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The E3 Visa: What is it?

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Question: I know someone from Australia who wants to stay here in the U.S. However, I do not know what we can do. I’ve heard of the E3 Visa, but do not know exactly what it is. Can you explain?

Answer: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance today regarding E-3 nonimmigrant Specialty Occupation Workers. In particular, USCIS provided specific information on the eligibility requirements and documentation needed for individuals wishing to either change their nonimmigrant status to that of an E-3 worker or to extend their E-3 status.

Established by the REAL ID Act of 2005, the E-3 nonimmigrant classification allows for the admission of a temporary worker who is national of Australia and is entering the U.S. to perform services in a “specialty occupation.” As is generally the case, nonimmigrant aliens who are already legally in the United States may apply to change their status to that of an E-3 specialty worker and, eventually, apply to extend their stay in E-3 classification.

Question: Is this simply an H-1B Visa?

Answer: No. The new E-3 nonimmigrant category should not be confused with the separate and independent H-1B nonimmigrant category for “specialty occupation” workers.

Question: What must you do to qualify for the H-3 Visa?

Answer: To qualify for E-3 classification, an alien must, among other things, be an Australian national who is seeking employment in a specialty occupation requiring possession of a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent), and possess the appropriate degree (or its equivalent) in the field in which the alien wishes to work. E-3 nonimmigrant status is initially granted for a period of no more than two years. Extensions of stay may be granted indefinitely in increments not to exceed two years.

Congress has established a yearly cap of 10,500 new E-3 workers. For purposes of the cap, “new E-3 workers” are those who, coming from abroad, are admitted initially in E-3 classification or those who change their nonimmigrant status to E-3 classification or change employers while in E-3 status. Unlike the dependent of an alien in H-1B nonimmigrant classification, the dependent spouse of an E-3 temporary worker may apply for and receive work authorization.

An alien seeking to be admitted in E-3 nonimmigrant classification at a U.S. Port-of-Entry must posses a valid E-3 visa issued by the U.S. Department of State. Aliens already in the United States may request a change of status to E-3 or extend their E-3 status by filing a Form I- 129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) directly with the Vermont Service Center. The cost for filing the request for change of status or extension of stay is $190. In addition to the Form I-129 , applicants must include the following documentation: Proof of Australian nationality; A letter from the prospective U.S. employer describing the alien’s occupation, the alien’s anticipated length of stay, and salary/remuneration arrangements; Evidence that the alien meets the educational requirements for the position to be filled (a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent in the specific specialty occupation); Evidence that the alien meets any licensing or other occupational requirements, and Evidence that the prospective U.S. employer has filed with the Department of Labor a labor condition application (LCA) specifically designated for E-3 Specialty Occupations.

Question: Have all the E-3’s been used up?

Answer: No. There is still time to file for the H-3. However, you never know when they will all be used up for the year. Therefore, be sure to put the paperwork in as soon as possible.