The “E-3” Visa for Australian Professionals
Australia enjoys a special visa classification for its nationals coming to perform services in a specialty occupation – the E-3 visa. This visa classification is like the H-1B visa in many critical respects: the job offer must be for a specialty occupation, a Labor Condition Application must be obtained, and the employee must possess the requisite credentials – typically a relevant bachelor’s degree.
The E-3 visa has several distinct advantages over the H-1B visa. Although subject to an annual cap of 10,500 visas, the cap has never been exceeded meaning E-3 visas are readily available throughout the year – no lottery required. The visa classification avoids the additional H-1B fees imposed on employers, and E-3 petitions consistently receive less scrutiny than H-1B filings. E-3 status can be extended indefinitely, and spouses are eligible for employment authorization.
However, it is important to note that the E-3 visa is not a dual-intent visa like the H-1B. E-3 visa holders must maintain their intent to depart the United States at the end of their employment. Coupled with the two-year grant (instead of the three years afforded for H-1B holders), this can create an important timing issue when pursuing a labor certification for permanent employment in the U.S.
Spouses and children under twenty-one may obtain dependent visas, often annotated as “E-3D” on the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Spouses of E-3 principals are eligible for work authorization and most are interested in pursuing employment in the United States. These spouses must keep in mind that there is roughly a three-month processing delay before USCIS issues the physical work card.