E3 Visa Process Guide for Applicants

Open exclusively to Australian nationals, the E-3 visa offers an attractive route to work in the USA. If you are eligible, you will need to follow the E3 visa process correctly and provide all the required documentation to avoid any potential issues or delays with your application.

In this guide for applicants, we look at the steps to take to secure an E3 visa.

In most cases, E-3 visa applications are made overseas at a US Embassy or Consulate. It is also possible to apply from within the US to change your immigration status to the E-3 classification, but this process generally takes longer.

Do you have a question about the E3 Visa Application Process?>>

E3 Visa USA process steps

1. Check you’re eligible

The E-3 visa has specific eligibility requirements. To qualify, you will need to be an Australian national with the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials and have a genuine offer of temporary employment in the USA for a role that qualifies as a ‘specialty occupation’.

If we look at each of these requirements in turn, the first is that you must hold Australian citizenship and have a valid Australian passport. The E-3 visa is not open to you if you have Australian permanent residence and not citizenship.

The role you have been offered in the US has to be considered a specialty occupation, which covers roles that demand the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. The role must also require you to have attained at least a bachelor’s or higher degree in that specific specialty, or its equivalent.

If you do not have the required qualifications, you may be able to rely on your professional experience in the specific field supported by documentary evidence. As a rule of thumb, three years of progressive professional experience would be considered equal to one year of formal education.

Finally, your stay in the US can only be temporary, since the E-3 visa does not lead to permanent residence or a Green Card.

Through your application, you will need to prove that you meet these requirements. This will entail gathering extensive supporting documents and in most cases, attending a visa interview to answer questions on your circumstances.

2. Your employer submits a Labor Condition Application

The E3 visa process officially starts with a Labor Condition Application (LCA) being filed with the Department of Labor by your new US employer. 

The LCA must be obtained to verify you will be paid the prevailing wage (ie the required level of wage) for the specific position in the US region you will be based. Your employer will be asked to confirm that by employing you (ie a non-US national):

  • that this will not have a detrimental impact on the wage levels and working conditions of others employed in similar roles to yours,
  • that you will be paid at least the prevailing wage, or more, for the role,
  • that the employer will notify employees of the LCA being filed within one working day of submission of the LCA by posting a notice in at least two conspicuous workplace locations for at least 10 days, and 
  • that there is no strike, lockout, or work stoppage related to a labor dispute in the occupation at the time the LCA is being filed. 

Specific information to be provided by your employer within the LCA includes the three-digit occupational group code for your role, the job title you will be given, the gross rate of pay for the role and the intended period of employment (up to a maximum of 6 years).

LCAs cannot be filed more than six months prior to the intended start of employment, and if a prevailing wage determination has been received from the State Employment Security Agency, the associated LCA has to be submitted within 90 days.

2. Submit your E3 visa application form

Once the LCA has been received, the next stage is to complete the online application, form DS 160. This requires you to provide information about yourself, your education, work and travel history. You will also need to upload a photograph, compliant with US visa photo requirements, pay the necessary application fee and arrange the visa interview. 

You should then print off and retain the final confirmation page of the form to bring with you to your interview.

4. Compile your E3 visa supporting documents

You will need the following E3 documents for your application:

  • Proof of your Australian Citizenship, such as your current, valid Australian passport. 
  • Written confirmation of your job offer from the US employer. This should be printed on company letterhead and be addressed to you and include job description details to confirm that the role is a specialty occupation 
  • Proof of your education to bachelor’s degree level, or equivalent, or higher.
  • If required by the US, the appropriate license to perform your occupation in the US or guarantee this will be applied for as soon as you arrive in the US.
  • Evidence that you do not intend to stay in the US permanently, such as proof that you own your home in your country of residence.
  • A copy of the LCA filed by the employer.
  • A printed VisaPoint confirmation.
  • A copy of the form D-160 confirmation page.
  • Printed confirmation of your interview (VisaPoint ).
  • An empty envelope addressed to you.
  • If you are filing from within the US, Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker is required for applications for an Extension of Stay or Change of Employment or Change of Status to obtain/extend the E-3 nonimmigrant temporary worker status.

If you attended a college outside of Australia or the United States, you must submit documentation proving that your degree is equivalent to an American bachelor’s degree or higher. If your qualifications are from an Australian institution, you do not usually need to provide certified copies or evidence of their US equivalent.

If you did not attend college, you must provide evidence that your work experience is equivalent to the US degree required by your new position.

4. Attend the E3 visa interview

At the interview, you will be asked questions by an adjudicator, who will be looking to determine if you meet the visa criteria. You should come prepared to answer on topics such as your personal and professional background, the nature of the role you have been offered, your travel history and previous travel or work in the US.

You will need to take your bundle of supporting documents with you to the interview as proof of your answers.

In most cases, you will receive the decision at your interview. If granted, your passport will be taken to be stamped and will be sent back to you by post.

If the adjudicator is unable to make a decision on the day, for example due to a lack of supporting documents, you may be asked to provide further evidence before a decision can be made.

How long is E3 visa processing?

It can take around 4-6 weeks for a decision to be received on your E-3 application. The actual timeframe will depend on a number of factors such as the appointment availability at the Embassy or Consulate. The pandemic has affected application processing, with embassies working through backlogs. This is impacting the length of time applicants have to wait for interviews. It is recommended to take advice before making your application to understand current processing leadtimes and what this means for your travel and work plans.

In all cases, applicants are advised to ensure their application and supporting documents are comprehensive to avoid unnecessary delays due to administrative processing or requests for further evidence.

If approved without administrative processing, Australians can have their E-3 Visas in their passports within 3-5 business days of attending their appointment.

Petitions to adjust status made within the US can usually take longer than overseas applications, although again this will depend on USCIS’ caseload. There is now an option for E-3 premium processing for those who are requesting a change or extension of status to the E-3 category using Form I-129. The fee for expedited processing is currently $2,500 USD as at September 2021. 

How much does an E-3 visa cost?

The E-3 visa carries fewer application costs than many other US work visa routes. For example, E-3 petitions do not incur the Fraud Prevention Fee or ACWIA fees and there is no filing fee for the LCA.

The cost to file the E-3 petition from overseas is $205 USD when applied for via a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Optional premium processing for E-3 change or extension of status is $2,500 USD.

Need assistance?

The E-3 visa is an attractive route if you are an Australian looking to move to the US on a temporary basis to work.

The E3 visa application process is generally less onerous and less costly than other US visas such as the H1-B and L1 visa.

NNU Immigration are specialists in US work visas, including the E3 visa applications. We can also help where you are starting a new job in the US with a new employer, as a new LCA and E3 visa will be needed. Contact us for professional support with your E3 visa application.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.