It's finally happened! It would have been nice to have this change pushed through 12 months ago, but better late than never. If you're filing an E-3 visa extension or moving to a new employer (a change of status) you can now do so with premium processing meaning that it's approved in days/weeks instead of months/years!
Straight from USCIS to you:
An Australian national who is outside the United States may apply for an E-3 nonimmigrant visa directly through the Department of State or, in the case of an individual already in the U.S., by filing Form I-129 with USCIS. To qualify for the E-3 classification, you must demonstrate, among other things, that you:
– Are a national of Australia;
– Have a legitimate offer of employment in the United States;
– Possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials; and
– Will fill a position that qualifies as a specialty occupation.
The USCIS premium processing service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of certain forms, generally within 15 days.https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-expands-premium-processing-service-to-e-3-petitioners
So what does this mean? Well it basically means that instead of having to wait the 240 days to get a yes/no (or RFE – Request for Evidence) back, you can now get it back in (normally) 15 days.
This is a game-changer for those Australians stuck in the US waiting for USCIS to confirm new employers or to extend work with their current employer (yes, both, more on that below).
The difference between a change of status and a new E3 visa
This difference is important and I've written a whole article about how this works here.
Long story short, an I-129 extension/transfer is not a visa. You can stay in the country and keep working, but if you leave the country, you won't be able to re-enter the US without going to a Consulate or Embassy and getting a new visa (just like always).
This changes your status in the country, it doesn't give you the ticket to enter it.
Can you add premium processing to an existing I-129 application?
Yes, you can. According to USCIS:
If you have already filed Form I-129 or Form I-140 and you now wish to request premium processing, file Form I-907 with the service center where your Form I-129 or Form I-140 is currently pending, along with a copy of the Form I-797, Receipt Notice, for your Form I-129 or Form I-140.https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing
So whether you're applying for a new I-129 or you have one pending right now, you can pay the fee, and have it come back a few days later with a result.
How much does premium processing an E-3 visa cost?
As per the fee schedule on USCIS, we can assume this will be updated shortly to include an E-3 visa at $2,500.
Does this apply to new employers or just extensions of existing visas with the same employer?
It's for both! You can use this processing for both applying for an extension to your current E3 visa status, or if you want to start with a new employer and have it ready to go in just 15 days!
This means, in theory, you could be offered a job, file a change of status on your existing visa, get it back in two weeks, start working with the new employer, then when you're ready to, go to a Consulate/Embassy and go get a visa like normal. No more being rushed out of the country!
How do you apply for premium processing on an E3 visa?
All information can be found on the USCIS official website but the long and short of it:
You must complete and sign Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, according to the instructions on the current version of the form.
If you are filing Form I-907 together with Form I-129 or Form I-140, you must file both forms according to the Form I-129 or I-140 instructions.
If you have already filed Form I-129 or Form I-140 and you now wish to request premium processing, file Form I-907 with the service center where your Form I-129 or Form I-140 is currently pending, along with a copy of the Form I-797, Receipt Notice, for your Form I-129 or Form I-140.
If we transferred your petition to another service center and you received a transfer notice, we strongly recommend that you submit your Form I-907 to the service center that is now handling your petition. You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid delays.https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing