The E-3 visa is similar in many respects to the H-1B visa, the professional specialty occupation temporary non-immigrant visa. It was created by an Act of the United States Congress as a result of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), although it is not formally a part of the AUSFTA. The legislation creating the E-3 visa was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on May 11, 2005.
Important differences from the H-1B visa include the fact that spouses of E-3 visa holders may work in the United States without restrictions (unlike other US non-immigrant visas, even the TN visa issued to Canadian and Mexican citizens), and that the E-3 visa is renewable indefinitely (in two-year increments). Australian citizens applying for an E-3 visa are also not subject to the 65,000 annual visa limit for H-1B visas. Although there is a separate annual quota of 10,500 for E-3 visas, this is believed to be much more generous to Australians than requiring them to compete with all other nations for H-1B visas. Visas issued to spouses and children are not included in the E-3 quota and spouses and children do not need to be Australian citizens.
Duration of Stay
The E-3 visa status can be initially granted for up to two years, with the possibility of an extension for up to an additional two years that can be applied for indefinitely.
Although the immigration law requires that all E non-immigrants maintain an intention to depart the United States upon expiration of their authorized E stay, the guidelines issued by the USCIS state that applications for E classification, including extensions or change of status, cannot be denied solely on the basis of an approved permanent labor certification or pending or approved immigrant visa petition.
General Process for Obtaining E-3 status
The E-3 application process is generally comprised of two sequential applications to separate government agencies:
- Department of Labor To qualify for E-3 eligibility, you must be offered a salary that is 100% of the prevailing wage for the particular occupation in your metropolitan area. In this regard the Department of Labor requires that your employer obtain its certification of a Labor Condition Application attesting to the prevailing wage and salary offered and other important conditions prior to filing the E-3 visa application.
- Department of Homeland Security – Department of State – Consular Post overseas If you are overseas you must first obtain your E-3 visa stamp from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Australia prior to entry into the U.S. The non-immigrant visa application is comprised of several forms and documentary evidence. Because of new security checks at the overseas posts since September 11, every visa applicant is now required to be personally interviewed, resulting in delays. It is important for planning purposes to bear in mind that applications that once could be accomplished in days, are now taking several weeks in some cases. ?Applicants who are already in the U.S. in another status, may apply to USCIS to change their status to E-3 visa status.