of changing employer on E3 whilst in the US under premium processing. I have a masters degree and the new role is in Sales/account management. Today USCIS sent a RfE but but we don’t have the details of what it could be. Do you know what they could ask for?

  3. Hi Josh,

    Thank you so much for creating this page, it is very helpful and informative!

    I have a question about E3 renewals. My visa and my dependents’ visas (Wife and 2 kids) are going to expire on February 2024 and we would like to renew them the soonest in Australia. Since this is the first time that we will be renewing the visas I am not sure if it’s only me that needs to appear at the US embassy in Australia or if my wife needs to be there in person as well. When we got the visas both me and my wife had to present ourselves at the US embassy but not our kids. Do renewals require the individuals who presented themselves before to appear personally at the US embassy again?

    Best regards,
    Manny

      1. Hi Josh,
        I have a question about E3 renewals. My visa and my dependents’ visas (Wife and 2 kids) have expired and we have had difficulty renewing. I am looking at options to travel back to Australia.
        Do both my wife and I need to attend the renewal appointment, or can I travel alone?
        Thanks in advance

  4. Hey Josh!
    Sorry if you’ve touched on this already, I couldn’t find an answer on your other blog posts. I’m currently looking at renewing my E3 visa.

    My current visa expires in January, however September is the month that I can afford to spend time away from the office so wanted to renew a few months early. My new LCA just came back however my employer put Jan 2024-Jan2026 as my new employment dates (to continue on from my previous LCA). Do you happen to know if my previous LCA will still allow me entry back into the USA or if this new one overrides the previous dates? I wouldn’t want to renew only to find out that I can’t return until 10 days before the commencement date of the new LCA (I hope that makes sense).

    Thank you so much for all your help, your page has been an incredible resource!

    1. So your new visa will be aligned to your new LCA dates, so it’s not going to be super handy for you. You will likely best bet want to file another LCA if you can (there’s no issue with doing another one).

  5. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for running this great blog! My apologies in advance if you have already answered a similar question. My current E3 visa expires in Oct ’24, however my current LCA expires in Oct ’23. My workplace is in the process of submitting the documents for a new LCA so there is no break in employment (my position will be the same). In terms of traveling outside of the US, once I have the new LCA will I be able to re-enter the US with the current E3 stamp that is valid until ’24 and the new LCA? Thanks so much much.

  6. Hey Josh!

    My wife and I are gearing up to renew our e3 and E3S respectively. We have renewed once before via mail in Australia which was a very smooth process. This time however we are planning on renewing in another country, probably Mexico or Japan depending on appointment availability.

    I had a quick question regarding the E3S renewal – do I need to wait for my wife’s E3 to be processed before I can apply, or can we apply concurrently? I don’t remember exactly what we did last time, and am struggling to find info specifically on the E3S renewal. Appreciate any insight or tips you may have. Thanks again!

  7. Hey Josh,

    Firstly, just wanted to say thanks for running this blog! So helpful for people like me πŸ™‚

    So my Visa expires early Jan 2024 and I want to go back home for Christmas. Am I able to renew my visa before it expires? Or do I have to wait until it expires before I renew.
    This is probably a less common question but the company I currently work for and got my visa with is merging with another and changing its name. The new company will have a different tax number etc so should I start the process of changing my employer now? Or do I do it at the time of renewal?

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Thanks, Sam! πŸ™‚ You can renew anytime, no issue. They say waiting within 6 months of expiry is best practice just to make it easier for everyone and not raise too many eyebrows.

      So you need to do some adjustments if the tax number (EIN) of your employer is going to be a different employer. You are attached to that EIN. I would recommend speaking to an immigration attorney as you’re technically working for a whole new employer and should go through the process right away.

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