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E-3 Visa Annual Quota & History

The E-3 visa officially began on October 1, 2005 and a subsequent and separate Act passed by US Congress in 2005 following the AUSFTA (Australia & United States Free Trade Agreement) during that year. The idea behind the E-3 visa was that Australians now had a secondary route to work professionally in the US outside the long standing route of the H-1B visa which is available to all foreign nationals to the US and has an annual cap of 85,000. Given the H-1B visa is global it is of course far more competitive sometimes running out in a matter of days from the opening of application acceptance.

The E-3 visa had a separate annual cap of 10,500 annually (about 12% of the H-1B visa cap which was seen as very generous) and also had many other lucrative differences to the H-1B visa including;

  • Only available to Australian citizens
  • No Employer fees (vs. thousands for the H-1B visa)
  • No need for an application petition to the USCIS (United States Custom & Immigration Service)
  • Ability for a spouse of the E-3 visa holder (regardless of nationality) to also work in the US
  • Ability to apply for the visa at any time of the year (i.e. season is always open)
  • Is for 2 years but renewable indefinitely
At the time many Australians rejoiced thinking that the ability to work in the US suddenly became a whole lot easier. In some ways that was true with Australia now second to probably Canadian citizens via the TN visawith access ease to working in the US. However a fundamental misunderstanding by both the Howard Government and thus Media and General Public as to how the US Immigration system worked ensued and thus a lot of misinformation spread.While the above  advantages are certainly beneficial the mechanics of finding and getting a job, having an employer agree to sponsor, having to do a US consulate interview and otherwise be a party to the US Immigration system (or mess of a system) still remained. Unlike the UK where many more Australian professionals head to work;

  • You have to have an employer and job offer prior to being able to apply for the E-3 Visa
  • You have to go through a US Consulate Interview
  • During that interview you have to demonstrate strong ties to Australia (the E-3 visa is NOT a Green Card)
  • The rate of pay has to equal or more to the average wage for that role in that city where you plan to work
  • The job you apply to has to have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum criteria and be considered a specialty occupation
  • You must either have a relevant bachelor’s degree or enough relevant work experience to equate a US bachelor’s degree to the job to which you are applying
  • You can’t immediately start working once a job offer is made as you need have your E-3 visa approval first
  • It is not easy to transfer to a new job under the E-3 visa

Given all of that the table below shows the amount of used and unused E-3 visas over the last few years

YEAR E3 Visas Issued Unused E-3 Visas
FY2006 1,918 8,582
FY2007 2,572 7,928
FY2008 2,961 7,539
FY2009 2,191 8,309
FY2010 2,175 8,325

As is immediately evident about 75-80% on average of the E-3 visas each US Immigration year have not been used up (if unused they do NOT get added to the following year’s quota). In fact in the last couple of years the E-3 visa numbers have declined significantly although it should be noted that if you compare it to the H-1B visa during those years there was even a very slow takeup of those visas b/c of the Recessions and slow recovery in the US.

Some Australians still opt for the H-1B visa route mainly for a couple of reasons but in the current year and the year of 2005 (immediately prior the E-3 visa going live) this has only number a little over 500 of that 85,000 total (about 0.6% of the global total);

  • H-1B period is for 3 years so requires less renewal
  • H-1B visa allows a portability provision making it easier to switch employers
  • H-1B visa is known as a explicit dual intent visa making it more smooth for Green Card sponsorship and future renewals

Ultimately the E-3 visa is a lucrative option for Australians and with the Irish wanting to get their hands on the E-3 visa, it may become more competitive in the not too distant future. However be under no illusions that it is not an easy ride just a slightly easier ride with greater options than before. We have many resources on here to help you find a job, prepare for a US job interview, create a US style resume, explain the E-3 visa to a prospective employer, what a US Consulate interview is like and much more.

Cj

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E3 Visa Differences to the H1B Visa

So after not writing to much about the E3 Visa in recent times, I thought I would do a brief post on the differences between the E3 visa and the H1B visa. The main reason for this post is to clear up a lot of the E3 Visa Myths and FAQs as well as be a response to a lot of the questions we get from everyone regarding the E3 visa itself.

1. The E3 visa is only for Australian citizens whereas the H1B visa is for citizens of virtually any country
The E3 visa was created a subsequent addon to US Immigration law f or the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) signed in 2005 allowing Australian citizens to more easily work in the US against the more strict and competitive process surround the H1B visa

2. The E3 visa is renewable every 2 years indefinitely as opposed to singular H1B instances which are renewable once in 3 year increments
So in theory the E3 visa is able to renewed forever and many people now are on their 3rd E3 Visa Renewal. However just because you are doing a specialized occupation, at a previously approved company and have no violations of your visa terms, does not mean you will automatically be eligible for E3 visa renewal as that is up to the USCIS or US Consulate assessing your case. In most cases you should be fine but due to the non dual-intent provision of the E3 visa and maintaining home residency, sometimes arbitrarily it can be a grey area.

3. The E3 visa has no Government mandated application costs and only requires a free filing to the US Department of Labor where as the H1B visa requires a petition to be submitted to the USCIS during a specified period and has associated costs.
So the H1B visa has many costs as opposed to the E3 visa (not even accounting for optional H1B lawyer fees or E3 Visa lawyer fees). The E3 visa requires the sponsor company to file Form ETA-9035(e) to the Department of Labor which is a free filing to get an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) which the candidate needs to take to their US Consulate Interview to get the E3 visa stamp in the passport.
(NB: the only time a USCIS filing is required for a new E3 visa application, is when there is a transfer from another visa like the F1 Visa or J1 visa)


4. The E3-D Dependent Visa for spouses allows the spouse to work in the US
Unlike the H4 spouse visa for the H1B visa, the E3D Visa after filing for appropriate work authorization following entry into the US. It should also be noted that this working privilege does not extend to E3D dependent visa children under 21. The E3D visa holder does NOT need to be an Australian citizen.

5. The E3 visa is not specifically a dual intent visa
Unlike the H1B visa which allows for dual intent, at your E3 Visa US Consulate Interview, the candidate must prove they intend to leave the US at the end of their visa period and thus must prove significant ties to the home country. Now mistakenly people believe that this also means you can’t have your company sponsor you for a green card while on the E3 visa. This is NOT true as this is possible as the law states;

“An application for initial admission, change of status or extension of stay in E-3 classification, however, may not be denied solely on the basis of an approved request for permanent labor certification or a filed or approved immigrant visa preference petition.”

However because of the dual intent provision, risks still may apply for a denial of your E3 visa when renewing with a pending Permanent Residency case. Many people have got Green Cards while on the E3 visa successfully so it certainly can and has been done.

6. The E3 visa does not have the portability provision explicitly stated
The H1B visa regulations has a provision that when candidates want to transfer employers, they can start working at their new employer while that application is still pending at the USCIS. This helps overcome the 10 day rule that an H1B visa (and indeed E3 visa) candidate is not allowed to be out of work in the US. For the E3 visa this portability provision is not explicitly stated, even though the E3 visa is supposed to follow the H1B rules where it is not written. However most people at the USCIS and indeed most US Immigration attorneys seem to interpret this as there being no portability provision for the E3 visa. Therefore because an application with the USCIS takes longer than 10 days to process, E3 visa candidates wanting to transfer employers either have to do it in advance while staying at their current employer or have to leave the US and get a new E3 visa for that new employer. (It should be noted the some E3 visa candidates have been told differently by the USCIS and others and have successfully started working at a new employer while their application was pending with no follow on issues)

CJ

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