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E-3 Visa: Applying at a Consulate versus Filing a petition with USCIS

By January 10, 2023Immigration
An office team gathered

E-3 visa is an employment visa that allows nationals of Australia to come to the U.S. and work in specialty occupations. Your job and your degree must be in related fields and the US employer will need to pay you a prevailing wage . Whether you are applying for an initial E3 visa or you are applying for an extension, you have two options how this can be done: You can either apply for an E-3 visa at a Consulate or your employer can file a Change of Status/Extension of Status petition with USCIS.

Advantages & Disadvantages of applying at a Consulate

  • You will get an actual visa stamp in your passport (this will allow you to travel in and out the U.S.).
  • Depending on a Consulate where you are applying, there may be long interview wait times and there may be a gap in your employment. You may be able to apply for the visa at a Consulate outside Australia, but you will first need to check with the particular Consulate where you want to apply if that Consulate processes E3 visas.
  • If you go to a Consulate that processes a lot of E3 visas (e.g. the Consulates in Australia), you will most likely get an experienced Consular officer that understands the E3 visa requirements and the interview should be straightforward as long as you meet the educational requirements and the job is related to your degree.

If you will be applying for a visa at a Consulate, you will have an interview with a Consular officer. Please see our blog post that goes over some tips for the interview here.

Advantages & Disadvantages of applying with USCIS

  • You can a decision in 15 days if you pay for a premium processing service (this is a fee you can pay ($2,500) and USCIS will make a decision on your case within 15 days. This is a great option if you are in the US on some other status and the US employer wants you to start as soon as possible.
  • On the other hand, if you don’t pay for the Premium Processing, it will probably take couple months to get a decision on your case.
  • The employer will need to pay the I129 filing fee (and perhaps premium processing fee as well if they want you to start as soon as possible).
  • If USCIS approves your change/extension of status petition, the approval only governs your status in the U.S. If you leave the U.S., you would need an E3 visa to enter back.
  • If the employer is filing an extension of status petition with USCIS, you qualify for a 240 day extension of your work authorization.

The most important document that governs the dates you can work in the U.S. is the LCA. Sometimes your I-94 or your visa stamp go past your LCA, but you should not work in the U.S. past the LCA expiration day.

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