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How To Work In The US (Part 3): Job Applications & Visa Process

(this is a series and a real life experience from one of our readers who wanted to share his journey to work in the US in the hope it would educate and inspire others)
Part 1 – J1 Visa & Early Days
Part 2 – Living & Finding Work in NY

Getting a “real” job and moving to the E3

My goal was always to find a way to stay in New York beyond my J1 visa year. About six months into my J1 I got a job working for a theatre management company. They knew that if they wanted to keep me beyond the end of my J1 they’d have to sponsor me, so I began the process of researching the E3 visa. To be honest, most of what I learned about it I found here on e3visa.info. CJ’s articles on the visa process were insightful and easy to read. While the process isn’t the same for everyone, having a resource like this is immensely helpful. So if you’re planning to get on an E3, go back and read every article on this site.

I have a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Drama and Theatre Studies from an Australian university. My job definitely requires a college degree – the tricky part was proving that it requires MY college degree.

When you have a visa sponsor and are about to fill out the LCA, do a bit of research on the Department of Labor website about the BEST way of categorising your job. If your job doesn’t easily fit a DOL category, try finding one it does. We categorised my job as “Associate Producer” (not my real title) because “Producer” is a recognised specialised occupation according to DOL. Specialisation is also important: the title you pick has to be a job that requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher to do. In addition, you have to be making the median wage level for that job. This can sometimes be tricky: my job certainly didn’t pay anywhere near the median wage, but we were able to argue that I made a certain amount as an hourly rate and worked part time. They don’t need any supporting documentation to prove this information, so while I certainly wouldn’t advise lying on your visa application, you are able to stretch the parameters a little if you’re clever.

The US consular interview is really straightforward. It’s best to be as prepared as possible – I brought letters of support from old employers, my university results, my CV and other supporting documents. Ultimately the only thing they asked for was my LCA and a letter from my employer, which stated how much they were paying me and what my duties were. They asked how I found my job, what my job description was like, and what my¬† degree was in (though they never asked to see my paperwork). They asked about my ties to home (my entire family is over in Australia, so that was easy) and then stamped my document and sent me on my way. My passport with my E3 visa in it arrived three days later and I came back to the States a week later.

All in all, the process is actually incredibly simple. Once you have a job, filling out the LCA correctly is the trickiest part of the process – and it’s really not difficult at all, it just requires a bit of thought and maybe some inventiveness if your work situation isn’t really straightforward. I freaked out a lot and met with a lawyer who tried to convince me I couldn’t do it alone. I nearly paid them $4000 before actually paying attention to what was required of me and realising that I COULD do this on my own. I am SO relieved I didn’t do it through a lawyer; I would never have forgiven myself for paying that much for something that was so easy to do.

The hardest part is actually GETTING the job. If you plan to come over and look for work, your best bet is to get onto the B1 tourist visa and stay as long as you need to until you get a job. In this climate, it will take you longer than the 90 days allowed on the visa waiver (unless you are highly qualified in a specialist field). Bring your life’s savings with you and be prepared to go through it – whether you’re looking for work on the J1, E3, or H1B – looking for work can be exhausting and demoralising. But if you want it badly enough, and more importantly, if you KNOW what is required of you from the visa process, you will be fine.

My final three pieces of advice:

1) Know the visa process inside out. Be able to answer any question your future employer might ask you. The advantage of the E3 is that it costs your employer nothing to sponsor you, but they will probably still have lots of questions.

2) Read the instructions on the consular website. Tattoo them on your forehead. And for god’s sake, REMEMBER YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR THE VISA FEE AT AUSTRALIA POST (if you apply in Australia) and you HAVE TO COME TO THE CONSULATE WITH A REGISTERED POST ENVELOPE. The three people ahead of me at the consulate forgot one or both of these things and had to leave and go to the post office and come back and wait in line.

3) Don’t get discouraged – the E3 really is designed to make life easier for you and your employer. Finding a job is possible, it just takes time and energy.

Good luck!