It may be the most common question we get asked here in terms of how long does the E-3 visa process take from beginning to end and then how long do renewals and transfers of employers take. The E-3 visa has many differences to the H-1B visa in this regard, and thus there are parts that are quicker (i.e. when it comes to company getting approval for you to then apply for your visa) and then there are parts that are slower (i.e. when it comes to transferring employers b/c of the explicit lack of the portability provision).
Additionally the method by which you originally came to the US such as the Visa Waiver Program with an ESTA, the B-1 Visa or currently in the US in another capacity on the F-1 Visa for students, OPT status, J-1 Visa for interns, H-1B visa or some other US visa you have the possibility to go the E-3 Visa subsequently
Below we will look at the average timeline of events that you could take into account when the E-3 visa is your route to working in the US;
1. Searching for a Job (unknown but in most cases allowing yourself 3 months would be seen as prudent)
2. Job Offer & Negotiation (you might agree to be hired but to negotiate on salary + bonus, equity if any, severance and any other terms you might see as important might take 1 week to finalize)
3. Filing ETA-9035(e) with Department of Labor (Once the document is filed electronically it takes about 7-10 days to get approval however any requests for more information can delay that and if your company is a first timer at doing it and/or slow moving legal counsel is involved this process from beginning to end can take around 3-4 weeks)
4 Filing I-129 with USCIS ** Optional (This is only a mandatory step when renewing an E-3 visa within the US, transferring to another employer or transfering to the E-3 visa from another US visa or status within the US. If you are doing this with normal processing periods and assuming you have no additional requests for information the approval and resulting I-797 will come in 2-3 months. The preparing of this package and getting all the checks signed to file can take some time if done by lawyers and employers and that might add an additional 1-3 weeks before the package is even sent)
5. Applying for E-3 visa at a US Consulate (Depending on which consulate you apply at it can take be immediate up to 2 months to schedule an interview date so important to plan ahead and be aware of where you are applying and the appropriate wait times. After applying assuming you don’t go through Administrative Processing, you will usually receive your passport with visa stamp 2-3 days after your interview)
6. Commencing Work (If you are on a new E-3 visa you can commence work at any time of the year however you can’t enter the US on your E-3 visa more than 10 days prior to your employment period commencing. If you are already in the US under a legal status this does not apply.)
As has recently been pointed out to us by a reader, if you go to the official Australian US Embassy E3 visa FAQ now, they have updated some more relevant questions that people continually have. Now these answers have tended to change a bit over time but as at writing should constitute the most current interpretation and guidelines for the E3 visa and E3 visa applications.
You can see even within the questions below they contradict themselves as to where you can apply for an E3 Visa and do your US Consulate Interview. So no wonder people get confused but just follow as best as you can the advice here and the experiences and guidelines we share and most often you should be OK!
Do I have to find a job in the United States first before applying for an E-3 visa?
- Yes. You need to have a job offer from a sponsoring employer in the United States before you can apply for the E-3 visa.
Can I go to the United States to find a job and then apply for the E-3 visa from there?
- In advance of applying for an E3 visa you may travel to the United States to search for a job or attend an interview. However, you cannot apply for the actual visa from within the United States. All visa applicants must appear at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad to apply, and first time E3 visa applicants will need to apply in Australia.
Can I travel to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program to find a job or attend interviews and then apply for the E-3 visa once I return to Australia?
Can I apply for an E-3 visa from outside Australia?
- You have the right to apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate which processes nonimmigrant visas, but you cannot apply from within the U.S.A list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide can be found on usembassy.state.gov. A guide to interview wait times and visa processing times worldwide can be found on travel.state.gov. However, please contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you plan to apply to check that they accept applications from non-residents, and for details of how to book an interview and current processing times, as these will vary from post to post. Some posts outside of Australia are not familiar with the E3 visa and may be unfamiliar with adjudication of such visas. They are also unfamiliar with Australian education institutions, and so proving eligibility will be difficult.
Does my employer need to file an I-129 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)?
- No, the employer in the United States is not required to submit a petition to USCIS as a prerequisite for the E3 visa. However, the employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA), from the department of labor by filing form ETA Form 9035. There is no fee to submit the ETA9035.
How do I apply for an E-3 visa?
- You may make your appointment for an interview as soon as you have all the documents prepared. You do not need to send your documents in advance, just take them to the interview. There is no specific application form, applicants for all nonimmigrant visas must complete the same standard application form known as the DS-160.If applying in Australia please see our website for further details, and for links to the online visa appointment website Visapoint, and to the DS-160 application form, see our page on how to apply.If applying outside Australia, please find a list of U.S. Consulates and Embassies overseas. A guide to wait times for interviews and visa processing times at all posts worldwide.
How long does it take to apply?
- The wait times for interview at each Consulate vary, you can check the latest timeframe for interviews in Australia on the Visapoint website whilst making an appointment.In Australia, if an E-3 visa is approved at interview, it is normally issued within 2-3 business days. Visas and passports are returned by mail, so please also allow time for this. Applicants should bring a self-addressed 500g Express Post Platinum envelope to the interview.Please see our website for further details on how to apply in Australia.If applying outside Australia, please see the FAQ above for a link to interview wait times and processing times worldwide. For the LCA processing time, please contact the Department of Labor: www.dol.gov
What requirements and documentary evidence are needed for the application?
- In addition to the Electronic Visa Application Form DS-160, completed online (http://ceac.state.gov/genniv/) you may need to provide the following documentary evidence with your application for an E-3 Visa:1. An approved Labor Condition Application (LCA), which the U.S. employer obtains from the Department of Labor. You are advised not to book an interview appointment until you have received this form.2. Evidence of academic or other qualifying credentials as required under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 214(i)(1), and a job offer letter from the employer.
3. If your degree and higher-level qualifications are from an Australian institution, you do not usually need to provide certified copies or evidence of their U.S. equivalent, but please bring to your visa interview a copy of any certificates, and if possible, transcripts for the course of study. If your qualification(s) are not from an Australian institution, a certified copy of the foreign degree and evidence that it is equivalent to the required U.S. degree could be used to satisfy the “qualifying credentials” requirement, but you may prefer to wait until your visa interview to confirm whether this is necessary. You should take a copy of any certificates and transcripts to your visa interview, and if it is also necessary to produce certified copies of certificates and evidence of U.S. equivalence, you can send these to the Consulate after the interview, although your visa will not be approved until this is received. Likewise, a certified copy of a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree, as required by the specialty occupation, would meet the minimum evidentiary standard.
4. In the absence of an academic or other qualifying credential(s), evidence of education and experience that is equivalent to the required U.S. degree.
5. A certified copy of any required license or other official permission to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment if so required or, where licensure is not necessary to commence immediately the intended specialty occupation employment upon admission, evidence that the alien will be obtaining the required license within a reasonable time after admission