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.
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The E3 is a specialty visa for Australians that allows you to work and live in America for a limited amount of time in a specialty occupation. There are specific steps and conditions that you need to meet in order to qualify for one, so here’s everything you need to know.
Everything you need to know about the E-3 Visa
- What is a specialty occupation?
- A Step-by-Step Guide to getting an E3 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?
- Keep reading the latest news and information about this 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
- Recommended US Visa lawyers
- Frequently Asked Questions about E3 Visas
An E3 visa is a special multiple entry 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.
It can be issued for up to two years (depending on your work contract) and renewed indefinitely (but you need to go through the process each time).
So 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?
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.
A Step-by-Step Guide to getting 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
- 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 what your industry.
I contributed to a great article about the top tips for finding a job in NYC that will help you (all across the US), which focuses on things like optimizing your resumé (it’s no longer a “CV”), networking, tailoring your pitch, and more.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). 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.
- 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. Here’s a detailed guide. Do this very carefully.
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.
When you find an appointment and select it you will be given strict instructions on how to go forward. Read these very carefully.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
HERE WE GO!
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.
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.
Recommended US Visa lawyers
For professional assistance, I recommend Doug Lightman from Lightman Immigration or Tara Gray from Tara Gray Law or Zjantelle Cammisa Markel from Cammisa Markel
Keep reading the latest news and information about this visa
Do you have questions? Then check out our full list of E3 Visa Frequently Asked Questions!
Any idea how is the E-3 visa stamping going on in Mexico in 2023? I am hearing conflicting information.
Any insights on how many E-3 visa’s are processed in all the countries in 2023 will be great.
Thanks for your help in advance.
Ankita, I’m still hearing that there’s no appointments in Mexico, as it’s not servicing third country nationals.
Hi Josh, thanks for putting this resource together – priceless! I got my E3 visa while in the U.S. I need to get stamping done for which I need to travel out of the country. Is this the same process as e3 visa renewal stamping as I already have my visa approved now? Cannot seem to find much info on first time stamping if you got your e3 while in the US. Any guidance would be much appreciated !
Thanks, Nish! Yep there’s no difference, you will just have an I-797A as evidence. It’s the complete process from start to finish!
Hi Josh, i am recent pharmacy Graduate in australia working as a pharmacist. I am looking to get sponsorship for Clinical Research Associate position. How feasible is this from outside the USA?
especially if i don’t have any contacts or networks over there?
Very much so! It’s possible but it’s going to be a difficult one so you will need to network, or visit, or find some connection from abroad!
I currently have an E3 visa working full time in LA. I am looking to change employers and file the FORM-I-129. After I have changed employers, I am able to travel outside of the US and come back as long as it is before the expiration of my original VISA, is that correct?
Also, am I able to apply for a new stamp after the FORM is approved, while working for the new employer?
I’m considering this approach because I would like to work for the new employer as soon as possible without leaving the country while ensuring I can return from overseas travel without any complications.
Can you travel? Yes! (https://americajosh.com/blog/important/e3-visa-holders-are-permitted-to-travel-after-an-internal-change-of-employer/)
Apply for a new stamp after approval? Yes! You just need to go overseas and get a new stamp outside the US.
But yep you’re right on the money!
Our daughter lives in New Orleans where she works as a nurse. Her company’s legal team have obtained an E3 Work Permit for her but she does not have a ‘visa’ stamped in her Australian passport.
In September we want to meet her Europe but apparently she needs to go through the E3 renewal process. Do you have any guidance on how long she would be without her passport if she renews in Madrid or Florence? OR is there anyway she can ‘renew’ and get the visa stamp before she leaves the US?
Hi Colin, I think what they’ve done is gotten her an E3 Status internally, and not a sticker, which you can read about here: https://americajosh.com/blog/general/difference-between-extending-renewing-e3-visa/
She’s likely going to be without her passport for 1-2 weeks after applying in those locations! Sadly no, she needs to be outside the US to get the sticker!