Common questions regarding E-3 Visa applications

I receive a number of questions from Australians regarding E-3 visa applications. Often these questions come from existing E-3 visa holders located in California and New York looking to renew their visas. The following are some of the more commonly asked questions regarding E-3 visas:

1. Can I still qualify for an E-3 visa if I do not possess a Bachelor’s degree?
In addition to other requirements, E-3 visa regulations require that the applicant possess a degree equivalent to a four-year U.S. Bachelor’s degree. As a general guideline, those that do not possess a Bachelor’s degree can substitute their professional experience for the educational requirement. As a guide, 3 years of experience can be counted towards 1 year of university-level study. Note that the work experience must be deemed professional experience.

2. Can I apply for a renewal of my E-3 visa from within Canada?
Applicants risk the chance of a visa being denied when applying for the E-3 outside of Australia. Generally, U.S. Consulates prefer that E-3 renewal applicants apply for their new visa from within Australia. I, therefore, advise applicants to return to Australia to complete this process. However, depending upon an applicant’s circumstances, it is sometimes permissible to apply for a new E-3 within Canada, as several U.S. Consulates there have made the renewal process more readily available to Australians. On occasion, Australians have had success renewing their E-3 at other U.S. Consulates abroad, including London and the Bahamas, for example. Although applicants have been successful in obtaining new visas at these Consular posts, renewing at these locations is not advised.

3. How can I change employers while on my current E-3 visa?
With few exceptions, the process to change employers on your E-3 visa involves the same process as your original E-3 application. This means that a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) will first need to be completed, filed and certified by the U.S. Department of Labor before you attend the U.S. Consulate. Applicants must again attend a visa interview at a Consulate to obtain the new E-3 visa stamp. It is also critical that no more than 10 days passes between ceasing work with the current (first) employer, and commencing the new position. 

4. I would like to work in the United States but do not yet have a job offer. Can I apply for an E-3 to look for employment in the U.S.?
Applicants must have first received a job offer from a U.S. employer in order to apply for the E-3 visa. The U.S. employer will also be responsible for preparing the LCA which, once certified by the Department of Labor, must be presented at the U.S. Consulate as part of the visa application.

5. How do I know if the U.S. position I'm offered would be considered a Specialty Occupation?
U.S. immigration regulations define a Specialty Occupation as a position that requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, as well as the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent) in the specific specialty. The U.S. employer must actually require a Bachelor’s degree as a part of the position requirements. As noted above, 3 years of professional experience may be substituted for 1 year of study at a Bachelor degree level. Therefore, as a guide, 12 years of professional experience may be substituted for the four-year Bachelor degree requirement.  The U.S. Consulate will ultimately determine whether the requirements for the E-3 visa have been met.

6. What are the obligation on my U.S. employer?
The U.S. employer will be required to prepare and file the LCA with the Department of Labor for certification. The certified LCA should be included with the application and presented at the U.S. consulate when applying for the visa. The LCA includes attestations regarding the hiring company, the new position type and title, details regarding the wages to be paid to the new employee, and that the employee will be paid the prevailing wage for the role. The U.S. employer will also be required to maintain a Public Access File (PAF) for every E-3 position after each LCA has been filed. In addition to other requirements, the PAF is required to contain several publicly available documents which outline the details of each E-3 position, as well as the process involved for determining the prevailing wage.

7. I am an Australian trades-person with a number of trade qualifications and considerable industry experience. Can I qualify for an E-3 visa?
Trade positions are generally not appropriate to qualify for the E-3 visa. The E-3 position in the U.S. must require a Bachelor's degree as part of the role. Most trade-like positions in the U.S. won't require an applicant to possess a degree, and therefore they cannot qualify for the E-3.