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Can You Study Part-time or Full-time on an E-3 Visa?

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While the E-3 visa is a work visa available exclusively to Australian citizens, a common question among E-3 visa holders and applicants is whether they can pursue academic studies, either part-time or full-time, while on this visa. It's important to make sure that you are completely compliant with the visa's requirements to ensure you don't stray out of status, so what can you do (and what can't you?)

Let's get back to the essentials, first.

Understanding the E-3 Visa

Before exploring the study options, it's important to understand the primary purpose of the E-3 visa. This visa is specifically designed for Australian nationals to work in a specialty occupation in the United States. The key requirement is that the role should require specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or higher in the specific field.

Employer consideration and approval

You aren't coming to study with a side of work, your main focus must be on achieving exactly what is set out in your approved work contract and your LCA (which is attached to your E3 Visa once certified and approved.)

So the first thing you must think about is whether your employer approves of you studying. If that's going to conflict with your employment contract, then you're facing an uphill battle.

Balancing Work and Study

The second thing you must think about is whether study would appear to get in the way of your work. If, for example, your E3 is setup for full-time (40+ hours per week) and you take on a study course which is a similar full-time course-load, it's understandable that this might raise some red flags.

This kind of split focus can result in questions being asked by immigration, and can put your status in jeopardy, so be careful.

Focus on the spirit of the law, not the letter

It's not always that you need to comply with the letter of the law, it's also important to focus on the spirit of the law.

I hear a lot from those on visas and planning trips to the US that “technically…” they can do something, or that they've read into it and they can “get away” with it and my advice is always the same: Don't think you'll always be speaking to someone who is well versed in all of the nuance of the E3 visa; most of the time, you will be speaking to someone with a bare-bones understanding of it, and you want to ensure that you are not creating hurdles that make you easier to reject than approve.

Part-time Studies on an E-3 Visa

So if our employer is happy, what are the specifics of part-time study on an E3?

  1. Permissibility: E-3 visa holders are allowed to engage in part-time study. Since the primary purpose of the visa is employment, part-time studies should not interfere with the full-time job responsibilities.
  2. Flexibility: This arrangement offers flexibility for E-3 visa holders to enhance their skills and knowledge, which can be beneficial for their professional growth.

This one is much easier to justify and show that it really contributes to you as a whole and to the benefit of your employer as well.

Full-time Studies on an E-3 Visa

Part-time makes sense, but what about full-time offers for study? There are two main considerations here:

  1. Primary Purpose Issue: The E-3 visa is predominantly a work visa. Engaging in full-time studies could conflict with the visa's primary purpose, which is to hold a specialty occupation in the U.S. This is not necessarily definitive and there are plenty of people who have done so, but it's important to note.
  2. Potential Visa Status Change: If an E-3 visa holder wishes to switch to full-time studies, they would possibly instead need to change their visa status to a student visa category, such as an F-1 visa. This transition requires careful planning and adherence to immigration regulations.

You can do it, and this is not saying you can't, but you are going to really need to be able to justify how you're going to fit all of this in!

Can E-3 visa dependents study while they are in the US?

Yes, if you are a dependent on an E-3D, E-3S, or E-3Y you can study full-time or part time without an issue. Spouses can also earn an income on the E-3S but children cannot on the E-3Y.

As always, the best source of information is the official source, and this time ICE.gov has a wonderful resource about which visa status can study, and information about their dependents.

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 โ€“ and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety โ€“ the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

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