E-3 Visa for Australians – How To

Update 1: I’ve recently written an updated post covering how to get your visa in Canada, with some fresh details around the DS-160 and appointment process. 

About two months ago I moved to Silicon Valley from my home town of Wollongong in Australia. While the process of moving was fraught with a lot of personal logistical issues, the act of getting to the US was pretty easy – I was able to just get on a plane and fly to San Francisco and get through customs without a visa.

This is because, like many countries, Australia is on the 90 day Visa Waiver program, which allows you to spend up to 90 days in the US for a range of purposes, including business (attending meetings, conferences, etc) and pleasure (tourism, etc) without any paperwork or hassle (except for having a valid ESTA – but the form is all online and it is super easy to complete).

However, this situation has a bunch of limitations.

  • You can’t get a social security number. This is a big deal – a “social” is how pretty much everyone in the US identifies you, and is central to how credit checks are run. If you want a credit card, you need a social. If you want to process credit card payments online – even though it is through your company entity – you need a social. Thinking of signing a lease for somewhere to live? It is possible, but they’ll want a social too to run a credit check. The list goes on and on and on.
  • You’re limited to 90 days at a time, and things can get tricky. So, you’re going to be spending at least $10K per year in airfares leaving every 90 days. You don’t want to go right to the edge of the 90 day limit since over-staying can result in a later visa request getting refused (even if over-staying was the fault of the weather and cancelled flights). You also need to be gone for a meaningful period to reset the 90 day clock – 24 hours in Vancouver or Mexico doesn’t count if you’re an Australian from what I’ve been told. And, if you come back in for another 90 days a fortnight after leaving last, and this is the 5th time you’ve done it, there’s every chance the guys at the border will think you’re up to something suss and deny you entry, sending you back on the next flight. Aside from the uncertainty around this and grief if it happens, you also have the problem that being denied entry into the US puts you in a difficult place if you want a visa – red flags go up.

So, I needed to get a Visa, and if you’re doing this, you will to.

The good news is, it was actually really easy. You don’t need to pay a lawyer $2000 to what amounts to filling in a few online forms. You do, however, have to navigate some arcane, acronym laden systems that took me a bit of trial and error to get through.

Hopefully this how-to guide will help you with your application.


The E-3 Visa is a 2 year visa that is available to Australians who are offered employment in the United States by a US company. The short version is this:

  1. Make sure you’ve got a Bachelors degree or better (Graduate Diploma, Masters, Doctorate, etc).
  2. Find a company willing to hire you for a degree-qualified role, or set up your own company in the US.
    Note about Degree Qualified Roles: we’ve had questions come up from time to time with people wanting to get a role that doesn’t normally require a degree (eg, a chef, etc). From a great post on ILW, Gary Endelman explains “They have to be H-1B eligible in the sense of having a relevant college or university degree to perform professional services in a specialty occupation involving the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.” The LCA process will actually allow you to select any role category you want, and some have much lower prevailing wages, but it is the judgement of the consular officer when reviewing your petition that determines if you’re in a specialty occupation and if you have a relevant degree.
    Note about your own Company: setting up a company is legit if you’re getting offices, hiring people and you can show how the company is going to be able to fund this and your salary for the next two years. Setting up a sham front company to hire yourself out as a contractor isn’t recommended; I know people who’ve been rejected because the consular staff didn’t think the sponsoring company was legit enough. Expect to show up with your balance sheet, P&L, and demonstrate investment, clients or anything else you need to show the new business will be a going concern – remember, if you get rejected, you’ve now been classed as someone the US has denied a visa to – a black mark that is very hard to work around in the future.
  3. If you set up your own company, get your FEIN online (also known as an EIN or a TIN).
  4. The company will need to apply for an Labor Condition Application (LCA) for Nonimmigrant Workers (9035 form, online)
  5. Book an appointment with the US Consulate in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth (there’s a charge associated with this). Leave yourself at least 2 weeks from when you submit your LCA application, since you’ll need this to be processed & certified to take to the appointment. Update: you can now get your first E3 visa in Toronto, Vancouver and probably other US Department of States around the world; when I first wrote this the E3 was so new these other consulates hadn’t really heard of it, and saying no was easier than learning about it to say yes (even though the only rule is that you have to apply outside of the US).
  6. Actually complete your DS-160 online (it takes about an hour). Note you’ll need to have a digital photo of yourself where the lighting is good, the background is a white/bone wall, and you’re not smiling or having too much fun.
  7. Pay the fee for the visa application of US$390 US$205/A$225 as part of your interview process.
  8. Go to your interview, take your passport, your letter of offer from the company to yourself (I know, it sounds silly, but this is a big deal) and the other paperwork they ask you to have, and hopefully they’ll approve you.
  9. Your passport should be back to you within a week.
  10. You’re now good to live and work in the US for 2 years and travel in and out of the country without restriction. The border guards will sometimes still be c*nts – at LAX almost every time, at SFO occasionally, but that’s just them making up for an adolescence of being bullied who now have a gun and some power.

1. Finding a company or setting up your own

The E-3 visa requires you to be employed/sponsored by a company. It basically ties your right to live and work in the US to the company that makes you the offer and completes what is known as the LCA process. If you find someone who will sponsor you, they’ll need to complete Step 3 below, and once they’ve got you an LCA, you can then head to Step 4.

However, if you’re an entrepreneur doing a startup, you’ll instead want to get your own US entity. Keep reading.

The decision about which entity is right for you is a bigger issue than I can cover in this post. Generally speaking though, you’ve got two options:

  • Register an LLC, probably in Delaware. This is like the Australian equivalent of a trust – all profits made by this entity “pass through” to the “shareholders” or members of the LLC, and are paid at their own tax rate. It is a “lightweight” company, and can be flipped up to a C-Corp later. This will set you back a few hundred bucks, and you can easily do it yourself.
  • Register a C-Corp, probably in Delaware. This is the Australian equivalent of a Pty Ltd company, which can have shareholders, the ability to retain (and thus pay company income tax on) profits and has higher costs of setup, more paperwork (need for office-holders, etc) and other hassles. However, if you’re going to the US to raise capital (seek investment), this is the vehicle you’re going to want).

You can register for these entities online – there are lots of options you’ll get when you do a Google Search for “Delaware LLC registration” or “Delaware C-Corp registration”.

The registration process will take up to a week to happen. You won’t need a US address to do it, and you can change the papers after you set up an office and you’ve moved to the US, so don’t worry too much.

A note about relocating/flipping up

If you already have a business in Australia, then things are more complicated than just registering a new entity in Delaware via an online broker. Moving your business to the US is known as “flipping up”, and there are a lot of reasons why you would want to do it.

For one, few US investors will be prepared to invest in your Australia Pty Ltd company. You can make the LLC a subsidiary of your Australian company easily enough – and this is the best approach for tax reasons too thanks to US tax treaties – but investors will want to make sure their investment is in the parent company or eventual owner of the intellectual property. Even if you manage to grow the business without needing external investment, you might find that potential acquirers will have difficulties working between US and Australian law in an acquisition.

The other big reason why flipping up is a good idea is that capital gains tax rates are also lower in the US (so you’ll pay less tax if you are successful and sell the company, either to an acquirer or to the public through an IPO).

If you decide to flip up, if you’re not careful, the act of moving the company to the US or flipping up will likely trigger a “Capital Gains Tax Event”, where the Australian Taxation Office see you as selling your Australian company to a new, US company, and demand you pay tax to the ATO (which can be as high as 50%) even though the movement was all just on paper (and you don’t have a fat bank balance).

Get good advice on this – unless you don’t have anything in the form of a company in Australia already, spend the money – $10,000+ depending on how complex your mess situation is here in Australia – and do it right.

2. Registering for your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)

Once you have your entity – either an LLC or a C-Corp – registered you’ll want to apply for a Federal Employee Identification Number, often called simply an EIN. This is basically the same sort of thing as a Tax File Number but for a company, and we can think of it as being an equivalent government identifier as an ABN (although you never need to put it on invoices!)

If you flipped up your company, your lawyers will likely have applied for one of these for you – ask them for it.

If you created your own C-Corp and you’re just a stock holder, you can apply for your EIN online at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html

If you registered an LLC which is “owned” or a subsidiary of your Australian company, or held in your own name, you’ll need to register for the EIN by calling the IRS. The phone number is +1 267-941-1099.

This process is exceptionally simple – the government *want* you on their database so they can track you and the taxes that you and your employees will owe them.

Once you’ve got your EIN, you’re ready to ask for permission to hire yourself from the US Department of Labor, step 3 below.

3. Submitting your ETA Form 9035E for Labor Condition Application (LCA)

The next part of the process is the most time consuming – your employing company needs to ask the US Department of Labor for permission to employ you.

In this sense, the US is no different to many other advanced economies – they don’t want employers bringing in cheaper international workers which put downward pressure on wages for their citizens and they don’t want employers take advantage of employees by paying them low wages. Whether this form of protection is inherently fair or is actually a manifestation of racism and xenophobia, it is a fact of life, so we’ve all got to live with it.

The process of asking permission to hire a foreign worker is actually one of the less shit online processes followed by the US Government. The system is relatively straight forward, the form is smart, and while the instructions and acronyms are confusing, the instructions below should help you through it. Remember, this is the bit that you normally pay a lawyer $2000 to do for you – if these instructions help and save you some coin, then feel free to buy me beers when you see me or offer to make a donation to a charity.

Before you create your account

The first step is to create an account on the Department of Labor’s iCert system. This is free and relatively easy, but you’re going to need to get some bits ready ahead of time.

Remember, at this point, you’re applying as a business which is going to hire you – this is where physical presence starts to matter. This means the business is going to need to have an address and a phone number.

You can get an address with Earth Class Mail, or use the address of your Attorneys as an interim measure. If you have friends there who don’t mind you putting down their address, then that can work too. The LCA process is very specifically tied to the location you’re going to be working from – since the rate for a programmer is much higher in San Francisco than North Dakota – so put some thought into this.

There are lots of ways to get a phone number. If you’re already in the US and you’ve got a pre-paid number, do yourself a favour and get Google Voice set up ASAP, and use that number (since the prepaid ones go back into the mix if you don’t keep renewing them, and US portability sucks compared to here in Australia). If you’re not in the US, get yourself a Skype In number and get it for the city and area code where you say your office is going to be. That means, for San Francisco, make sure the number starts with 415. Alternatively, you can go to GrassHopper and get an 800 or an 877 number. As I said, there are lots of options here – just get it set up before you try and do this bit.

Creating your Account

Once you have an address and a phone number, head over to http://icert.doleta.gov/ and click on the “Create Your Portal Account Today” link, then after accepting the terms click on the “Create Employer Account”.

Once there, you’ve got a 3 page form to work through. Most of it is self explanatory, but some is a bit tricky.

  • For the E-3 visa, you’ll want to tick the LCA box.
  • The FEIN is the number you got in step 2 above.
  • The NAICS code (stands for North American Industry Classification System) is like the Aussie ANZIC code. It is a standardised category of business types. You can search for them from the iCert form, or from the US Census office, but the easiest way to find them is to drill down into them so you don’t have outliers which match a keyword confusing you. You can drill down into them using this page, and then on the iCert page just search for the specific code.
  • DBA means “doing business as”. It is equivalent as “trading as” here in Australia.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll get an email from oflc.portal@dol.gov with your temporary password in it. Make sure you check your spam for this email, and whitelist that address (everything comes from there from here on in, including certification and denial notifications.

Applying for the E-3 LCA

The LCA application itself is a bunch more work, but thankfully it is a really good online form. To access it, simply log in, Click on “LCA” on the top, and then down the bottom click on “Begin New ETA Form 9035”.

Page 1 – Preconditions

This page is about undertakings – they basically want you to warrant that you’re going to make the LCA available to the staff member you hire, that you’re going to tell the truth, and explain how you’ll provide it to the person you hire.

Since you’re hiring yourself, it is pretty much a non issue 😉

Answer Yes to A, Yes to B and select the first option for C

Page 2 – The Visa type and job classification

The visa type is easy  -E-3.

The position is harder. Basically, you need to find the best approximation for your position, and enter this. The effect of the value you choose is significant – it will determine the minimum salary you need to pay yourself to satisfy the conditions of the visa.

Step 1 – Find Your Position
Finding your position can be a bit tricky, particularly if you’re a founder – you do everything in your company, right?! You can search the database at http://www.onetcodeconnector.org but for what it is worth, I did a bit of searching to find something legitimate/accurate and not too highly priced (as per the next step). I found that “General and Operations Managers”, which has a SOC code of 11-1021 was pretty good, as it was both accurate and not too expensive (CEO on the other hand is expensive. You could also go for 15-1131 which is computer programmer, which has a lower minimum ($63K vs $73K). I’ve also heard of people putting their title as “Administrative Officer, CEO”, which allows a lower prevailing wage ($36K).

Step 2 – Work out Prevailing Wage
The second step is where you determine the prevailing (read: minimum for a foreigner) wage, which you can work out by going to http://www.flcdatacenter.com/. The process is pretty easy, and geography plays a big part. Do not lie about your geography though – the E-3 visa is only valid for you working for the company that gets the LCA for you in the place where they specify.

Page 3 – Employer information

This is easy – it just gets copied from the info you already entered when you registered. Win.

Page 4 – Attorney information

If you’re doing this yourself, you just need to say you don’t have an attorney. Easy. Win.

Page 5 – Pay information

This is where you tell the Department of Labor what you’re going to pay yourself. Remember, this is important, and it needs to be more that the minimums set out on the http://www.flcdatacenter.com/ website for the SOC code you’ve selected.

In section F, rate of pay, enter your annual salary. Leave the “to” empty, and select annually.

In section G, they’re looking for you to tell them why this is a fair rate (ie, is greater than the minimum). There are other places to get the minimum than the FLC Data Center website, however, it is normally only for more unionised types of blue-collar roles. Since this probably isn’t you, just stick with the OES wage. Stick to the Level 1 pay scale for the role you’re doing, and put in the value from the FLC Data Center search and tick the “OES” box. Also make sure you reference the FLC Data Center website as the source for the OES data.

The screen above is from a completed form in PDF format, but the questions should still line up.

Page 6 and 7 – Declarations

You don’t need to fill in the bit about being H1B dependent since this is an E-3.

The rest of the form is just standard commitment stuff. Once you’re done, you can submit it.

Common speed bumps

There are a few speed bumps that can get you. Here a couple.

  • They decline your application because the Employer doesn’t have a valid 9-digit FEIN.
    This is because the databases that sync between the IRS applications for an EIN and the database the Department of Labor use have lag/delays in them. If this happens, you can just reply with a scanned or PDF version of the EIN confirmation from the IRS.
  • You enter the wrong prevailing wage info.
    This is where I got stuck initially. The FLC Data Center is your friend – use it. I initially didn’t know about that site, and tried going through government agencies to find “award” type information, but it was only applicable for blue collar roles so I thought it didn’t apply to me and I could use a job search for “office manager” on Monster.com to find my prevailing wage. As it turns out, that isn’t good enough 😉


When I submitted my application, it took them about 3 business days to reject it if there was something wrong with it. Of course, I was learning as I went so I had two rejected applications before I got one accepted, so you’ll want to leave yourself some time here.

I was lucky and got my approval through in 4 business days, but they say that you should expect 7 to 10 business days. Keep this in mind when you book your appointment with the US consulate in Step 4 below.

4. Booking a Visa Appointment

Once you’ve submitted your LCA application – and ideally, you should wait until you’ve had your LCA granted – you need to make an appointment to the US consulate. This process is surprisingly straight forward, even if the wording is a bit weird.

  1. You pay for a PIN, which is the right to book an appointment, it is only $14, and they don’t accept American Express 😉  (Visa and Mastercard only)
  2. The system will show you available booking slots. My advice – get in as early in the day as you can, as the place is a bit like a doctor’s surgery – the later you book, the longer the backlog will be if they’re running behind time. When you book an appointment, you can move it a maximum number of times.
  3. You can only move the appointment more than 2 business days before the appointment date. So, if the appointment is on Monday, you only have until midnight on Thursday night of the week before to move it. This is in the time zone of the appointment, so if you come in on Thursday morning in the US and realize your LCA still hasn’t come through yet, bad luck – you have to pay for a new PIN.

5. The DS-160 Application

The DS-160 Application is a form that forms the basis of your actual visa request – the LCA is just one of the supporting documents you need.

The application is actually the sharpest thing I’ve seen the US government do online. The form is smart and high quality. You can come back to it any time using the Application ID in the top right and the security question you enter just after you start.

The application is started from https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.

A few notes:

  • You’ll need to upload a digital photo. Their system for handling these uploads is very clever. It will tell you if your head is too small or too big in shot. It will tell you if the background isn’t plain and boring. It will tell you if the light isn’t good enough. It will tell you if it can’t see your eyes (so make sure the flash is on). You can, however, take the shot using a smart phone camera, since they don’t need it to be super huge in pixels or filesize. More info at http://travel.state.gov/visa/visaphotoreq/digitalimagereq/digitalimagereq_5327.html.
  • You’ll want to have your passport on you. Unless you know not only the number, but also the issue date and expiry date. Since Australian passports don’t specify the location of issue, I just said “Canberra” and all was good.
  • You’ll need to know the data and place of birth of both of your parents. Since you’re probably doing this in a hurry, ask them first.
  • They’ll want you to list all the countries you’ve visited in the last 5 years. I don’t think this is a big deal, but if you have been to somewhere America doesn’t like – like Iran or North Korea or Syria – this might be a problem. I don’t know how they can check this though, other than looking at the stamps in your passport.
  • There are lots of crazy questions about things like moving to the US to be a prostitute, or having an army of child soldiers. As far as I can tell, the reason they do this isn’t because you’ll admit to those things, but because it makes it very easy for them to cancel your visa if they have reason to believe you lied on your application. Much easier than having to prosecute you in an American court for having an army of child soldiers in your past in another jurisdiction.

Once you’ve submitted the DS-160, you’ll get a confirmation page with your photo, a summary of key information and a barcode. Print this and take it with you on the appointment day.

6. Visa Appointment Day

The visa appointment day is pretty interesting. A few notes and tips.

  • Make sure you bring all the documents and evidence they want. I won’t list it here because the appointment confirmation in Step 4 will tell you, and I don’ t want to get you in trouble if you rely on this blog post and they change something. I was super prepared, and took the following:
    • My passport. Very important.
    • The full print out of the LCA. They only took a couple of pages from it, and gave me back the rest of it. Suggest you take it all too.
    • The confirmation page for the DS-160. This was critical – they needed it, and it became the anchor for all their other paperwork.
    • My actual degree. They didn’t need it.
    • My transcript. They didn’t need it.
    • A print out of the P&L of my Australian company to prove I could afford to live in the US. They didn’t need it, but if they suspect your newly formed US entity is a sham/shell being able to prove you have clients, revenues, etc is going to be a very big deal. I got questions about this and answered them confidently, and know companies I’ve been an investor in have had questions (we’ve raised venture capital and we’re moving the business to the US is legit), but “I set up the company so I could get a visa and then be a contract labourer with no job security or likeihood I can pay myself to be honest” is what you don’t want to be flagged as.

The rest of this is specific for my experience in Sydney. Hopefully knowing what you’re in for will make it a bit easier and you’ll be a bit more confident. Remember, this is an interview – they’re deciding at this point if you can get your visa.

  • For Sydney, the reception area is on Level 10 of the MLC building, which is just above the food court and near a bunch of doctor’s surgeries. This reception area is just used for screening you, and your bags stay down in this area. They have a dedicated lift that goes to the super-secure consulate on Level 59 after you clear screening, and you’ll be escorted up there. It is all pretty serious really.
  • The screening process is hard core, with you going through a metal detector and your bag going through a screening process too. Bring the barest of stuff in any bag. You not only have to take out your laptop, but also any “wires” in your bag. If you bring a laptop bag with lots of cables like I did, be prepared to have them rib you – where’s the kitchen sink? – and also realize you’re slowing down everyone else in the line.
  • You can’t take your mobile phone upstairs, so when they say to turn it off, turn if off. Same with laptops – sleep isn’t good enough, but hibernate would be (they just want to make sure they’re not seeing flashing lights).
  • Take a book to read. These are still allowed when you go upstairs, and since you’ll be waiting for around an hour all told, take a book.
  • After you pass screening, there will be some staff who check that you’ve got the key things you need, outlined above. They will combine the key things – your passport, your DS-160 confirmation, your express post envelope and your receipt from Australia Post and your LCA – and put a rubber band around it. If there’s a problem here, they’ll send you on your way.
  • When this is done, you’ll wait for a trip up to Level 59 in the lift.
  • When you get to Level 59, a security person behind very bullet proof glass will check you first and allow you through the heaviest bullet proof glass door I’ve every seen to your right hand side. Have a look at the security console while the guard is checking your paperwork wad – it looks like something from a James Bond flick.
  • After you go through the door on Level 59, get a ticket from the machine just to your right after pressing “non immigrant visa”. Then line up and you’ll be called by this number to windows 2, 3 or 4.
  • They’ll check your rubber band collection of papers, and hold onto them, leaving you your number. Grab a seat to the room on the right of the big heavy door you walked in through and take a seat in the waiting room. This is where the book comes in handy – you’ll probably be waiting half an hour or so.
  • Wait for your number to come up. You’ll be called to windows 6 or 7, where someone will talk to you on the other side of bullet proof glass through a microphone and speaker system. Everyone in the waiting room will hear your conversation. If you ticked the box in the DS-160 saying you have a sexually transmitted disease, everyone will now know. If you have a criminal record, expect to be asked about it in detail, and expect everyone waiting to hear. Suck it up – you don’t know any of these people (probably), and if your time waiting was like mine, you’ll hear plenty of stories of woe from weirdos and freaks that will make you seem much more normal. I don’t know if my favourite was the 65 year old cooking teacher/missionary who ticked yes to being arrested even though she was just cautioned 25 years ago when her friend shoplifted a bottle of lemonade, or the guy who was an unemployed musician having a lot of difficulty answering the question about what he does for work.
  • I was asked by everyone if it was my first E-3 visa. I don’t know if things were smoother or more difficult because of it, but everyone official wanted to know.

The Interview

Expect to get questions about your company, why you’re moving there, what your company does, how many staff you have here in Australia. If you’re well prepared, confident and make a compelling reason why you’re going to be a good visitor – and remember, the E-3 is a visitor or non-immigrant visa – then you should get through smoothly. If you’re lucky, the interview will go for 5 minutes maximum, and you’ll be told then your visa is approved.

When you leave, head down to Level 10, get your stuff from the guards, and be on your way.

They’ll then stick the visa into your passport, and send it back to you. My appointment was on a Monday morning, and I got my passport back on a Wednesday morning (in Wollongong), but your mileage might vary.

Fallacies (in my case at least)

As with all things that relate to governments, laws and other black-boxes which you’re desperate to have a good outcome from, there are a lot of things I heard from people that didn’t bear out in my case. Just because they didn’t happen to be issues for me doesn’t mean they’re not ever true, but they just didn’t happen to be issues in my case.

  • “You need to have a board of directors in your company who can ‘fire you’ otherwise they won’t see you as being in an employment relationship and won’t grant you an LCA”. This wasn’t the case for me – hell, the people at the LCA assessment centre didn’t even have up to date records on the EIN. Delaware has a very strong corporate veil, and I don’t think you even have to disclose outside Delaware who your company directors are. Basically, this was a non issue – I submitted my LCA in my own name, saying I wanted to hire myself, for a C-Corp which had just been formed. And they gave it an approval in under 4 days.
  • You have to go to Australia to get your first E-3 Visa. While this used to be the case, I’ve got friends who’ve gotten their first E-3 Visa in Toronto, for example. My understanding is that any consulate outside the US will do, BUT, this is still such an unknown visa class that you’ll probably be out of luck most places. I have a friend who WAS turned away from Mexico City, and others who’ve successfully gotten them in Canada – not sure how to check in advance, but just letting my East Coast friends know they can avoid LAX hell and get one from the friendly Canadians just north of the border.
  • A three year degree in Australia doesn’t count as a Degree (since in the US a bachelors degree is 4 years). This sounds like bullshit immigration lawyer advice earned legitimately through getting people through the nightmare paperwork associated with H1B and Green Card applications. I’ve never heard of it applying AT ALL to the E-3 process; the paperwork in general is a LOT lower and the decision is made by an officer in the consular office while they’re talking to you for a period normally no more than 3 minutes.
(I’ll add more to this list over time as I hear them).

Saying Thanks

I’ve had a bunch of people email me and ask how they can say thanks for the advice. If you’d like to say thanks and you don’t already have an account with Uber or Lyft, feel free to say thanks by using my invite code (below) and you’ll be helping me out with extra credit and getting some credit to start with yourself too:

  • Uber: 9xybb
  • Lyft: GEOFF304

Asking for Help

A few people have been contacting me directly asking for comment, advice, a call to discuss their specific circumstances, etc. I’d love to help, but I’m not going to, and even if I wasn’t working 100 hour weeks, I wouldn’t answer your personal, specific issues. This post exists solely as a journal of a personal experience. I’m not a lawyer, and I’m in no position to give specific advice. You are, however, most welcome to tap the accumulated personal experiences of the thousands of other folks who’ve gone through their own journey by entering a comment below with your questions, feedback or personal experience for others to benefit from. But please don’t waste your time and mine asking me directly for advice.

933 thoughts on “E-3 Visa for Australians – How To

  1. Pingback: Moving to America | Michael Overell

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  3. That is great to know, I applied for my E3D for the second time and it has been 3 months since I received it….My first one came real quick

    • I think the changes mean that E3 visa class guys do not need to get anew stamp every time they change the employer like H1B.
      Also the person holding the visa can continue working while the extension has been submitted and can get the new stamp when they leave the country.

    • Thats interesting. So does that mean that Aussies can just come and work?
      I am not sure, but it says quoted by USCIS director some guy so it should have some meaning to it. Only time will tell.

      • No. They just clarified you dont have to apply for I-765 EAD, which you didnt have to in the real life anyway. It’s in the comments “They stated that the proposed change reflects the current practice, which allows work authorization based on approval of the [nonimmigrant] classification, but does not require a separate application for employment authorization. Therefore, the proposed change will produce consistency between current practice and regulatory language.”

        You still need a “petioning employer” to petition.

      • Actually I sent a email to uscis and they replied that now if a person is on E3 and he wants to change employer, then the employer must file an LCA and fill an I 129 form and the person can start working for the new employer. No need to get a new stamp everytime you change a employer. Even though you visa label has expired and as long as on the I 129 is valid you can stay in the US. You can get a stamp whenever you leave the country just like H1b. The i 129 form is also used for H1b filing but the fees for that are 1500-2000$. But for E3 325$.
        I hope this helps.

  4. Pingback: E3 visa application process | passport and pesos

  5. Hi Geoff, Thanks a lot for the information you are providing. I have a quick question. I’m at step 2 to get the FEIN number, but when I go to http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html they ask me to use my SSN to apply for a valid FEIN. I don’t have an SSN (I’m Australian mate;-)), so I’ve fund this company http://www.incorporate.com, and they get your FEIN even if you don’t have an SSN, they call it “EIN Upgrade To International” and it costs $95. I called them, asking if this EIN number still has 9 digits and is recognised by the Department of Labor and IRS, and they said yes. Do you know anything about it? Thanks in advance for your time and support. Best! G

  6. I have a quick question about the E3D – how soon after getting married can you apply/enter? Is it best to wait, or can you do it the next day?

    • Good question – I have no idea. I haven’t done the E3D before so don’t know if they need a marriage certificate or anything; someone else here might be able to chime in, otherwise let us know what you find in the comments!

      • Recently my wife went to E3D visa interview and they did not ask for marriage certificate. The primary E3 holder’s LCA is needed though.

      • My wife has done e3d visa. They just asked for my LCA, my passport visa copy and marriage certificate. But they just looked at it for few seconds and thats it. Nothing to worry much.
        Best of luck.


      • Do you need to bring the original copy of the marriage certificate or is a copy sufficient?

  7. Hi Geoff, I’m filling my LCA, quick one: why do you say “..people putting their title as “Administrative Officer, CEO”, which allows a lower prevailing wage ($36K).”? I’ve found Administrative Services Managers (OES/SOC Code: 11-3011.00) on onetcodeconnector.org, but the level 1 wage on flcdatacenter.com is $65K/year, not $36K. Where did you find the $36K? Is there another OES/SOC category I’m missing? Thanks heaps. Gio

    • Hi Gio, I’m not sure – that info came via word of mouth and I was honestly floored someone tried to make an entry level secretary role something they thought they’d be able to claim as “requiring a degree”. The person who told me also wasn’t super young/inexperienced but had 30+ years of professional experience behind her.. yet she got through/lucky. I wouldn’t recommend it 😉

  8. Hi Geoff, thanks for this page! I’m considering starting my own business after my Masters (I’m studying at Columbia,) but I obviously don’t have any clients yet, or a history of entrepreneurship… plus I hope to freelance through the business too… Do you know of any cases of Aussies getting an LLC and successfully sponsoring themselves with an E3 without P&L and all that info? Starting capital covering all the required salary/expenses can be conjured up from some generous family members…. thanks!

    • Hi Garbina, I’m sure it has been done but the risk of getting denied goes up a lot; I know people who’ve been denied because the very steady and well paid job they have an offer for was for a company that didn’t come up as legit in a Google search, so realize you’re rolling the if you try this (and depending on how the business goes, rolling the dice hard again when you renew in 2 years).

      My advice to get started is to get a job – tell them you already have the visa and then go and get it when you get the letter of offer – and save building a company and employing yourself when you’ve got something more than freelancing as a business idea.

      • That sounds like a plan, I will have the OPT, but that could segway to an E3 with a letter of offer in hand. The E3 is mainly to help my husband (non-aussie) get an E3D since OPT doesn’t let spouse work. Only beef is that they prefer freelancers in NY in my industry, so it will be tough… In any case, thanks for your advice, you’ve been super helpful! x

  9. Just go my E3 approved. Only variation to Geoff’s steps were:

    1. I couldn’t get an EIN online, or on the phone. I had to fax an SS-4 to the IRS and got it back in 5 days. I used a RingCentral fax number.

    2. The SS-4 requires a SSN or ITIN. I had an ITIN, but if you don’t you can apply for one by faxing a W-7 form to the IRS.

  10. Geoff

    I have a fundamental question on I-94 validity and Visa validity. My E3 visa stamp is valid till Oct 2016 and my I-94 is valid till Sep 2017, a year later. So,

    1. Do I have to renew my visa this year? or I can continue working till my I-94 validity date?
    2. E3 visa is valid for 2 years. But whenever I re-enter US (on first time / from holiday) my I-94 is being issued 2 more years. This is causing confusion when to renew my visa.


    • 5 E-3 visas and probably 50 exit/entries here, I can assure you it’s a mistake made by CBP officers that don’t know the E-3 visa. I-94 is only supposed to be valid up till the end of the visa. Your LCA only covers to the end of your visa.

      Now what is worth looking at is the recent change which in theory may allow you to apply for an E-3 extension without leaving the country and continue to work beyond the expiration of your E-3/LCA while the extension is pending.


      • Actually it’s not a mistake – the E3 is a 2 year visa, which can be issued at any time before the Visa in your passport expires – this means, that if you enter towards the end of your Visa date in your passport, you can still legally be in the US for the 2 years on your I-94.
        I have been assured this by not only CBP officers but also DHS.
        I am open to a different view, though!

      • I think that’s true, but you can’t work past the date your visa expires and if you leave the country you can’t return until the visa is renewed (from what I understand).

  11. Yes. I agree with Jennifer. I am also in the same situation currently. I have also been told the same thing.

    Another thing to note, since the new I94 has an expiry way in the future, even if you try to extend your stay from within the US (which I have also done) using an I797 form, they will not provide you a new I94 because you cannot apply for a new I94 (which is the purpose of form I797) 6 months before your current I94 expiry.

    Hope this helps.

    • With regards to LCA also expiring with the visa but I94 is not expiring in the next 6 months.

      In this case, FWIW, I was told that my employer need to get a new LCA matching my latest I94.

      • Where’d you get told that? A new LCA = a new visa to my understanding (the LCA is the root of the authorization) – a random border agent giving you an i94 doesn’t feel like a basis for telling the Dept of Labor to extend you…

      • Well, I am not saying this is a visa and that you can use the I94 to come back into the country.

        Re: Who told me? I work at a State University and my in-house immigration counsel sought advice from immigration consultants and DHS.

        By the way, what worked for me does not necessarily should be used as a criteria for your decision making. If going overseas and getting another visa works better for your situation then you should do that.

        Let me explain my situation in detail.

        My visa (second E3) was supposed to expire in June, 2016. Generally, my employer prefers to use the I797 and extend my stay around 6 months before the expiry. This process of extension of stay (I797) when accepted would result in a new I94 (from the DHS). For this we also have to submit an extended LCA.

        – You can only do this extension of stay when you have 6 months of less validity on your I94. And you need to be in the country.
        – Extension of stay is NOT EQUAL TO a visa. Even though my stay is extended, if I travel overseas after my current visa expires, I will need to go for a stamping (E3R) when I come back. I prefer deferring my stamping this way.

        In the mean time before my employer could initiate my extension of stay, I had made plans to go to Australia during Christmas break for a week. This resulted in my getting a NEW I94 all the way until Jan, 2018. Note: This is not an error and from what I hear is standard process. Most folks on E3 get 2 years validity on I94 from the date of entry.

        My travel during Christmas break led to the mismatch of my I94 and LCA/E3 visa. I did not have time to go through the whole visa renewal process when I was in Australia, so I did not bother because I had a valid E3 visa to come back in.

        Now, since my visa is expiring in June, 2016, my employer wanted to apply for an extension of stay as usual using the I797 but found out (from DHS) that we cannot apply for an extension of stay (think I94) when the latest I94 only expires in Jan, 2018.

        So the solution was to get an extended LCA for my position to match my current I94. Again, this does not equate to a visa. It just gives me the buffer time to stay in the US and work until I get a chance to go overseas and apply for a visa.

        If you and/or your employer are more comfortable holding a visa label then by all means travel overseas and get your visa stamp.

        Also, note that in Feb, 2016, I applied for my wife’s EAD extension, if all this was an error, then why did my wife’s EAD get extended all the way until Jan, 2018? Matching our current I94 instead of matching our current visa expiry date?

      • Yeah, there’s a bunch of ways it seems to extend your permit to work in the US; the big issue with most/all of this for me is that I make close to a dozen international trips a year, so the whole “extend through 6 month long on-shore processing by completing form X or form Y” never has any appeal personally – I’d have to remain in the US for any of them to actually work out.

        Call me conservative, but when I’m crossing the border I want and need a valid visa. DHS folks at the border are a very mixed bag in my experience and there’s no way I’d want to be sitting there in some side room at immigration hoping that my employer’s in-house lawyer’s contacts who gave me the original advice were going to show up in a jiffy and make everything OK so I can get back to my home and life in the US.

      • I agree. If you travel a lot particularly within a year so many times then extension of stay does not make sense at all. The other thing with the extension of stay is that you will need to remain in the country until the processing completes which might not work for someone like yourself.

        On the flip side, I hate to travel just for the sake of a visa. As long as I have a I797 which is valid (applied using I129), I have no issues deferring my visa stamping until I travel the next time.

        Again, an extension of stay is not a visa. So there is no question of I94 being an issue at the border (we cannot rely on I94 to come back in, we need to get a new visa stamped at that point). It our responsibility to make sure we have a valid visa before entering the country. If we chose the extension of stay option, then it does not mean that it gives you a visa to come back in. Just that we can stay here longer than the visa expiration.

      • Forgot to mention, the Department of Labor is only extending the LCA not the visa. They only care about the position that is advertised/extended by the employer not the person filling it.

        It is either the US Embassy that provides the visa or DHS that extends the stay of the employee.

      • So what happens if you do a green card application and it is clear that there is a gap in the time period in which you had a valid visa? There is no history of I-94s in your visa, just entry stamps. Most E-3 holders do not get 2 years from entry, they get to the end of their visa. My wife also had an EAD that did not line up with visa validity one time we had a misaligned I-94, it just meant we didn’t need to renew her EAD when we renewed visas.

        But good luck with it. No one should take this approach for the sake of delaying an overseas trip for a short period of time.

      • I don’t necessarily agree with your logic. Are you saying that anyone with gaps in visas would be at a disadvantage for green card?

        Extension of stay is a valid option for E3. Always has been and it has been also clarified recently this year. So anyone who did an extension of stay would most likely have gaps in their visa. That does not necessarily put anyone at a disadvantage.


      • I don’t agree with your logic. Are you suggesting that anyone gaps in their visa would be automatically disadvantaged for green cards?

        Extension of stay is a valid option for E3. It always has been and it has also been clarified recently this year.

        So, anyone who does an extension of stay would most definitely have a gap in their visas. That does not necessarily put them at a disadvantage.


      • @Lee Peterson

        I don’t agree with your logic. Are you suggesting that anyone gaps in their visa would be automatically disadvantaged for green cards?

        Extension of stay is a valid option for E3. It always has been and it has also been clarified recently this year.

        So, anyone who does an extension of stay would most definitely have a gap in their visas. That does not necessarily put them at a disadvantage.


    • I don’t agree with your logic. Are you suggesting that anyone gaps in their visa would be automatically disadvantaged for green cards?

      Extension of stay is a valid option for E3. It always has been and it has also been clarified recently this year.

      So, anyone who does an extension of stay would most definitely have a gap in their visas. That does not necessarily put them at a disadvantage.


      • Applying for extension is one thing. There is a formal record then. Exploiting a CPB agent’s error to stay past visa and LCA expiry, I would not want to defend that decision as part of a green card application. An audit will add 6-12 months to the time frame. For the sake of saving a trip to Canada or Mexico to renew E-3, I am saying it is not worth the potential downside and that it is not a risk I would personally take.

        I have a specific reason I put little to no credence into what I’m told at the border. While my green card application was in process, I travelled on business and re-entered the country using my advanced parole. The CBP agent told me I could enter on my existing E-3 and I didn’t have to use the AP. He was adamant this was the case. I argued, because this didn’t sound right, so he sent me for secondary processing. In secondary, I was told that if I had entered on my E-3, that would likely have been the end of my green card because I had entered the country on a non immigrant visa with clear intent to migrate. The rules for H-1B do allow a choice between AP or H-1B to enter. I’ve found many immigration lawyers that aren’t experts in E-3 make that same leap of faith that if it works for H-1B it will work for E-3.

  12. I think that’s true, but you can’t work past the date your visa expires and if you leave the country you have to get your visa renewed to get back in. (I think)

    • hmmm.. I wondering about the exact dates on LCAs too – because they are issued before the Visa, so an LCA will always expire before an E3 does – any ideas?

  13. Hi Geoff

    I do not have a degree but have worked in my industry for 10 years and am 34. Is that sufficient enough to be eligible to set up an LLC or C Corp and qualify for the E3 ?

    Is it best I have a lawyer if i don’t have a degree?

    If you could let me know that would be great

    Thanks so much for your help

    • There are services (their names escape me right now) that will certify degree equivalence; I’d def get that (and pay for it) but I’m not sure it is correlated with immigration lawyer value.

  14. iCERT has been down all week from overseas. Can one of you guys in the US test if you can visit it from there, ot it’s down for everyone? Thx

  15. Off-topic but would be super helpful if you’ve got 2 mins and want to help me out – we’ve just launched our new Accelo product on ProductHunt.com and I’d appreciate any reviews, comments and upvotes from the community if you’ve got the time 😉

  16. Hi Geoff,

    First of all, thank you for the excellent blog – very useful information!

    I’d love to get your thoughts on this particular scenario:

    Let’s say an Australian citizen has been living in the U.S., working for the same employer, for the past five years. During this time, they’ve successfully processed numerous E-3 visas to remain employed, experiencing no hiccups along the way. Their latest E-3 visa was issued back in April 2015 and is valid until April 2017. Also, for what it’s worth, their most recent date of entry was February 2016 and their I-94 card has an Admit Until Date of February 2018.

    Just recently, however, the employer announced that the company was being acquired, and as a result, their position was being made redundant. We’ll assume that the employee was given a nice severance package and notified that their last day of employment would officially be May 31st.

    1. Assuming the employer does not notify the USCIS immediately on June 1st, must the employee leave the country immediately (as they are, technically, no longer employees of the firm)?

    2. Assuming this employee has been interviewing for the past month or two and is anticipating a credible job offer being received in the next few weeks, what is the best course of action for them to take here? Should they (a) remain in the country until a credible job offer is received (let’s assume mid-to-late June), and then simply fly up to Canada to process a new E-3 visa, OR (b) leave the country immediately on June 1st for a few days, then reenter the US on an ESTA (visa waiver program), so that they can wait until a credible job offer is received before flying up to Canada to process a new E-3 visa.

    Assuming they went with option (b), would it matter where they go and how long they go for, before reentering the US on the ESTA (visa waiver program)?

    Please let me know your thoughts on this.

    Many thanks.

    John Dough

    • Just apply for a Change of Status to a B1/B2 visa, which will take them at least 6 months to process. That gives you at least 6 months to find a new job and then head up to Canada to get your shiny new E3 Visa stamp.

  17. Hi everyone,
    Thanks for all sharing all these valuable info here, it is a great source.
    I know there have been several comments back and forth in regards to expiry date of E3 visa, LCA, and I94 stamp. But I wanted to ask the question to make sure my understanding is correct. Here are my expiry dates:
    – LCA: Dec 2016
    – E3 Visa: Mar 2017
    – I94: April 2018
    1- Can I obtain a new LCA to match/cover the period my I94 is valid for and stay in the country legally as long as my I94 is valid? But if I leave the country after my E3 visa expiry date I need to get a new visa stamp regardless of my I94 & LCA status right?
    2- I also had another question, if my employer is willing to sponsor me for PR would not it be better to stay in the country rather than doing another interview for E3? Is there a possibility that I could get rejected because I have got an application for PR?
    3- My last question, as far as having my own LLC or S-Corp. Can I have something in my name while working for my employer full-time?
    I know these questions might have long answers but anyone who has had the same experience or knows the answer to these questions I would appreciate if they would share it with me.

    • I have never seen a different LCA expiry to the visa expiry – the LCA grant date is the date I’ve always had used as my E3 start date, and thus the E3 expiry of 24 months from LCA grant date is what I’ve always had happen. I just opened my most recent LCA (which I applied for in May 2015), and saw the following:
      1. In super fine print in the top left is an Expiration Date field. Mine was May 31st.
      2. Down the bottom more prominently is the “Period of Employment” (which underpins your visa) of May 15th 2015 to May 15th 2017.
      3. My visa itself is valid until May 15th 2017.

      Interestingly, the “Expiration Date” didn’t seem to matter for my because I didn’t go for my interview in Vancouver until June 28th or something – it was well after May 31st.

      The debate about the I-94 here is interesting but I’m of the school that I don’t want to be without a valid visa while in the US. I appreciate you can maintain “status” until the expiry of your I-94, but with lots of family and work in Australia (and other international travel required for work, sometimes at short notice) the idea of having to leave and be stuck outside until the LCA, appointment and visa grant works doesn’t appeal to me at all, so the I-94 “keep status and stay after visa expiry” thing isn’t for me (and I’m not that confident it is legit, but hey, if you want to do it and you’re convinced, I’m not gonna stop you).

      If your employer is prepared to sponsor you for a green card that is a pretty impressive offer – the Green Card sponsorship requires a lot of paperwork, lawyer cost etc, so if they’re prepared to do it then go for it *if* a green card is what you want. When you get a green card the clock starts on when Uncle Sam owns you for the rest of your life – it deserves another blog post, but the advice generally is set your clock at 8 years and if you stay longer you’ll be paying US Federal income taxes for the rest of your life no matter where in the world you live.

      Re: the have an LLC (or extra job) thing is concerned, as I understand it there’s nothing limiting your ability to do extra work outside your visa, but if you lose your sponsoring job you’re supposed to leave the country within 10 days (I think – it is crazy short). So, while the E3 doesn’t mean you can ONLY work for one employer, it does mean you HAVE to work for that employer under the terms of the visa.

      • Thanks for your response Geoff,
        The main reason that my LCA date does not match my E3 visa stamp is because I had to go through administrative processing (AP) and it took them 1.5-2 months to issue my visa. Now that I checked the fine print in the top left of my LCA it surprisingly says 3/31/2015. I was under the impression that LCA is valid for 2 years from the time it is issued, and mine was issued in Dec 2014.That is why I thought the expiry date should be Dec 2016. My period of employment is Feb 1st 2015 to Feb 1st 2017. So my LCA is valid till end of Jan 2017, but my visa expires in Mar 22nd 2017. I better extend my LCA to cover the 2 months gap between my visa stamp and LCA right?
        I did not know about income taxes no matter where you live! That is no good. You are right, getting green card through employer sponsorship is a headache and it is also a long process. But my question is: Would you apply for a new E3 visa when you have initiated an application for green card ? That is why I am trying to avoid applying for another E3 visa, until my green card is granted or at least decided, by maintaining my status with a valid I-94 and LCA. I do not need to travel overseas often so that part that you mentioned above is ok with me.
        I mainly want the green card so I can start up my own business, and the idea is that while I am waiting for my green card I can gain more relevant experience at my job for my future business because they are directly related. But if I can set up my LLC and S-Corp while on a employer-sponsored E3 visa that is a good news. Then eventually I may be able to sponsor myself through my LLC for an E3 visa and stop working my employer. My only concern is that if I need to show I have a company or any history of owning a company in Australia in order to successfully sponsor myself through my LLC? Because I do not have such a history.

  18. Hi Geoff

    Your post has been amazingly helpful and I’ve managed to successfully get my LCA, fill out my DS-160 and set up my visa interview appointment in Sydney. However there’s one very important part that I need a little more clarification on – The offer letter of employment.

    My lawyers have set up a Delaware registered C-Corp for me, It’s a real start up company and we have paying clients in the US. I am the co-founder and CEO of the company and have also offered myself the role of ‘General & Operations Manager’.

    With the offer letter of employment, do I write:

    “To Josh – here’s your offer to be General and Operations manger for x salary starting on x date – from Josh”

    Or am I better off, having the offer from my co-founder who is also on the board of the C-corp but only secretary of the board.

    “To Josh – here’s your offer to be General and Operations manger for x salary starting on x date – from your co-founder, board secretary”

    My main concern is that I filled out the LCA offering the job to myself and then having myself as the company contact.

    Your feedback would be greatly appreciated? Thanks again.

    • Hi Josh, I got my E3 a few weeks ago. I was in a similar position, but I got my LCA as Computer Programmer.

      No-one looked at the offer letter (which was from me signed President/CEO of the C-Corp to me as an individual). Maybe it looks better to have it from a 3rd person IF someone actually reviewed the letter, but in reality, they make the decision at the interview. If you are confident in your answers, have evidence to prove the company is real and is doing business (I had this, but wasn’t asked to show it), then you should be fine. They just want to make sure you’re legit.

  19. Geoff, could you ping Lee Peterson for me please? I tried on his website, but he’s more active here :).
    Lee, I’ve got a question for you, if you would reach out, I’d appreciate it. My email is altmailreader@aol.com


    • It doesn’t work that way Dave – ask your question here and Lee will reply if he can. that way other folks with the same question will learn too!

    • I’m active on there too, just Geoff gets a lot more traffic to his site given he is covering the more general case of DIY for startups. As Geoff suggested, ask away here because I may not have the answer 😉

      • Guys, it’s not about E3, rather I-485, and I didnt want to pollute this thread.
        But here goes: are there any fees associated with that process? (excluding counsel, medical). Which part is the most critical? (between ETA9089, I-140 and I-485. i.e. My former employer, Leighton, have been buried in lawsuits and now HR are not allowed to communicate with anyone outside etc.)

        Geoff, feel free to delete this if you want to keep the thread on point. But only after Lee got it 🙂

    • It doesn’t work that way Dave – ask your question here and Lee will reply if he can. that way other folks with the same question will learn too.

      • I don’t really understand the question, what are you trying to achieve? Do your own green card filing? It’s all critical, but the PERM is the most important, because this is the point at which you’re likely to get audited and the part that takes the longest (assuming your visa category is current). I don’t know the specific fees because it was paid for by my company and a lot of it was wrapped up in the overall legal fees. But a quick Google search shows the following:

        PERM Filing Fee: $0
        I-485 Filing Fee: $635
        I-140 Filing Fee: $580

  20. Geoff or anyone in this forum,

    1. I have applied for EAD for my wife for work authorization. Its almost 2 months and I did not hear back. Does anyone know how long it could take normally for EAD issuance?

    2. I am planning to renew E3 within US soon. Does anyone has done this before within US and how long it could take normally for E3 extension within US?


    • Just answering question for the EAD for spouse. I am on E3 and i applied for my wife EAD on 15 Nov 2015. She Received it on 3 May 2016. It took 5.5 months.
      Note: she had got a job offer in March so we went and did a E3 for her in Canada instead of waiting for the EAD.
      I hope it helps.

      • Can i ask you with your wife’s first E3 did you not need to go to Australia to get it? My lawyer told me that for my first E3 I will need to go to Australia, currently I am working on E3 EAD but now am thinking of getting an E3.

      • No we did it in Ottawa, Canada.
        At the interview it was fast. They just took the LCA and offer letter copy thats it. Literally like 2 min.
        If you are already in USA then it does not make sense to get the E3 in Aus.
        Infact I did my first E3 in Aus as I was in Aus and my wife and daughter got their’s first E3D in India while they were on holiday in India (they were living in Aus).I know people getting their first E3 in London as they were in UK.
        I hope it helps.

    • My wife is in the process of renewing her 4th EAD. I’m assuming you’ve received a confirmation that your application was received – if so, it usually takes about 3 months, but maybe it’s taking longer at the moment.

    • 1. From my experience, it has been averaging between 2-3 months. The last time I got it in a month.
      2. I have done this within US. Usually about 3 months but it could take anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Now with the recent clarification of rules, as long as you file before you E3 expires, you don’t have to worry about getting the renewal before your E3 expires.

      “DHS is authorizing continued employment with the same employer for up to 240 days for H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants whose status has expired while their employer’s timely filed extension of stay request remains pending.”

      • Of course, I am sure you considered this already but just to clarify, you will not be able to travel during that time of processing. So, something to keep in mind.

        Usually, mine renewals have been quick (about 2 months) but you never know.

  21. Hi

    I need a really quick answer. Help. I have just realize that my LCA as run out but my VISA has not.
    Any ideas what to do? How do I fund out when my LCA runs out

    Where is the information



    • On second page there is a section saying period of intended employment. The end date is end date for your LCA.
      Normally the visa is issued for the intended dates mentioned. So your LCA end date should coincide with the LCA dates.
      I hope this helps.

      • HI Geoff
        What does second page mean? Second page of the VISA on the passport? On the first page of my LCA application is confirmed until September 1, 2016..
        Do I extend my LCA on line and simply reapply for a new LCA>
        Thank you once again

      • Sorry I meant secong page of LCA. My LCA has it in second page. Your visa validity should match the LCA dates.

      • Hi

        Thanks. My period of determination runs to September 1 – but I am going to renew today… start a new application etc.. Very best to you and you should get an Order of Australia..

        All good things for your day

        I would also like to say to all then applicants out there – that whenever you go to a Lawyer or attend a Seminar on immigration / visas – the constituents eg the lawyer invokes a lot of unnecessary emotion and hysteria..
        The process is quite simple if you take the steps..
        I think how you conduct yourself at an interview is very important.
        After this process I am going for a specially gifted VISA – has anyone done one and wish to share their experiences? I am going to apply for a non sponsored..

        Thanks all


      • A question on choosing the right SALARY and Position Code:

        When filling out a new LCA. I am applying for an extension .. is it wise to use the same occupational code / I have noticed that my category salary has increased significantly. Should one use the same salary as the OES suggests – or write a lower salary?

        Very best


  22. I had a question around working arrangements with my employer. I work on contract assignments with end clients through corp to corp assignments between my employer and the agency. My employer processes my payroll and gives me a W2 at the end of the year. Recently I was told that on the E3 I can work on W2 with any agency. I am unclear about if that is true and how would it work. Would appreciate if someone could throw some light.

  23. Hi, is there a process I can take to get the employer to agree to provide a LCA and I can pay all the fees myself? For example, most employers require me to have a valid visa to work and say they won’t “sponsor”. But can I ask them to provide any documents for me so I can take care of the E3 visa myself? Thanks!

    • What is your current visa situation? Are you located in the US or trying to get jobs from Australia? What sort of positions are you applying for? “We don’t sponsor visas” is usually a polite way of saying, we won’t deal with the hassle associated with relocation of a foreign employees. However many employers do not understand how much simpler an E-3 visa is relative to a H-1B. You do not need sponsorship in the traditional H-1B sense, it is just an approved LCA and offer letter required. It is very simple to do the remaining paper work yourself. An E-3 filing only costs $270.

      • Thank you for your response Lee. My current situation is that I am in US under the Visa Waiver Program. I have one month left of the 90 days. The positions I’m applying for are Marketing and Communications. You’re right about the hassle comment for the employers.
        Could you please advise on the best way to go about getting the E3 visa in my position?

        Can I ask the employers for an offer letter? Will I be able to get the approved LCA myself?
        Do I also need a DS-160 form?
        Can I get the visa from the US Embassy in Vancouver?

        Looking forward to your response! Thanks!

      • If someone could respond to my last message, it would be much appreciated. It’s quite urgent as I have interviews today and wanted to communicate the process to the employers. Thanks in advance!

      • You can not get the approved LCA yourself. It has to be attested to by a officer of the company, so the employer will have to do it for you. This is a potential cost point, because they may not have in house capability to do an LCA and will instead rely on their external immigration lawyers to prepare the paperwork. You need to ask them for the following:

        -Approved LCA
        -Offer letter that aligns with the LCA validity dates and has a wage that is over the prevailing wage for the position

        DS-160 you fill out yourself.

        I’ve heard mixed responses on whether the initial visa can be applied for in Canada or any other embassy in a country in which you do not currently reside. Safer to plan on this being in Sydney, but I have heard many people be able to get their initial E-3 in Mexico, London, Barbados, Vancouver and other embassy locations.



    • I hit reply to early. The last point I was going to make, is that you need to exude confidence in these interviews that this is a lightweight process and that you meet the requirements for an E-3 visa.

      • Thanks for your response Lee.

        When you say “This is a potential cost point, because they may not have in house capability to do an LCA”
        Can they not follow the link provided in this page and do it themselves without external lawyers?
        Is there an easy way I can communicate for them to do if they are a small company?

        For your comment on “Offer letter that aligns with the LCA validity dates and has a wage that is over the prevailing wage for the position”
        What do you mean by over the prevailing wage for the position?

        Thanks for the advice on exuding confidence! I totally agree with that.

        Thanks again Lee! Looking forward to your response!

      • The LCA is pretty simple to complete. I can’t imagine it’s necessary to pay an external entity to fill it out.

      • I’ve worked for 3 different companies while on an E-3. None of them filled the LCA out themselves. Not because they don’t have the intellectual capability, it is a very simple form. It is to reduce the risk and potential liability from making a mistake. This is the reason they have external legal counsel that specialize in immigration. Now maybe you’re interviewing with smaller startups that will be willing to just do the form themselves. My experiences with small/mid size corporate employees, is no way they would be willing to do this.

        Prevailing Wage – Geoff covers this in his article above. Each job type has a minimum wage that has to be met. This is to protect visa holders from exploitation of being paid less than a US worker would be paid of the same position. This is where I had the luxury to lean on the immigration lawyers that made sure the position was categorized correctly. This is from the perspective of the wage and also that it would be viewed as a speciality occupation that is eligible for an E-3 in the first place.

      • Thanks again Lee.
        If they are not willing to do the LCA themselves, what is the best way for me to go forward? Can I find immigration lawyers myself for the company and pay them myself?

  24. Great article, thankyou! I have a visa appointment coming up and just need to know if you need ANY documents to be original or not? Obviously passport but I am waiting on the LCA from my employer in the US. They can email it to me in time for the appointment but not sure if I need original copies of any of their paperwork?? Please help! Thanks

    • Susie, what ended up happening here? They ask for original and that’s what I’ve always taken, but given they can look it up by the LCA number, I do wonder what happens if you take a copy?

  25. Geoff, just a quick message to say: thank you!!! My steps: started the company on the 18th of March, got the LCA approved on the 4th of April, sent all the documents to the U.S. embassy in Rome on the 26th of April, the interview in Rome was on the 23rd of May, got my E 3 approved for 2 years! I got my passport back with the new visa just last week. Thank you so much for your support! Cheers mate!

  26. anyone have any experience going on unpaid leave (and leaving the states for a bit), and the impact on an existing E-3? looking to go on leave and to return but need to figure out what that would meant to my status

  27. W2 Request: I was just in Canada to renew my E3 and they asked me for my W2s. I am a little nervous that this may mean that they could deny my visa renewal – has any one had this happen before? Do you think if I just email (as they requested) my W2s then it will be fine? Thank you team!

    • I’ve always taken my payslips with me, but never been asked to produce them. Provided you’ve been paid the prevailing wage stated in the LCA for the previous period covered by the W2, I can’t see why there would be a problem.

    • it happened to me in Ottawa on my 3rd renewal with the same company. Issue is you are in the same queue as the H1bs and are therefore scrutinized the same way. Just send them the documents and if your paperwork is clean you should get your visa shortly. Lesson I learned was to carry all documents to the interview next time. Good luck.

  28. I have a query regarding E3D / EAD renewal. My spouse is on E3D and she got EAD as work authorization recently. My E3 has to be renewed in October 2016 and I have applied for E3 and E3D renewal? once I get the E3 and E3D extension do I need to apply for EAD again for my spouse? Her current EAD is valid till next year

  29. I am sure this may have been asked before but could not find it so I am asking anyway.

    Let us say, I am currently on E3 visa and wife wife who is on E3D visa is working on her EAD. Both the visa and EAD do not expire until next year.

    Let us say, that I switch jobs and go through the process of applying for a new E3 visa. Let us say, my wife and I plan to travel back to Sydney and get our new visas.

    1. Do I apply for E3R or E3 since it is a new job?
    2. Does my wife have to apply for a new EAD if I switch jobs, even though her current EAD is still valid for a while?
    3. If she has to apply for a new EAD, can she continue to work in the interim (time between applying for a new visa, then returning to the states, then applying for new EAD and subsequently receiving it)?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    • 1. You don’t specifically apply for an E-3 or an E-3R, it’s the same application.
      2. No. EAD is not tied to visa (my wife did this a few times)

      • Gotcha! Thanks.

        I should re-phrase my question 1. I meant why filling DS-160 form, do we enter E-3 or E-3R for a job change? I know I chose E3R for renewal, I guess it is the same for job change as well?

      • Yes it does not matter whether it is for different job or not. As long as it is not your first E3 visa appointmnet. It is always E3.
        I hope it helps.

      • Just looked at the DS-160 and wasn’t aware it had been updated. The others are correct, you would select E-3R in the drop down box, but to be honest it wouldn’t functionally make difference, because each E-3 is like a new one from a paperwork perspective, even when staying with the same employer.

      • Right. I agree that functionally it does not make a difference.

        I was a little surprised to see that option on DS-160 when I renewed last year. Another thing I noticed was that my actual visa label (once granted) had E3R on it. Just thought I would point out.

  30. Hey, I am currently in the US on a J1 visa (working/travel visa valid for 12 months, I don’t have the 2 year exclusion rule once my visa finishes) and I am starting the process for an E3. I have a pretty good understanding about what is required but one thing I can’t seem to clear up is whether or not I need to have an I-129 filled out by the potential employer. The best information I could find was:

    “For visa statuses associated with free trade agreements, a Form I-129 is needed only if the worker is transitioning status while within the United States. Workers who are outside the United States can directly apply for a visa based on their job offer and other supporting documents”.

    This sounds to me like as long as I apply from an embassy or consulate internationally, rather than trying to change status from within the US, I am not required to fill out the I-129 as being at the consulate in Canada/Australia/wherever in person will change my visa status anyway. Or is the I-129 needed regardless?

    Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

  31. A precautionary tale for those reading:

    E3 denials do happen. My lawyer (who I paid $2500 for) set my prevailing wage too low at $25/hr for a “Business development director”. It was for my own company where I was a co-founder. However, the consular officer thought the wage was too low for someone in that position and issued me a s221g refusal with a pending fraud investigation. There was no fraud, and I’ve withdrawn the application since.

    If you’re looking to apply for an E3, I’d recommend doing the application yourself but getting hourly-rate advice from multiple lawyers.

    • Yet another example where the first and last mistake made in the visa process is engaging a lawyer – so sorry to hear. Hope they’re giving you a full refund.

      • That’s atrocious, sorry to hear it. I don’t think the problem is lawyers per se, it is that many of them don’t understand E-3. I had good experiences with 2 firms, but a horrible experience with one in Texas who wanted to treat E-3 like H-1B. Just to throw my recommendation out there for a good law firm, Rose Carson in Palo Alto were great with E-3 and my green card http://www.rosecarson.com.

  32. Hi! A lot of great information on this page!
    I have applied for an E3 from Australia upon receiving an offer from the US. I am a bit nervous about the interview. I was specifically wondering how do I answer (if asked) about when I plan to return. Given I am on a full time job (duration > 2 years) and my DS160 (in line with the LCA and E3 requirements) says I intend to stay for 2 years. But in all honesty I will be staying there for much longer than 2 years (on renewed E3s). Has anyone being asked something along these lines?

    • I was asked why you want to move to US? And said it is a temporary assignment for 2 years so should be back after 2 years and he said your visa is granted.

      • Thanks KK! My offer letter says I will be based in SF on a project till 2020 and will be based out of the LA office after that… should I be concerned?

      • I think the main thing with the l with the E3 is it isn’t a path to residency – so emphasizing how this is an important opportunity for a few years but home is still Australia might be what you need to do.

    • 6 years in the US on E-3, 5 E-3 visas, two kids born in the US and a mortgage. The question still did not come up despite all this. You don’t have to be stressed, if the question does come up you can just say that your family are your ties to Australia and as the other people point out, at the end of the 2 years you apply for a new E-3, or return home.

      • Thank you everybody for your input! So helpful!
        Hopefully my mortgages and my parents recently migrating over to Australia will suffice… and like everyone has said, its an important and temporary opportunity and I will be returning home after one or two E3s.
        Gracie, I see what you mean and I agree changing the offer letter would definitely keep the process simple. But having fought local candidates for a good role, I do not want to go through the whole approval chain for a new contract. But you are right in what you say.
        Fingers crossed!!!

      • Got my E3 approved in Melbourne this morning! I had nothing to worry about!!! Thank you guys and good luck! My visit summary:

        Arrival: 9.30 – long line. 30 mins to get in.

        Once in, was told to take all documents I need, leave bag at checkin. Buzzed to Level 6. 2 lines. Go queue at Line 1

        Line 1: 20 mins wait:

        Give me DS160 and passport
        Give me LCA
        Hold up your fee receipt
        Any dependants going with you? “No”
        Ok, Join queue

        Time: 2 mins doc check and typing info.

        Line 2: 25 mins wait:

        Why are you going? “To work”
        What will you be working as? “Job Title”
        Show me your offer letter (flicks page 1, hands it back)
        What degrees do you have?
        “Bachelor of Engineering, Post Grad dip in blah, Master of…”
        Ok your visa is approved – you’ll receive your passport back in 5 days. Good day.

        Time: 2 mins questioning and fiddling with computer.

        Out of consulate at 10.45

        Other than Passport, DS160, Fee receipt, LCA, and Offer letter – Not a single document seen.


  33. I would get the letter changed. The instructions clearly say 2 year contract. Just keep everything simple – to the letter – and completely minimal – you need to present a case that is scripted exactly to the E3 Visa. Then there is no cause for discussion. The process is very simple if you keep to the rules. Answer with yes and no. It is very very simple Good luck

  34. Hi everyone,

    Just a quick question: is there anyone here who has done a PERM process with an attorney? I am currently on an E3 visa and my employer has decided to sponsor me for green card. I am in desparate need of a great attorney perferably in Los Angeles if not California.


    • That requires the delicate process of applying for change of status whilst in the US (can’t really leave US whilst that is ongoing and it takes a while), the up side is applying within the us has higher likelihood of success provided you are eligible for one of the permanent visas e..g exceptional talent, international managerial transfer etc If you go this route and it is denied it won’t make a re apply for E3 easy if at all, so weigh the bird in the hand of E3 before applying and remember green card is us tax worldwide for life.

      • Neither classified as exceptionally talented or an international manager transfer here and managed to do go from E-3 to green card in 12 months as an EB-2.

        The pertinent section of this memo states that application for a green card can not be used as the basis for discriminating against an E-3 application.

        Click to access e3polgdnc_121505.pdf

        The usual retort from people is that E-3 is a non immigrant visa. Well the H-1B is also a non immigrant visa and people go from this to green card regularly.

        Green card tax is not for life, you can give the green card up and if done within 7 years, will not incur an expatriate tax. Although my general advice to people is that green cards are for people that want to stay in the US forever.

    • Hi Kaveh,
      How did you go with finding the attorney for your E3 visa to green card.
      Can you please share your thoughts. Can I please contact you to discuss further.

  35. Hi everyone!
    I would like to know: How, upon moving to the US from Australia, did you gain information on (decreasing) tax, 401k, buying a house vs renting, investing, claiming expenses, buying vs leasing a car, etc. Your views/recommendations on tax/financial planners/advisors (in California) or any webpages/blogs that can assist?
    I realise this is an E3 forum, but with the experiences within this group, some may have already won this battle.
    Thank you!

  36. Hi Geoff – thanks for writing up the post, it is hugely helpful!

    I am planning on moving over to the US and buying a business using the search fund method (if you haven’t heard of this before, basically you raise a small amount of money from investors to fund a search of a small business to acquire and when you find one, you buy it with your investor group). In the initial stage I will start a company and the investors will buy around 15% of it to fund the search.

    Given I do not have a pre-existing company in Australia, what are your thoughts around when I should go for my visa. Can I set up the company and get the visa prior to getting investors on board or would it be better to get over there line up the investors and get cash in the bank and then apply for it?

    I know this isn’t necessarily your area of expertise but any thoughts based on your experience would be greatly appreciated?


  37. Hi Everyone,
    I have a question regarding ESTA (basically visa waiver program / VWP for Australians). For some reason my job is going to end soon and I need to know:
    – Is it possible to apply for ESTA / VWP to stay in US for job hunting or i need to go out of US and come again?
    – Are there any risks in applying for VWP within US?


  38. I’m about to renew my E3 visa for the first time. Other than the documents I took for me initial interview is there anything else I should take with me??

  39. Hi there. It is always a pleasure to come back to this post and realise how many people receive good advice here !

    I have a funny/slightly out of topic question:

    I am on a E3 (renewed once) with my family. My 12yo daughter is really interested in trying a few castings.
    I know that she cannot ask for a work authorization associated with her E3D- only the spouse can. But when looking online about “child labour” (funny how this sounds bad) it appears that children may not need any work permit/authorization…but some proof of age and “school release” forms are needed.
    Am I interpreting that completely wrong, or is it a kind of grey area whereby it may be possible for a 12yo E3D to do some modelling/acting work? Or will the ITIN be requested by the employer and will trigger a “cannot work” message in their system?

    Any comment/advice/testimony appreciated…don’t really want to pay a lawyer upfront without at least some hope of it working up.

  40. Have been in the USA on an E3 visa for a little while now… Has anyone got advice on the best savings accounts for an E3 visa holder? Due to the terrorism-induced changes to laws, it seems impossible to get access to an online savings account that offers a decent interest rate if you’re not a permanent citizen. I have a regular checking/savings account, but looking for higher interest and the ability to setup multiple sub-accounts.
    I do miss the Australian banking system!

  41. Hi there, from 2011 to the end 2014, I completed x2 E-3 visas before returning back to Australia for 2 years due to a family sickness….

    I’m now returning back at the beginning of 2017 to my previous job held in America with the very same company.

    My question is – when answering Section B Question 7 – should I select (a) new employment or should I select (b) Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer???

    Hoping you can help me?

    • Good question – I don’t know the answer, but if I was in your position I’d say yes since it sounds like you are indeed continuing employment with same employer – just with a tough 2 year gap which I can’t imagine a consular officer hating on you for.

  42. Hello
    Very informative article!
    I currently have an E3 visa through a employer .
    I would like to be a freelance consultant – Could I follow the steps you have suggested to register a business and apply for a LCA and a E3 for myself while I have an E3 .

    What are the complications/requirements of get a “concurrent” E-3 for a second employer (Myself)

    Appreciate you advise

    • I wouldn’t if I was in your position. My understanding is the E3 Visa and your employment status lets you stay in the US legally, and there’s nothing to stop you contracting. Going to the cost and effort to get a second E3, especially since the employer (your own LLC) needs to be able to pay your prevailing wage *too* makes this seem like a bad idea.

  43. Hi There,
    Thanks for a thorough read.
    I am on a full time E3 visa, and have been working for a couple of months now. I have been offered a second job that would be paying me as an independent contractor. What are the legalities to working for a second company on an E3 visa that states only one.

    Thank you in advance,

    • I honestly don’t know – perhaps the zeitgeist can share any knowledge they have! The main thing is that keeping the job that sponsored you is key to being allowed to stay in the country. As far as immigration is concerned I think they’re happy and you can moonlight all your like, but dept of labor might not be happy with someone contracting you without their OK (which is what the LCA is). But I’m just guessing here.

  44. Hey Geoff & friends

    Thanks for this blog post & Q&A. You’re all bloody legends and I really do appreciate your time on this.

    I currently run a humble food business doing catering, farmers’ markets. I’m looking to make a complete move to the states, set up a company with a board comprising of food experts (I am working on this), continue run the business from there. I plan on raising some money from fam & friends & externally, open a shop, promote through local farmers’ markets. My food really fits into the current food trends of the USA right now. I’ve done fairly well now in Australia as it’s just been a proof of concept and I am the sole owner: In my first FY and by the time I intend to leave Australia, in 9 months of a FY I will have turned over $120k , Net Profit 60k, $0 Liablities, Cash in Bank after selling all my equipment $35-50k (all aud). With all accounting records very well kept and always up to date.

    So to my Q:
    Considering US officials want to see the company is a going concern, can pay a fair wage, can sustain itself… what kind of revenues, profits, cash in bank do you think they want to see in my P&L B/S?

    As I read this post, I honestly can’t tell if my business is doing well enough for consideration. But then again, as I’ve read other comments on this thread, perhaps my situation isn’t as daunting as I think.

    Hope to hear back from you.

  45. Hey Geoff & friends

    Thanks for this blog post & Q&A. You’re all bloody legends and I really do appreciate your time on this.

    I currently run a humble food business doing catering, farmers’ markets. I’m looking to make a complete move to the states, set up a company with a board comprising of food experts (I am working on this), continue run the business from there. I plan on raising some money from fam & friends & externally, open a shop, promote through local farmers’ markets. My food really fits into the current food trends of the USA right now. I’ve done fairly well now in Australia as it’s just been a proof of concept and I am the sole owner: In my first FY and by the time I intend to leave Australia, in 9 months of a FY I will have turned over $120k , Net Profit 60k, $0 Liablities, Cash in Bank after selling all my equipment $35-50k (all aud). With all accounting records very well kept and always up to date.

    So to my Q:
    Considering US officials want to see the company is a going concern, can pay a fair wage, can sustain itself… what kind of revenues, profits, cash in bank do you think they want to see in my P&L B/S?

    As I read this post, I honestly can’t tell if my business is doing well enough for consideration. But then again, as I’ve read other comments on this thread, perhaps my situation isn’t as daunting as I think.

    Hope to hear back from you.

    • Sorry for the delayed reply; from what you’ve said, it does seem like a long shot. Startups can come in with very little/no revenue, but capital raised is critical to show the ability to support the prevailing wages. Not to say you can’t do it – there’s a lot of luck involved in these marginal cases – but I probably wouldn’t do it if I were you.

  46. Does anyone know if the following situation is possible under E3?

    Employer is an Australian IT company with locations in the US. But the role to be filled by an E3-Visa candidate is not living in the same location. The job involves working as part of management/strategy team (telecommuting) to expand company presence/clients in the US, attending conferences, events and client meets (involving travel – at least once/twice a month – to different locations in the US).

    The main issue is, can the employee (E3 candidate) live in a different location than the employer/client locations? Assuming there will be some form of telecommuting, travel, etc. to satisfy the job requirements.

    Also, even if say, the employee lives in the same city as one of the company locations in the US, the employee might not be working in that location and possibly might be working in different client cities over the span of the visa. I am assuming this is common, since many folks work for consulting companies?

    Thanks in advance!

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