The E-3 visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits a company to hire workers in specialty occupations. The visa is available to nationals from Australia only and is very similar to an H-1B visa. This visa category requires that the beneficiary (the foreign worker) have a bachelor’s degree. The petitioner (the U.S. company) can employ the worker for an indefinite period. Unlike the H-1B visa, the E-3 visa is not a dual intent visa (meaning that the E-3 visa holder must intend to depart the U.S. at the expiration of the E-3 visa). While the visa is subject to a cap, the cap has not ever been reached. As such, the visa has regularly been available.
In the case of a business owner, investor, or entrepreneur, the petitioner and the beneficiary are often the same person. However a business owner can use this visa to sponsor their employees also. An E-3 visa can be a tricky visa for a business owner who is also the beneficiary since there are strict laws that govern whether a person who has an ownership interest in a company can sponsor themselves for an E-3 visa. While difficult, it is not impossible and can be done with the help of a qualified immigration specialist.
The minimum requirement for the E-3 visa applicant is that he/she have a bachelor’s degree, but the focus really is on the job. That is, even if an applicant has a bachelor’s degree, adjudicators will look at whether or not the job requires one.
To that end, the job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
- Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position
- The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry, or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree
- The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree
The applicant for a job in a specialty occupation must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have completed a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment
- Have education, training, or progressively responsible experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty
You can apply for this visa at a consulate or through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Almost all E-3 visas are processed at consulates. The prospective employer must file an approved Form ETA-9035, Labor Condition Application (LCA), along with either the Form I-129 (if filed in the U.S. with USCIS) or a DS-160 (if filed at a consulate). If the applicant is in the U.S., the application can be processed as a change of status and premium processing is available for this visa. If approved at a consulate, the applicant would enter the U.S. on the E-3 visa to start work.
The visa is generally initially granted for 3 years and can be renewed after that.
Spouse and children under 21 can accompany the beneficiary. The spouse can work after filing for work authorization.
This visa is similar to the H-1B visa but is not subject to a lottery.