I have had to get three US visas in my lifetime, and have a decent amount of experience on the topic. I am writing this post to save some people time and pain during a stressful process.
What is the E3
The E3 visa is a specialty occupation visa, introduced in 2005 as part of USA/Australian trade deal negotiations.
- Australian Only Visa
- Speciality Occupation
- Not included in H1B Visa quotas
My experience with the E3 Visa
The E3 visa is often confused with the H1B, as it requires company sponsorship, but that is really where the similarities end, and I have been told by immigration lawyers that it is the easiest visa they have ever had to file.
This is the high-level overview of how to get the visa:
- get a job (offer letter)
- company apply for LCA
- get LCA, sign LCA
- apply for appointment, pay money $2xx
- go to appointment at US Consulate outside the US, get visa approved
1 Official offer letter
The first requirement is to receive an official offer letter from a company. The offer letter should have the following on it:
- Company Name, and Official Address, Letterhead/Logo
- Start Date
- Signed by Company Employee
2 Company applies for LCA (9035)
This is the part of the process that I know the least about, as this is the company's responsibility . Both times that I had my future employees apply for the LCA I was told that it was a very smooth and straightforward process. Essentially the company just needs to prove that they are a legitimate company.
This page has a good detailed breakdown of what is needed to file the Labor Condition Application (LCA/ ETA Form 9035E/ 9035) to the Department of Labor.
3 Receive LCA + Sign
10-20 days after the LCA has been applied for, you should receive your LCA. The ONLY thing that you need to do now is print off a copy of the LCA its needs to be signed by the person who signed it. I made the mistake of not having the LCA signed by the filing employee before my interview, and it was a big pain, and cost me a day or so during my LCA approval process.
4 Book appointment + pay visa fee (DS160)
Determine where you want to get your visa approved. For this, you need to visit a Consulate outside the USA. If you go to the visa wait time site this should give you some approximate times on how long the visa wait time is at each location.
The two times that I have done my E3 application, I visited Ottawa, CA and Montreal, CA. But you can go anywhere outside of the US, as long as the consulate can do All Other Nonimmigrant Visas.
Here are some other locations: Barbados, Montreal CA, Ottawa CA, Toronto CA, Vancouver CA, Melbourne AU etc. etc.
NOTE: Do not make any travel arrangements until you have a confirmed visa booking time. And allow 5 business days from the day of your visa appointment to receive your visa.
Once you have decided on your visa appointment location, head to the respective US Embassy + Consulates website, and register and book an appointment. During this process, you will have to fill out a large application form (like 6+ pages) and need to have your LCA number. You will need to then pay a fee (it was $270 last time I did it) to confirm your appointment. You will then receive a DS160
5 US Visa Consulate Appointment
For the visa appointment you need to ensure that you have the required documentation:
- LCA/ ETA Form 9035E/ 9035
- Offer Letter
- Appointment Confirmation (DS160)
- 2 x Visa Photos (2"x2")
- Evidence of qualification (Certified / Original University Degree etc)
- Ties to home.
Sometimes, and this is more prominent with other Visa's (think J1) the consulate wants to see that you have significant ties to home. This can be evidence of assets in Australia, car registration etc. I personally have never been asked this but it's possible that they will ask.
- Proof of savings.
Proof of saving is another one that is normally mitigated by the job offer, but they want to see that you are not a criminal risk, and can afford to set up in a new country.
- Additional evidence of qualification.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to have additional evidence of qualification, such as a statement of results, or something else that prove that you have the needed qualification, this is just in case your university is not well known (most outside of Melbourne and Sydney University).
Tips and tricks
Where to go
Here is a list of some of places that you can go:
- Montreal CA
- Ottawa CA
- Toronto CA
- Vancouver CA
- Sydney AU
- Melbourne AU
- London UK
As long as the place says All Other Nonimmigrant Visas. They should be able to process the E3 Visa.
Flights and Accommodation
If possible book a flexible flight, or book only a one way flight (also use Google Flights). As a general rule of thumb, if your appointment was on a Monday there would be a very high chance you would have your visa in hand by Friday; In normal circumstances you will most likely have it Thursday if not Wednesday. But if you have to book accommodation and flights ahead, I would allow for 5 business days.
This is the most valuable tip in this whole post.
During the process of booking an appointment, you need to declare which post office location you would like to pick up your passport (with visa) from. Each consulate in the different countries will use a different courier/mail service. Look up the head office/ main mail sorting location, and make this your location for pickup. Even if this is in an inconvenient location, this could mean picking up your visa 1-2days early.
Getting your visa appointment
The consulate, under certain circumstance, will let you apply for an expedited appointment. My last visa appointment I found that even though the listed wait time was 2-4 days when I actually went to book the appointment, the next wasn't available for 3-4 weeks. As my E3 expired 10 days after resigning from your previous role, I explained that I need to start my new role immediately, and I was kindly granted an appointment in just 3 days.
The whole visa process is stressful. Do your research, go to the interview over-prepared, be polite, courteous and understanding, and you will have your visa in no time.