What is E-3 Visa?

The E-3 visa is available to Australian citizens entering the United States to work in specialty occupations. Similar to its H-1B counterpart, this visa has some notable differences; unlike its H-1B counterpart, spouses of E-3 workers may work without restrictions and there is no time limit imposed upon being in E-3 status; however it should be noted that since E-3 status is nonimmigrant status it does not allow individuals to petition for permanent residency status.

Persons working in the United States under E-3 status must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in their particular specialty field of employment, such as architecture, engineering, computer programming, information technology, mathematics or physics. Unfortunately this visa cannot be applied for jobs such as agriculture, fisheries, food services or landscaping.

USCIS regulations define “specialty occupation” as any occupation which requires both theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge acquired through at least a bachelor’s or higher degree in that field. The E-3 visa falls within the E category of visas reserved for nationals of treaty countries; specifically it draws on provisions contained within the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement as its basis; making it one of the few E visas tied directly to a specific treaty agreement.

Individuals seeking an E-3 visa must first file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor before visiting a USCIS port of entry and applying for their visa. It may be possible for individuals already present in the U.S. to transition into E-3 status by filing for change of status with USCIS; this process involves filing another LCA, Form I-129 and paying USCIS the associated fee.

Colleges/departments often sponsor E-3 employees for positions such as postdoctoral fellow, research associate and assistant researcher. Tenure-track faculty positions and some staff roles also qualify. Securing E-3 sponsorship for housestaff or temporary workers has proven more difficult; therefore departments should explore alternative means when hiring such employees.

Individuals seeking E-3 status must enter the United States for no more than two years at a time and demonstrate that they intend to leave upon completing their stay; since E-3 visas do not lead to permanent resident status. Before hiring an employee in E-3 status, departments should consult ISO and be ready to pay more than minimum wage requirements in order to secure approval of a Labor Condition Application. An LCA must be filed if either job duties change or work authorization lapses – unlike H-1B visa requirements that stipulate an employer file a change of status petition with USCIS after one year has elapsed in staying in the United States.