If you're an Australian Citizen and you want to move to the United States, then it's likely that your best pathway is to get an E-3 visa. The E3 is a specialty visa only for Australians that allows you to work and live in America for up to two years in a specialty occupation.
In summary, E-3 visa applicants must be:
- Australian citizens
- Holders of at least a Bachelor's degree OR have the equivalent experience/training (approx. 12 years)
- Going to the United States solely to work in a “specialty occupation” (a job that requires the Bachelor's degree you have) which pays greater than the “prevailing wage”
What is a specialty occupation?
As “specialty occupation” is one that requires:
- A theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and
- The attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
While there is no definitive list of occupations eligible for the E3 visa, a useful way to work out whether the job you're applying for is using the O*NET Online website. This website allows you to search for jobs and see what percentage of people have higher degrees. You want jobs that require mostly Bachelor or higher.
How to get an E3 Visa
The process can be broken down into stages but overall takes approximately six weeks from initial filings to visa in your hand after you have received a job offer.
The average timeline for getting an E-3 visa:
- Finding a job – 3+ months
- Interviewing for a job – 2-4 weeks
- Offer negotiation – 1-2 weeks
- LCA writing & approval – 2 weeks
- Interview wait time & document compiling – 2-10 weeks (dependent on location)
- Visa interview – 10 minutes
- Passport return with approved E3 visa – 1-2 weeks
1. Find a job for an E3 Visa
You're going to find mixed opinions on whether you can find a job from Australia or whether you need to visit the US to look for work, and in my opinion, it's heavily dependent on your work history, your experience, the level of employment you're going for, and which industry you're in. You should make sure that your resume is up to date and has been Americanized, and you've got easy-to-find contact details based in the US. You want to pass the first hurdles and look as easy to employ as possible, so don't look too far away!
Ultimately though, I think the key is networking. You are much less likely to find work if you're applying cold through online portals than you are if you have a connection (even if it's distant and small). Any introduction will open doors faster than a tweaked cover letter (but both are very important).
Once you’ve landed a job offer, that’s a big deal. Yes, the visa process can seem daunting – but from here, there’s no use worrying about what your new employer is going to think. Play it cool, stay organized, and hopefully, your new employer will follow your lead.
2. Writing the E3 visa offer letter
This is the first thing you need before moving forward. It must outline that your new job is both: 1. A full-time specialty service occupation requiring your degree; and 2. Include the salary being offered for your professional services.
Ideally, it will also include:
- A brief overview of the company and where your position fits in;
- A rundown of responsibilities and duties associated with your position;
- Any special tools/ tech that will be used; and
- An explanation of why you are qualified for the position (referencing your degree and any relevant experience).
Yes – this is going to be longer and more detailed than a normal job offer letter. That’s why I suggest drafting a copy for your employer to sign off on, based on the formal offer letter they give you and including the supplementary information above.
You'll then have two documents: A short (and more normal) letter of offer, and a longer and more detailed letter that will more directly check off the requirements for an E3 visa.
3. How to file the LCA for an E3 visa
The next step requires your employer to file an LCA (Labor Condition Application, Form ETA 9035) with the US Department of Labor. This is the piece of paperwork where I found having a lawyer to be most helpful, as it’s very specific and not necessarily common sense.
I've written a full guide to the LCA here (it's a whole article in and of itself). You can also find general instructions from the Department of Labor here as well which will answer some more technical questions.
Most employers should do this for you (the actual submission must be the employer); however, it is important to understand what it contains. Once the LCA is “Certified”, have your employer print the document, sign it, and send the signed and certified document back to you.
4. The DS-160 and Booking Your Appointment to get an E3 visa
Next, you must fill out the DS-160 form and book your consulate appointment. The DS-160 form is very comprehensive and will take you some time to get through. Have your passport and any previous US visas on hand, as well as dates for previous travel to the US. Do this very carefully and slowly.
I've written a full guide to the DS-160 here. It's a lot of steps and you'll get bored multiple times but make sure you do it carefully. This guide also includes location advice for getting your appointment and a ranking of the best places to get visas right now.
When you find an appointment and select it you will be given strict instructions on how to proceed and what's required of the location you're visiting. Whether you've done it before or not, be sure to check through this carefully as it can include information about where to attend and how.
5. Attending your E3 Visa interview (the E3 Checklist)
You’ll receive specific instructions upon booking your appointment, which will detail what you can and can’t take into the consulate, what time to arrive, and other information that you should read very carefully. Regardless of where you go, you want to be over-prepared in terms of documentation.
I've written a full guide to the E3 Visa interview here (including why you shouldn't be worried about it and information about exactly which documents you should take in with you – even if you didn't think of it). Once you're done and approved, go have a drink and relax for a few days. After your appointment, you can keep track of the status of your application here. I waited until mine was “ready for pick up” before booking my return flight for that same day.
6. Getting your E3 visa, and checking the details!
Once you receive your passport back, open it up and you'll find the visa stamp in there. It's a big full-page sticker that has your photo and all the details.
CHECK THIS SUPER CAREFULLY.
Are the dates right? Is the employer name spelled correctly? Is your name spelled correctly? Is every single other detail on it spotless and perfect? Yes? Ok great! If not, you need to alert the consulate/embassy you visited right away. DO NOT RETURN TO THE US IF IT'S WRONG. This is near impossible to change anywhere else so it's best to do it there and then.
If everything is ok, then you're good to go. Here's a guide on what you should bring with when you enter the US.
Key things to remember when getting an E-3 visa
Research and communication are the most important elements, take care of yourself, and hire a professional. These are the three most important things I can recommend to make sure you give yourself the best chances of getting an E3 visa.
I recommend thoroughly researching appointment wait times and processing times and communicating frequently and clearly with your new employer to make sure paperwork gets filed ASAP.
Take care of yourself – This process can feel really overwhelming, so be sure to reach out to your friends and fellow Aussies for support and look after yourself throughout the process. Drink water! Exercise! Pet a dog! Once you get through this, you’re starting a brand new job which is all sorts of stressful in its own way, so you don’t want to be totally worn out.
Recommended E3 Visa lawyers
Keep reading the latest news and information about this visa
- How to fill in a Labor Condition Agreement (LCA) for a US Visa
- How to fill in the DS-160 when applying for a US Visa
- What documents do I need when entering the U.S. on an E3 visa?
- Can you look for work in the US before you get an E3 visa?
- Can your spouse, children, and family join you on an E3 Visa?
- Do you need a degree equivalency for a US visa?
- How and when to explain the E3 Visa to Potential Employers
- How to apply for an E3 visa by mail
- Frequently Asked Questions about E3 Visas