The E3 visa process can be confusing. There is a lot of conflicting information online so I am here to help. I was recently granted an E3 visa and this is what I did to get it.
I have placed all you need in a beginning to end step-by-step process below. It may seem to confront at first but take it a step at a time and you will be fine.
Important things to know before you start.
- You don’t need a lawyer – The E3 visa process was designed so that you do not need a lawyer so unless your company requires it, you should not need legal representation though there are legal options out there for around $10K. I would only really recommend it if you are bringing your partner and children over in which case, I would approach your employer to assist.
- Give yourself enough time for the E3 visa process to happen this means about a month if things are fast or a few months if the process is long. Note, it is very difficult to do this in two weeks. It took me almost two months.
- I am not a lawyer just a gal who got an E3 visa, don’t hold it against me! As a disclaimer, it is important for you to check official websites listed in this post to confirm nothing has changed since I have completed the process. I am not to be blamed if your application is denied. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s, you will be fine. Now take a deep breath and get stuck into it.
What is the E3 visa?
The E3 visa classification applies to Australian nationals who are coming to the US to perform services in their specialty occupation. (The background is that due to our assistance with US wars throughout the years, President George W. Bush granted the E3 visa to Australians for no cost to the employer.) The E3 visa allows Australians to work in the US in a specific role but costs the company nothing to sponsor the Australian. The only cost is the applicant for the processing fee.
Basic overview of the process
1. Find a job
2. Apply for LCA to DOL – lodged through i-Cert online system
3. Wait for LCA to be approved
4. Fill out a DS-160 form online and pay a fee.
6. Book your interview at a US consulate – check that your closest consulate processes the E-3 Visa
5. Interview where they should tell you on the spot whether approved or not.
6. Wait for your passport to be returned with visa.
- You will need to be sponsored by a US company.
- You have to have that company complete the LCA form (Labor conditions Application) – it’s a form that basically stops companies in America employing foreigners and paying them less than they would pay for a US citizen (info page attached called ETA form & Labor Conditions application info sheet) It talks about determining the prevailing wage
You must have a Batchelor’s Degree or have a strong background of knowledge of the occupation such as ten years in the specific job or field. There does not seem to be clear guidelines as to the extent of experience that someone without a degree needs but you must prove to the embassy that you have the correct knowledge in the job. I would advise contacting them in writing to make sure you are covered before you set and attend the meeting.
The E3 can be granted for up to two years and can currently be extended.
Ok, now that you have your head around it, let’s go step by step through the process.
Step 1 – Eligibility
You must have the following to apply:
- Australian national (born in Australia or have full citizenship)
- Have a true job offer for work in the US
- Have a Bachelor’s Degree or the equivalent in training that correlates with the role.
- Must fill a ‘specialty qualification’ (you must prove that an American national can not do the job).
- Enough money so that if everything falls apart you can get home safely
I was granted this visa due to my international perspective and experience which was needed by the company.
Here is what I did:
- Find a company who needs an international perspective or needs your expertise.
- Get a formal job offer in writing. You will need a formal job offer letter on official letterhead signed off by your supervisor or someone higher. Mine was a letter sent via post but I have heard that this can be sent via email at a stretch. I like to have all of my paperwork perfect so I went with the wet copy. This must have the ‘prevailing wage’ stated along with your start and finish date.
- Make sure that your pay is high enough to qualify to let you in. (This is really important). Details below in prevailing wage section
- Double check that you will have benefits such as health care and dental if you do not have these written into the contract they can be very expensive to obtain in the US and if you are coming with a family, if you do not have benefits, the job may not be worth it.
Step 2 – Applying (and understanding all those forms)
Before we start the application process here is a list of the forms you will need for the application.
- LCA (Labor Condition Application) – it looks like this. It must be signed by the employer and by the approving party.
- DS-160 – Confirmation page (to prove you are you)
- Degree paperwork, Degree and academic records/ transcript (I took my original along with photocopies in case they needed a version on file. They didn’t end up taking it but I had it anyway )
- If your job requires a license of any form, you must take this.
- The embassy appointment booking confirmation (all pages)
- Payment receipt
You can apply for the Visa from inside the US but I have been told not to as it takes too long.
For your employer
If your employer has done this before, they will know what to do. If they haven’t you can help them out by sending them these notes to assist with the application.
- Before the job is offered, make sure that you know the pay level necessary for the application to be approved. There is a section on the ‘iCert’ website, this is called the ‘prevailing wages’ search and it is on the right-hand side. Select your state/ territory, ‘data series and source’ information which means the latest date and time then the ‘area’ for example Manhattan, NYC, NY and the occupation. This will then give you the correct payment for the job. You can not apply under the level noted here but you can apply with a higher wage. Make sure you keep the reference number which looks something like this ’41-3011 – Advertising Sales Agents’ as you will need this later. Your employer will also need this for the LCA form.
- The employer must create a login on the ‘iCert’ portal. Which looks like this:
- The employer must then complete the form online at ‘iCert’ LCA. Link here. It is very straight forward. Make sure they fill out the form for ‘E3’ visas and not H1 (that’s the Canadian / Mexican one and you can’t use it)
- If you need a user guide (this was very helpful) you can download it. Link here. I ended up annotating this guide for my employer with all the info necessary so they could breeze through it.
- When the employer has completed the LCA, leave a few days for this to be approved. Your employer will be sent an email noting if it has been approved or not for them to be able to employ you. They need to send this through to you so that you can download the approved LCA form. You will need it for your consulate interview.
Yay! Step 2 completed. Nice work.
Step 3 – DS-160
- You use the LCA form to fill out your DS-160. You can do it here. I got tripped up here, the DS-160 asks for LCA number but on the LCA form it is called the ‘case number’ it will look something like this 203-00000-000000 and be at the bottom left in the footer of the LCA form.
The DS-160 requires that you attach a photo. See the photo requirements needed. It must be taken with the US specifics for a passport photo. You can check to see if your photo passes with the online photo checker available when you apply for the DS-160.
I had a professional photo taken for the interview for the visa however, I used a digital version for the DS-160 because when I scanned in the original it did not fit the size requirements and I did not want to stretch it.
When you have completed the DS-160 you can now go to the consulate close to you.
Step 4 – Applying for the Interview
You must attend the US consulate in Australia or internationally but it is not recommended to do this within the US. I have read that if you are applying for the E3 visa for the first time, it must be done in Australia. I did mine in Sydney which had about a two-week wait.
Go to the official website and make the payment. Be sure to take a copy of the receipt, I did a screenshot and had it emailed to me. Below the payment details, the form will show your name and your reference number.
It will look like this:
- Select a date offered, pay the fee and get your confirmation. You will need to take the confirmation form to the interview.
Make sure you have a copy of the appointment confirmation page stating your name, number and the time you are to visit. Please check all this information is correct before arriving at the embassy.
Step 5 – Interview checklist:
Here is the checklist you will need for the interview.
- DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application confirmation page. This online application form must be completed before your appointment. The confirmation page should show a barcode and a copy of the photo that you uploaded. Here is an example link.
- A copy of your certified and signed Labor Condition Application (LCA)
- Application fee receipt (which is sent to you when you make the appointment – above)
- The current valid passport of each applicant. The passport must have two blank facing visa pages. Also bring all previous passports in your possession.
- A copy of your passport bio page.
- Appointment confirmation page. This will also have a barcode as well as the details of your appointment time.
- A valid U.S. passport-style photo (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/au/au-niv-photoinfo.asp). This is a requirement if the photo you uploaded into your DS-160 form is not on a white background or was not taken within the past 6 months. If you are unsure whether the image you uploaded qualifies, please bring a recent passport photo with you.
- Degree and a copy
- Transcript and a copy
- Applicants are advised to bring an itemized bank or investment statement going back at least two months reflecting that you have adequate funds to pay for their intended stay in the U.S. Students, for example, should be able to prove that they have adequate finances to pay for their entire program of study and living expenses. If you own property or real estate, you may bring evidence of this.
- Previous U.S travel info including specific dates you went in and out of the country along with the type of visa you traveled on.
- SOC Job Code (which comes from the iCert website)
- Prevailing wage source (which comes from the iCert website)
Note: It is really important to have clear copies of all documents in case the Embassy need to take one to support your case.
You do not need an Express Australia Post bag for this visa. (You do for the J1 which sometimes get muddled up.) During your payment process, you will pay for a courier service which is the delivery that will be used for you to your passport and hopefully your visa back.
Step 6 – Interview
It is not necessary to dress up as if you were attending a work interview however, it is important to look sharp, clean and confident. You are almost there!
Turn up to your interview no more than half an hour in advance as they process a lot of people. Try not to bring too much with you as you will have to go through a security scanner, like at the airport. Anything that is not necessary for the interview such as your paperwork in a folder and a payment method such as your wallet must be checked in at the office when you check in for your appointment.
You will go through the doors and hand over your passport containing your LCA. Your DS-160 will be checked here too.
Proceed through the security system and drop off anything that is not necessary including mobile phones. These can not be taken in.
(Bring a light book here if you can, there can sometimes be a long wait).
You will be called by name into the next office where you will wait in line to go to the first window. If you are ever unsure of where to go, ask the staff, they are very polite and helpful.
You will be seen by the first officer who will ask for your passport, LCA and DS-160. They may also ask you for appointment documentation and anything else. Here you will be asked to submit your fingerprints which are scanned digitally.
From here you will be sent to a second line where the official interview will take place.
I was only asked a few questions however, you may be asked several more.
1. What is the job?
2. What are your qualifications?
3. What will you be doing?
4. Who will be financing you? Do you have enough money to support yourself if this falls over?
They will then take a look at your paperwork and ask for anything to back up your case. From here they will tell you if you have formally been accepted or denied.
If you have been accepted, they will then take your DS-160, your LCA and your passport which will be processed and couriered back to the address you have designated.
If you are denied they will generally tell you why. You do have the opportunity to appeal if this happens but if you have all of your ducks in a row, this is not normally the case.
There you have it! You have your E3 and you are ready to go! Best of luck in the U.S.
- Are you eligible to enter the US on the ESTA visa waiver program to attend interviews and meetings? Yes. Provided to stick to the rules, enter and leave within the allocated 90 days the ESTA. I recommend leaving a few days before the visa ends in case you have some issues with travel delays
- If you have had a DUI or have broken the law can you still apply? I have not had one but the woman in the line in front of me had nine years before the offer. The embassy member required her to got to a specific doctor and have some bloodwork taken. If you have felonies, criminal backgrounds or any form of DUI this may hold up or void your application so please contact the embassy to understand the specifics before you apply
Getting to the US
You may only enter the US within ten days of beginning your job. If you must enter earlier I would recommend that you contact the consulate as you might be able to enter on an ESTA before your E3 sets in? Get the answer in writing in case the law changes from when you apply to when you travel.
Keep your paperwork handy in case immigration need to check anything on your arrival.
Keep an eye out for our article about finding accommodation when entering the US. There are certain complications due to the US not accepting credit backgrounds from foreign countries so you must start your credit history in the US from scratch
For finding jobs: https://www.onetonline.org/find/
Feature image provided by Anthony Delanoix https://unsplash.com/@anthonydelanoix