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E-3 Visas for Australians: Requirements You Need to Know

As an Australian citizen, you may be eligible to apply for an E-3 visa to work in the United States. The E-3 visa is a special category of nonimmigrant visa specifically designed for Australian citizens in what the U.S. government classifies as Specialty Occupations.

To qualify for an E-3 visa, you must first meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be an Australian citizen. New Zealand citizens do not qualify.
  2. You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Examples of specialty occupations include but are not limited to, law, medicine, engineering, and computer science.
  3. You must possess the required level of education or experience for the specialty occupation.
  4. Your employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure that the terms and conditions of your employment are similar to those of U.S. workers in the same occupation. (An immigration attorney usually does this on the employer’s behalf)
  5. You must pass an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

If you meet these requirements and your employer has filed an LCA, you may apply for an E-3 visa. The E-3 visa is valid for up to two years and can be renewed indefinitely as long as you maintain your status and continue to work in a specialty occupation.

Additionally, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old are also eligible to apply for E-3 dependent visas, which allows them to live and study in the United States while you are employed under the E-3 visa category.

Can New Zealand nationals apply for an E-3 visa?

No, E-3 visas are only available to Australian citizens. The E-3 visa is a special category of nonimmigrant visa specifically designed for Australian citizens who are coming to the U.S. to work in specialty occupations.

New Zealand citizens are not eligible to apply for E-3 visas. However, New Zealand citizens may qualify for other nonimmigrant visa categories such as H-1B or L-1, depending on their qualifications and the nature of their proposed employment in the United States. Multiple other visa pathways may be available for New Zealand nationals, please inquire here.

How long is the E-3 visa issued for?

The E-3 visa is granted for a period of up to two years and can be renewed indefinitely as long as the individual maintains their status and continues to work in a specialty occupation.

While there is no maximum limit on the number of times an E-3 visa can be renewed, the E-3 visa is a single-intent nonimmigrant visa. This means at entry the applicant must prove intent to depart the U.S. before the expiry of their E-3 status. This can be done in various ways but typically it is done through evidence of ties to your home in Australia.

Can a spouse and children of an E-3 visa holder get visas?

Yes, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can come to stay in the US for the duration of the primary E-3 validity.

Notably, eligible family members do not need to be Australian citizens to qualify for E-3D dependent status. Unmarried children under 21 years of age and spouses of E-3 employees are eligible for E-3D status.

A child can no longer stay in the U.S. as an E-3D dependent after turning 21. In order to remain in the U.S., the child must change status to a different nonimmigrant visa (e.g., F-1 student, B-2 visitor).

Can E-3 spouses receive authorization to work in the U.S.?

E3 Spouses no longer need to apply for work authorization in the U.S. E-3 spouses are considered work authorized upon entry to the U.S. when they receive a valid I-94 as an E-3 dependent (E-3D) visa. At the time of writing, you must have an I-94 card with a specific code issued by CBP or USCIS. Read more about this requirement here and note that this is likely to change in the future.

Who can the E-3 dependent spouse work for?

While the principal E-3 applicant can only work for the petitioner employer, the E-3 dependent spouse can work for any employer and may work in any field. The E-3 dependent spouse’s status and work authorization is, however, dependent on the primary E-3 applicant’s status. If the primary applicant loses their E-3 status, the E-3D spouse does as well.

How to maintain E-3 status?

The E-3 visa is employer specific, which means that the approved E-3 petition authorizes the individual to work only for the specific employer listed on the petition. It is possible to switch employers on an E-3 visa, but a new petition will need to be filed for each new position. Before changing jobs or accepting a new job offer, it is a good idea to analyze the law with an attorney and make a plan or work through various scenarios before making a final decision.

Can children of E-3 visa holders work in the U.S.?

E-3D children are not eligible for work authorization and employment. An E-3D child may change to another immigration status that permits employment if they qualify. E-3D dependents may study in the U.S. on either a full or part-time basis.

The duration of their study depends on the E-3’s period of stay. Again, the E-3D spouse or child depends on the primary applicant’s E-3 visa status. The child can obtain an F-1 student visa independent of the primary applicant’s E-3 visa.

Does the E-3 visa process require the filing of a Labor Condition Application with the U.S. Department of Labor, what is the LCA notice requirement?

Yes, the E-3 visa process requires the employer to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) before filing the petition for the E-3 visa. This process is similar to the H-1B LCA filing, although it is not exactly the same.

The LCA is an application that is endorsed by the employer attesting to the fact that the employer will pay the E-3 visa holder the prevailing wage for the occupation and that the employment of the visa holder will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. There are additional and very specific attestations that will need to be explained to the employer during this process prior to filing the LCA and for which the employer is responsible by signing the LCA.

What kind of job offer is required for an E-3 visa and LCA filing?

The E-3 employee will need to have a bonafide job offer from a U.S. employer.

An E-3 visa requires a job offer in a “specialty occupation”. A specialty occupation is defined by U.S. immigration authorities as a job that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. Check this article for more information about which jobs are likely to qualify for this definition.

Is a notice required in E-3 visa cases when filing the Labor Condition Application?

Yes, a notice is required for LCA filing in E-3 visa cases. The E-3 petitioning employer must complete the notice requirement by either putting a union on notice, notifying U.S. workers in print or notifying U.S. workers by electronic means. Note that these as well as other requirements can change from time to time, for information most relevant to your case, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. See more information about the E-3 LCA notice requirement here.

Attorneys usually handle the LCA filing for the employer because the entire process is extremely regulation-driven. Our office handles the entire LCA filing on the employer’s behalf, as well as the drafting of required documents in satisfaction of the E-3 visa requirements.

Does the employer have to pay a specific wage to the E-3 employee?

The employer is required to pay the E-3 employee at least the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment or the actual wage paid by the employer to workers with similar skills and qualifications, whichever is higher.

The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment.

It is important to note that the prevailing wage is not necessarily the same as the minimum wage set by the federal or state government. The wage is specific to the occupation and the location in the United States where the E-3 visa holder will be employed. The E-3 visa holder must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the entire duration of the E-3 visa.

Employers are encouraged, but not required, to obtain a prevailing wage from the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC). There are other ways to research and propose the prevailing wage to the U.S. DOL in the filing of the Labor Condition Application. This step should be discussed with an immigration attorney.

Applying for admission at a U.S. port of entry as an E-3 Dependent Spouse or Child

Before applying for admission to the U.S. at a port of entry, each E-3D family member must apply for an E-3D visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy outside the U.S. If you need assistance with your E-3D application, contact us by filling out the consultation inquiry form.

Note that evidence requested by consular officers may be different and specific to your case in addition to the general requirements below. Generally, all E-3D visa applications must include the following.

  • DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation page
  • Proof of payment of visa fees
  • A passport-style photograph – can be submitted online
  • Passport valid for at least six months
  • Evidence of relationship to the primary applicant
  • Evidence of the E-3 employee’s current valid status

E-3D dependent family members may apply for entry at the same time as or after the E-3 employee, however, these family members cannot enter before the E-3 primary applicant.

Each family member must bring the following items to the port of entry:

  • Evidence of the E-3 primary applicant’s status
  • Valid E-3D entry visa obtained from a U.S. consulate or Embassy
  • Passport valid for beyond the E-3 authorization end date
  • Evidence showing familial relationship to the E-3 primary applicant such as a marriage certificate or a birth certificate.

We routinely counsel clients on documents required at every point of contact in the U.S. immigration system, including consular processing and point-of-entry CBP inspections.

Does an E-3 applicant have to attend an interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy?

Yes, an E-3 visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy is required unless status is obtained from within the U.S. The applicant can expect a variety of questions to determine the applicant’s qualifications for the specialty occupation. See list of questions in E-3 visa cases.

A U.S. equivalency degree evaluation may be required for an E-3 visa if the applicant’s educational credentials were obtained outside the United States.

The E-3 visa requires that the applicant holds a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific specialty occupation or its equivalent.

U.S. equivalency evaluation of the non-U.S. degree is issued by an independent evaluation service that compares the foreign degree to the equivalent U.S. degree. This service will evaluate the applicant’s education and experience and will issue a report that states whether the foreign degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty.

If your degree and higher-level qualifications are from an Australian institution, you are not usually required to provide certified copies or evidence of their U.S. equivalent. However, a strong evaluation of the applicant’s credentials can serve to support the E-3 visa application.

Can permanent residents of Australia who do not have Australian citizenship apply for an E-3 visa?

No. E-3 visas are only available for Australian nationals. An Australian passport is a prerequisite for an E-3 visa filing. Permanent residents of Australia may qualify to enter the U.S. through other visa categories.

Is there an upper age limit for E-3 visa applicants?

No, there is no upper age limit for applicants in any employment-based visa category in the U.S.

Can I renew the E-3 visa? Is there a limit to the number of times I can renew my E-3 visa?

E-3 visa applicants may be admitted for up to a two-year period, which is renewable indefinitely, provided the applicant is able to demonstrate that they do not intend to remain or work permanently in the United States.

Please note: Only a U.S. Consulate or Embassy can issue a visa.  If you have a change in status and exit the United States, you will need to file an application for a new visa before you may re-enter, unless your visa is still unexpired and valid prior to re-entry.

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

There is a maximum of 10,500 E-3 visas issued annually during each federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1st to September 30. Spouses and children of applicants do not count against the quota, nor do applicants who choose to extend their E3 visas whilst still in the U.S. and working for the same employer.

If I am approved for an E-3 visa, how long before I start my job can I enter the United States?

You can enter the United States up to 10 days prior to the commencement of your employment.

Can I travel outside the United States while on my E-3 visa?

An E-3 visa is a multiple-entry visa, so provided you have not changed employers or extended your status you may travel outside the United States and re-enter on a valid, unexpired E-3 visa. Traveling outside the U.S. may become a complex matter while your visa application is pending with USCIS and in certain cases, additional planning may be required.

E-3 Visa Conclusion

We hope this summary of E-3 requirements is helpful to your immigration goals. Please remember that information in this page is general in nature. For case-specific legal counsel, we advise that you always consult with an experienced lawyer. Let us help you by leveraging our extensive experience in E-3 visas. To inquire if we can work together to achieve your immigration goals, reach out to us using this form.


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