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June 9th 2023

How can Australians apply for the E-3 visa?

Many Australian workers in the U.S. take advantage of the E-3, a special work visa that is limited to workers from Australia. We explain more about how you can apply.

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Alison Rogers
Journalist and real estate broker

All about Australians in America 

Australia and America just celebrated 100 years of “mateship”  -- a special friendship between the two countries. Because of that century-long bond, there are clusters of Australian workers in the U.S. In New York, for example, there are around 20,000 Aussies. 

In California, there are over 60,000 Aussies, according to the Australian Consulate General. Silicon Valley, located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay region, is a technology hub and an especially strong magnet. The U.S. Embassy of Australia website notes that 20,000 Australians are employed by companies based in Silicon Valley. 

In the U.S., there are famous Australian entertainers like Mel Gibson and the Hemsworth Brothers. Other famous Australians in the U.S. include Robert Thomson, the CEO of media giant News Corporation, and Andrew Liveris, the former CEO of Dow Chemical.

The E-3: A special visa 

Many Australian workers in the U.S. take advantage of the E-3, a special work visa that is limited to workers from Australia. As part of AUSFTA (the Australian-U.S. Free Trade Agreement), 10,500 E-3 visas are authorized every fiscal year. However, thousands of E-3 visas go unclaimed. Nova Credit partner Aussie Recruit notes that only about half the quota was used in 2018. If you’re an Australian moving to the U.S. for work, consider applying for an E-3.

A comparison: the E-3 visa vs. the H-1B visa

The H-1B visa is the better known of these “employer sponsored” visas, which both require applicants to have first secured a job in the U.S.

However, an E-3 is better than an H-1B in three major ways. First, demand for H-1Bs is so high that slots are awarded by lottery and the majority of applicants don’t make it, whereas there is no lottery for the E-3s. Second, while the E-3 is a temporary work visa and granted in two-year increments, it offers the possibility of unlimited renewals. Third, if you’ve got an H-1B, it can be complicated to get work authorization for your spouse. An E-3, however, also grants your spouse the right to work in the U.S.  

How to apply for an E-3 visa

As another advantage, the E-3 has a fairly quick processing time of around four to six weeks.

Since you’ll need to start with a job, look on large job search websites such as Monster.com, Indeed, and Career Builder.  Professional networking site LinkedIn is also a good place to connect with recruiters and others in your field. Additionally, look at local networking groups such as the Australians in San Francisco Facebook group, which has thousands of members.

If you’re an educated professional, it’s a good time to look for a job in the U.S. Employers are hungry for skilled labor. The U.S. unemployment rate is at a fifty-year low.  Tech companies, in particular, are seeking talent, with 918,000 unfilled jobs, according to a CompTIA report cited in the Wall Street Journal. International workers are embraced in many fields. In technology, in particular, there is a strong connection between immigration and entrepreneurship. Many billion-dollar Silicon Valley firms, such as Slack, Stripe, and Palantir have at least one immigrant founder.

Once you line up a job, your employer files a Labor Condition Application, and you file a petition with the LCA and your job offer letter. (The full list of supporting documents is here on the U.S. immigration offices’ website.) You’ll also want to show that you have ties to Australia, since the intent of the visa is for temporary work, not to serve as a path towards permanent status. After the petition is approved, U.S Immigration forwards a I-797 Form, which is essentially an approval letter, to your employer, which your employer forwards to you so that you can apply for your visa.

E-3 visa extensions 

To extend an E-3 visa, you’ll go through the same process that you did for the original filing. First, your employer will seek and obtain an approval, and then you can renew your visa. Paperwork takes time, so be sure to apply for an extension of your E-3 visa before the visa runs out. 

Spouses of E-3 visa holders 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security classifies the spouses and children of E-3 visa holders as eligible for E-3D visas. These dependent visas require a separate application, but they don’t count against the 10,500 available visa total, and the spouse who holds an E-3D can work in the U.S. In comparison, the spouse of H-1 visa holders generally hold H-4 visas -- and some of those H-4 visa holders can work in the U.S., but not all of them. 

Getting your life started in the States 

Once you have a job and a visa, you’ll need to set up other parts of your life in the U.S. To get a bank account, loans, and housing -- perhaps even a mobile phone -- you’ll need to transfer your credit history. You may have a long, established record of paying your bills responsibly, but you’ll need to get that foreign credit history over the border. 

In New York City, for example, landlords traditionally relied on requiring massive security deposits when renting to internationals. But new rent regulations now limit the amount of security deposits that landlords can collect. So landlords have a new interest in better understanding the previous credit history of their international tenants.  ‍ Nova Credit is one way to make your transition to life in the U.S. easier. The company’s Credit Passport® technology helps use your foreign credit history to get approved for credit cards, loans and other financial products. Then you can start building a credit history in the U.S. using the credit you’re earning here. Currently, Nova Credit partners with credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK. Learn more here

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More from Nova Credit:

The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the H-1B visa

The ultimate guide to the J-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

How to check your USCIS case status

How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

How to get a social security card

How to get an apartment with no credit history

How to immigrate to the United States

No credit check cell phone plans

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