E3 Visa – Visa for Australians Moving to America in 2022

If you’re from Australia and you want to move to the United States, then it’s likely that your best bet is getting an E-3 visa. The E3 visa is a specialty visa for Australians that allows you to work and live in America for a limited amount of time. There are conditions for the E3 visa that you need to meet in order to qualify for one, so here’s everything you need to know about the E-3.

While this is one of the more simple visas to get, there are still lots of steps to follow in order to ensure that you do everything properly.

The simple way to understand the E3 Visa for Australians

An E3 visa is a special visa only for Australian citizens who have a Bachelor’s Degree (or the equivalent work experience).

You must be offered a job that requires that Bachelor’s degree and the job must pay at or above the “prevailing wage” for that particular task with your experience.

How much does the E3 Visa cost?

The E3 visa application fee is $205USD ($287AUD).

This is much cheaper than many other visas because there is no additional cost down the road when you actually get approved. Many visas have an issuance fee after the application fee, but that’s not the case with the E-3.

More importantly though there is no cost to the employer. This application fee can be paid by you or the employer, but there is no other work that is required which makes it a much lower barrier than many other visa options available to other international citizens.

What are the E3 Visa requirements?

E-3 principal 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 for the E3 visa?

The definition of “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 long does the E3 visa take to process? (E3 Visa Processing Time)

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

Does the E3 visa require sponsorship?

No, but yes. While there is no formal requirement for “sponsorship” which normally has costs and complications associated for the employer, the E3 visa just requires a job offer. Once the job offer is in place, the rest is up to the applicant (in co-ordination with the employer).

How long does an E3 visa last?

The E3 visa can last for up to two years dependent on how long the offer of work is with your employer. If you are offered a 6 month contract, this will be the length of your visa.

Can you renew the E3 visa?

Yes, you can, in theory, renew the visa indefinitely for up to two years each time. This is always up to the discretion of the immigration officer you are speaking to.

How do I get an E3 visa?

The easiest way is to follow our step-by-step guide to an E-3 visa.

Can your family join you on an E-3 visa?

Yes, there are special statuses for spouses and children (dependents) of E-3 visa holders which allows them to travel with you on an E-3.

For spouses, you automatically receive working rights on the E-3S status. For children (under 18) there is a special E-3Y status which allows them to study, attend school, but not work. More information about these visas can be found here.

The U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will however need a marriage certificate.

Family members do not need to be Australian citizens.

How to explain the E3 Visa to Potential Employers

This is the most difficult part of getting a job in the United States because you require work authorization. You will be constantly asked “are you permitted to work” and it’s a chicken and egg: “Yes I’m allowed to work if you offer me the job, but without the offer, no!”

For that reason it’s important that you detail what exactly is required of them:

  1. The visa requires an approved LCA which must be signed by the employer but can be filled in with your help and with the help of a lawyer, it takes 5-10 business days to return and takes approximately 30-90 minutes to fill in.
  2. The visa itself costs $205USD to apply for (and this can be paid by you or the employer)
  3. You will attend an interview, and be back and ready for work approximately two weeks after that.
  4. This visa is unique as it’s only for Australians, is always available, and can be issued all throughout the year.
  5. The visa lasts for 2 years but if we want to, we can apply for another two years indefinitely at the end which requires me to leave the country and return (all within about 2 weeks).

When should you mention the E3 visa to employers?

The key is never to lie, but not to bring it up too early.

The reason for this is that if it’s the first thing you mention, all they’re going to see is the (perceived) pain it will be to employ you as opposed to just how wonderful you are.

Go in to interviews knowing everything there is about the E3, know answers to questions (like you find on this page) and be armed and ready to discuss that you are happy to take the lead. Don’t dodge the question or be coy, that will only make you look dishonest.

The visa itself is not expensive or a big lift, however if the employer uses a lawyer (which they likely will and should) it will cost them a few thousand dolllars in legal fees. So go in knowing that and have a plan.

A Step-by-Step Guide to getting an E3 Visa

So you’re from Australia and you want to move to the United States on an E-3 visa. What does the E3 visa process from start to finish actually look like? We’ve stepped out exactly what to do so you know all the steps, who needs to be involved, and how you can make the whole process as efficient as possible.

  1. Find a job for an E3 Visa

    Job hunting in America can be a struggle and will take you a significant amount of time.
    Firstly, read my advice for job hunters, and learn how to communicate about what an E3 visa is here.

    My advice for job hunters, and how to communicate about what an E3 visa is here.

    But what if you’ve already done the hard work and landed a job offer – what does the E3 visa process to start work actually look like in action?

    The answer to this question is going to look very different if you’re working for a large firm with in-house legal counsel, vs working for a small bootstrapped organization. The process below details my personal experience starting a new job with a small nonprofit in NYC, and arranging my E3 visa application without a lawyer’s assistance. I should point out that I was already working elsewhere in the US on an E3 visa, and had hired a lawyer to help with my first E3 visa application – so I had an idea of what to expect (and would recommend you do the same).

    First things first – you’re awesome, remember that! You’ve landed a job offer, and that’s a big deal. Yes, the visa process can seem daunting – but there’s no use worrying about what your new employer is going to think. If you’ve already convinced them that you’re the best candidate for the job then a little bit of paperwork and a slightly longer timeline isn’t going to change that. Remain confident in yourself as a candidate and the ease of the process. Don’t indicate anxiety – just play it cool, stay organized, and hopefully, your new employer will follow your lead.

    During the last stages of my job interview process, I told my new employer that I expected the visa process to add approximately two weeks that I would normally give my current employer before leaving.

    Secondly – it’s on you to stay on top of this process. You’re going to need to check in with your new employer throughout the process to make it clear when you’re working on something vs when something is in their court. If you stay on top of things, the only things the employer really needs to do are:

    1. Write an offer letter (or you could even draft one for them to sign off on – either way, this isn’t an outrageous request);
    2. Submit the LCA form online (but you can do the heavy lifting, actually filling out the form for them);
    3. Check the status of the LCA online.

    Writing the E3 visa offer letter

  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:
    1. A brief overview of the company and where your position fits in;
    2. A rundown of responsibilities and duties associated with your position;
    3. Any special tools/ tech that will be used; and
    4. 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.

    Timeline – I received a verbal job offer on Day 1, accepted verbally and received an offer letter on Day 5, and signed that letter to accept the offer on Day 6. I also resigned and gave notice to my previous employer on Day 6.

    Find a job 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 USCIS. 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.

    You can fill out a draft LCA for your employer to use as a reference when they file via the USCIS website. You can find general instructions here and here.

    Most employers should do this for you however it is important to understand what it contains:

    1. Who you are, and your personal details;
    2. Who the company is and their official tax identification (the only company you can work for in the US under the E3);
    3. Contact details for a representative from the company;
    4. The official title of the job you are going for;
    5. What category that job fits into;
    6. The prevailing wage code for that position;
    7. The wage that you will be making (must be more than the prevailing wage).

    All of this leads to a document that, when approved, makes up the the primary documentation that you will take to your visa interview.

    At this point, if your employer is slow to file the LCA, it delays the whole process – including your potential start date. Make sure you’re available by phone and email to respond quickly to any questions your employer has.

    When they’re ready, your employer will file the form online at Foreign Labor Application Gateway, an online portal. Certification usually takes 5-10 days (5 business days).

    From this point, you will receive your LCA number.

    Timeline – I sent my draft LCA and instructions about the process along with my signed offer letter on Day 6. I included a link to this article (article gone, sorry) to give my employer context on the process. I made clear that this part of the process was up to the employer, and explained that I wouldn’t be able to book a visa appointment until this step was completed. My employer filed the form on Day 7.

    How to file the LCA for an E3 visa

  4. Waiting for Certification of your LCA

    The employer then needs to keep an eye on the status of the LCA on the certification website. If you don’t hear anything at 5-6 business days, I suggest asking your employer to log in and check the status one week after the LCA has been filed.

    If you want to check the status of your LCA yourself, use the LCA number you received above and go to Foreign Labor Application Gateway. Scroll down the page to “Search iCERT” and use the “Case Status Check”.

    If it still says certification is “in process”, I recommend having your employer check back daily to make sure the process moves as quickly as possible.

    Once the LCA is “Certified”, have your employer print the document, sign it, and send the signed and certified document back to you.

    Then the ball is in your court, and you can fill out your DS-160 and book your consulate appointment. Explain this to your employer – tell them that you’re working on your application paperwork and booking your appointment, and give them an updated timeline once you’ve done that.

    Timeline – I emailed my employer to ask them to check the status on Day 14. My LCA was certified on Day 15.

    Waiting for Certification of your LCA

  5. The DS-160 and Booking Your Appointment to get an E3 visa

    Next, you need to fill out the DS-160 form and book your consulate appointment. If this is your first E3 visa application, it’s recommended that you do your appointment in Australia (however I did my first E3 visa appointment in Ottawa, Canada in February 2014).

    When planning this trip, remember that the appointment wait time estimates on the US State Department website are for US citizens, not us “third-country nationals”. Each consulate has a specific number of slots for these kinds of appointments, so the wait times could be very different than those estimates. You can and should, however, take the listed processing times into account.

    Head to America Josh’s review of U.S. visa location guide for reviews of locations, as well as turnaround and wait times!

    Here’s a fun fact: even though you have to designate the consulate you’re going to go to at the start of the DS 160 process, it’s generally accepted at other locations if you have to change last minute.

    I selected Mexico City last time, but when I actually went to book my appointment, the wait times were extremely long. I ended up booking in Vancouver instead, and even though my printed DS-160 said Mexico City, there was no problem having my appointment there instead.
    This being said, it’s important to note that this is not always the case and we’ve heard that in Buenos Aires (for example) they won’t be so forgiving. Be sure to fill out a new DS-160 if you pick a new location and ideally let the consulate know that in advance.

    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. Here’s a detailed guide. Do this very carefully.

    Timeline – I completed my DS 160 and made my visa appointment on Day 15. The soonest appointment I could get was in 11 days time, so, the appointment was scheduled for Day 26. I told my new employer as soon as I booked my appointment, and gave them an estimate on the wait time. I booked a one-way flight to Vancouver on Day 16.

    To book your appointment, there are two major websites that you’ll be directed to, and which one you use will depend on where you’re headed for the appointment.

    http://ustraveldocs.com/ and https://ais.usvisa-info.com/

    These two websites are the portals to booking your appointment and will take payments and track your progress throughout.

    The DS-160 and Booking Your Appointment to get an E3 visa

  6. 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.

    This is just about the full list of documents I took to my consulate appointment – even though they didn’t ask for anywhere near all of these docs:
    Printed and signed copy of Certified LCA;

    – Printed DS-160;
    – Passport;
    – Job Offer Letter;
    – Copy of my degree;
    – Copy of degree transcripts;
    – My resumé;
    – Documentation about your employer, verifying their legitimacy; (I took a recent Annual Report, and a printout of our “About Us” web page);
    – Bank account printout and driver’s license from Australia (To show ties to Aus);
    – Prior US visa paperwork as appropriate;

    Important note for people already working in the USA

    At my most recent visa appointment, where I was going from one unrelated E3 visa position to another, the consular officer also wanted to see my most recent US tax return and pay stubs from my previous employer to prove that “I’d been doing what I said I was doing” (his words, not mine).

    – Unexpected late addition: Recent US Tax Return;
    – Unexpected late addition: Recent US Pay Stubs;

    I had not seen these documents included on any list of required documents prior to my appointment. I was given a slip with an email address to send these documents to, and my visa application status changed to Administrative Processing. Luckily I had these documents saved online and sent them right after my appointment, and it didn’t delay the process. If you’ve already been working in the US, I suggest taking those documents with you as well.

    Here’s the one thing you need to know though about the interview: it’s not an “interview” as such it’s more of a confirmation of what you’ve already supplied. They might ask you to tell them about the job, the employer, your degree, your work history, how you got the job. It’s honestly to make sure that it’s all in place and you are who you wrote you are, that’s about it.

    It’s also worth saying (because I feel like I went in with a very different expectation): It’s basically checking-in at the airport. After working your way through the building following instructions (phone goes here, I need to see your passport, why are you here?), you line up like you’re waiting to speak to an agent.

    After snaking around you then get called over to one of the desks (except the desks are surrounded by glass and a bit divided from each other in some places). You walk up with your files and papers and passport and hand them all over. The person compares you and the picture in your passport and does the equivalent of “So where are you headed?” even though you both know full well they could just search your name and find out. “Did you pack your own bags?” becomes “How did you find this job?” and they nod while you provide a 10-second answer when really all they needed was “Recruiter”.

    They then go kinda silent flipping back and forth just long enough for you to think, for a split second, that you’ve stuffed something up, but then they nod again and slip you a piece of paper that has the details on it of what happens next. If you’re anything like me you ask “Is that it?” and they say “Yes, read the paper and you’ll receive your passport back in X days”.

    Importantly, you should also be sure to put away all electrical devices and take as few as you can, as some locations don’t actually allow you to take any form of electrics. In some places you will have special boxes to store your things, but many don’t offer this.

    Timeline – I had my last day of work with my previous employer on Day 23, flew to Canada on Day 24, and attended my appointment first thing in the morning on Day 26.

    Attending your E3 Visa interview (the E3 Checklist)

  7. Getting your E3 visa, and starting your new job!

    Check the estimated processing/turnaround times for all consulates, as you should take this into account when booking your appointment and communicating with your employer. For my last visa appointment, I only booked a one-way flight and waited until my visa had been processed before booking my return ticket. To see estimated processing/turnaround times for all consulates, you can click here.

    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.

    Timeline – I had my appointment and my visa application status changed to Administrative Processing on Day 26. On the morning of Day 28, the status changed to Approved, then it changed to ready for pick up that afternoon, sooner than expected. I booked a same-day flight back into the States and went from my hostel to the Post Office to pick up my passport, then straight to the airport that afternoon on Day 28.

    I had already planned a start date with my new employer which gave me a bit of a buffer because I was moving cities and needed time to tie up loose ends and move into my new apartment.

    As such, I moved to NYC on Day 38 and started work on Day 40 of this process. For someone already living in NYC, particularly someone who’s not already employed and expected to give two weeks’ notice, this process could feasibly be done in under one month, from offer to start date.

    Getting your E3 visa, and starting your new job!

  8. Key things to remember when getting an E3 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.

    Research & communication
    To shorten this timeline, 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.

    Hire a professional.
    The timeline above is just one person’s experience, and in no way substitutes formal legal advice. The best way to improve your chances of having a smooth application experience is to hire a professional.

    Key things to remember when getting an E3 visa

Do you need a degree equivalency for E3 Visa

The requirement to move to the US with an E3 is to hold the equivalent of a 4 Year Bachelor Degree (or greater). In some cases you may be told to seek equivalency from an evaluation company in order to prove this (or at the very least, use it as a precaution). As a general rule of thumb, three years work equates to one year of education (who knows how that rule was come to).

I did mine through Silvergate Evaluations who turned out to be great. You send them everything you have, and they will reply with options on who can write your equivalency statement from a University or College in the US. Prices will vary but at the very least you’ll be looking around $250USD for the full document.

For professional assistance, I recommend Doug Lightman from Lightman Immigration or Tara Gray from Tara Gray Law or Zjantelle Cammisa Markel from Cammisa Markel

Extra information about the E3 visa

Official pages are always the best, click here to go to USCIS.

This is the official page from USTravelDocs.com.

Frequently Asked Questions about E3 Visas

How much does the E3 Visa cost?

The E3 visa application fee is $205USD ($287AUD).

Can you study while on an E-3 visa?

Yes. E-3 holders who are attending school incidental to their primary purpose for being in the United States may attend the school of their choice either part-time or full-time (unless otherwise
noted here
). You must make sure though that you live up to all your E3 requirements at all times.

Can you employ yourself on an E3 visa?

This is a question I get asked a lot and the answer is not so straight forward. To do this, and to understand the intricacies of what exactly is an is not allowed, you must speak to a lawyer.

Is it normal for my passport to have arrived at a PO Box in St Kilda when I did a visa renewal in Melbourne?

Yes, it’s normal that your passport has arrived at a PO Box in St Kilda, Victoria. This is the US Consulate’s PO Box and means your passport stamp has arrived back. You should hear from them shortly.

Do I need original LCA for my interview?

Yes, you need to print out your Certified LCA (it says Certified in the bottom left corner) and have it signed by the person who is detailed in the document. You must take that version to your interview and they will keep it at the end.

ETA FORM 9035e (LCA): Is the employer point of contact (d) the same as the person who signs the declaration of employer (e) at the end?

They CAN be the same person but they need not necessarily be the same person. The person who signs that declaration of the employer must have the authority to enter into binding contracts on behalf of the company (i.e. an officer of the business entity). The person listed as the employer’s point of contact is just the person with whom the agency (USCIS) can communicate about the application.

Are there restrictions to traveling overseas to Europe while I’m on an E3 visa here in the USA?

No restrictions. The E3 is a multiple entry visa which allows you to travel internationally and re-enter the US for the duration of the visa.

Can I have an E3 visa in an expired passport if I have a new passport as well or do I need to apply for a new visa with my new passport?

If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports, as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism).

Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country and type (Example: both Uruguayan regular passports, both official passports, etc.). When you arrive at the U.S. port-of-entry (POE, generally an airport or land border) the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation “VIOPP” (visa in other passport).

Do not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, your visa will no longer be valid.

When providing the ‘last 5 visits’ on your E3 application, do you have to list all your entries into the US including short holiday trips out of the US?

Yes. I would suggest using the https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/ website for last entrances, which includes most if not all. Always be as honest as possible and you can’t go wrong.

How do I change my current address on my E3 paperwork? Any ideas?

This is a very important step and can be found on the Form A-11

Can I already book my appointment at the US embassy before the LCA has been approved (it was just filed)?

Yes, you can! To get your appointment you need a DS-160, and the DS-160 includes a question (that you can leave blank re: LCA). So you can fill the DS-160 in, leave it blank, book an appointment with your confirmed DS-160 number. Then when your LCA gets approved, file a new DS-160, now including your approved LCA number, and then contact the embassy you’re going to and ask to update your DS-160 (because “you needed to update the LCA details”). They should be completely fine with it and away you go.

All embassy locations are unique, so it’s important you check with the location you are applying to.

I am currently in NYC on an E-3, but have changed jobs so about to leave to process my second E-3. I’m changing employers so it will be my first with the new employer. Is this considered a renewal? Receiving some conflicting information.

This is a new visa. You will need to leave the country or apply for an internal transfer or status.

Can you get an E3 for a part-time role (say 3-4 days a week)?

Yes, you can get an E3 for a part-time role, it is totally permissible. You can apply for the E-3 with an hourly wage (as opposed to an annual wage) that’s over the earning threshold for your profession.

Can you freelance for clients outside of the part-time role (ie. for other clients not connected directly to the E3?)

No. You can only work for the company specifically outlined in your E3 Visa.

Can you transition from an E-3 to a Green Card?

Yes, you can, there are two ways but you need to be cautious because the E-3 visa is a non dual-intent visa and therefore this can not be your plan when you enter the country.

Does anyone know if it’s 10 days, 30 days, or 60 days after you stop working with your E3 employer?

It’s a combination. If you’re ending your visa before the length of time allocated on your visa, it’s 60 days. If you’ve finished the visa, then it’s 10 days. https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-publishes-final-rule-certain-employment-based-immigrant-and-nonimmigrant-visa-programs

Does anyone know if you can get an E3 visa on a 6 or 12-month contract role?

Yes, but your E3 visa will only be valid for that long

Do I have to already have a job in the United States first before applying for an E-3 visa?

Yes. You need to have a job offer from your employer in the United States before you can apply for the E-3 visa.

Can I apply for an E-3 visa from outside Australia?

You have the right to apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate which processes nonimmigrant visas, but you cannot apply from within the U.S.

Does my employer need to file an I-129 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before I can get my E3 visa?

No, unlike the H1B, the employer in the United States is not required to submit a petition to USCIS as a prerequisite for the E3 visa. However, the employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA), from the department of labor by filing form ETA Form 9035. There is no fee to submit the ETA9035.

Is there a limit to the number of E-3 visas?

There is a limit of 10,500 visas issued each year, however we’ve never reached that cap.

How long before I start my job can I enter on an E3 visa?

You can enter up to 10 days before your job starts.

How long can I stay out of the United States if I have an E-3 visa?

There is no limit to how long you stay outside the United States, however a condition of your visa is that you are working for your employer so you must remain employed for that period.

Can I take a sabbatical or leave work without pay from an E3 visa?

In reality, no. There are exceptions like pregnancy which will allow you to take extended leave from your work but as a general rule, you are not allowed to take unpaid leave from your work (as this pay is a requirement for your visa).

Do I need to use a lawyer to apply for an E3?

Technically no, but it is recommended to ensure your visa is issued correctly and many employers will insist on using a lawyer.

How can I check the status of my LCA?

Head to the FLAG, the US website for filing LCAs here https://flag.dol.gov/case-status-search