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
- 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|
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.