E3 Visa Renewal in Vancouver

TL;DR: renewing your E3 visa in Canada is possible, but there’s a bit of a quirk that means rolling the dice. This an outline of how I did it in Vancouver in late June 2015.

Almost four years ago I wrote a long and detailed blog post going through the process of obtaining a visa to live and work in the United States known as an E3 visa. Still restricted to just Australian passport holders, the E3 visa class allows people with a university degree and a job offer in a role that utilizes their qualifications – and because there’s 10,500 visas available a year, and less than half of that number were granted in 2014, it is pretty much a sure thing if you’re eligible, the employer doesn’t screw up the (pretty simple) Labor Condition Approval (LCA) and you convince the consular officer you’re a professional (have a degree) and the company and role is the real deal.

One of the few downsides of this visa (which compared to the misery American’s put other professionals through with the H1B visa is nothing at all) is that it is only good for two years – if you change employers or the two year period comes up, you need to get a renewal visa, known as an E3R (the R being for renewal). There’s no limit on the number of times it can be renewed, but each one is a pain.

Practically, the E3R is the same as getting an E3 visa for the first time – you need a new LCA, you need a new DS-160 (the visa application), and of course a new appointment with the consulate to hopefully get them to approve your visa; it is practically lower risk than your first time through (as with all bureaucrats, State Department officials find it easier to approve something someone else has already taken the chance on approving first – stick with the herd, don’t get fired), but still means running the gauntlet. Oh, and of course, the renewal has to happen at a US consulate, ie, not in America*.

The challenge, of course, with your E3R is that you have to leave the US, and since you’ve already got an E3 visa you’ve probably got a place to live (and thus rent or a mortgage to pay) in the US, a job that will miss you more (since the first E3 happens before you start work, so they don’t miss you yet) and probably a bunch of other stuff (friends, commitments, a girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/cat/Tinder-hookup) that will miss the fact you’re out of the country for a while. So, getting it done with as little cost, time and hassle as possible is a priority.

This means it is a lot more desirable to get your E3 visa renewed a little closer to “home” than flying almost half way around the planet – twice – to get your visa renewed in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. My friend Lee published an awesome post about how to get it done in Mexico City, but I decided I’d try my luck getting it renewed in Vancouver, Canada.

LCA Application

The LCA application process/system hasn’t changed since my first post about getting the LCA in late 2011. To help further, the LCA website shows you a list of all of the previous applications you’ve submitted, so if your role has hardly changed and your employer hasn’t changed, you can download your old application in PDF format and speed the process up with a copy and paste.

Note: the 2 year term for your visa commences the date your LCA is granted. Note that you now can’t book your visa appointment until after you receive your LCA, so it is a balancing act to get the LCA request in with enough time before you want to travel so you can get it early enough to get the appointment time you need but not too soon that you burn months of valuable E3 validity.

DS-160 Application

The DS-160 application has been enhanced significantly since my first blog post, and is vastly improved. It is probably one of the most impressive online government application forms I’ve ever used, and is completely different to every other experience you’ll have with US government.

The DS-160 application is an application built on top of Force.com, and uses a lot of smarts and logic to get you a completed application without any confusion or grief – note though that as soon as you tell it you’re doing an E3 visa, it will want your LCA confirmation number (hence needing to do that first), and you can’t get an appointment without a DS-160.

One critical piece of advice: make sure you make a note of your Application ID from the first screen after you choose to commence a new application. If your browser crashes (as mine did) you’ll need it, and when you’re tracking the visa approval after your appointment you’ll need it too.

The Appointment Process

Booking an appointment is also pretty easy, but there were a few wrinkles that caused me a lot of grief – hopefully these tips will save you the same pain.

The State Department does a pretty good job of showing folks how long the wait for a visa appointment is at this website. When I was looking into getting my visa renewed in early June, the waiting time was 8 days for Non-Immigrant Visas (the type you want for an E3). At the time of writing, it at 17 days.

visa-appointment-wait-time

Since my visa wasn’t expiring for over a month (early July), I thought, awesome, this will work a treat! I went and booked my flights from SFO to Vancouver (the strangely coded YVR) for late June (flying in on Thursday, appointment on Friday morning, spending the weekend being a tourist and flying back early the next week) and thought, right, this will work out well. But, the most important piece of information I didn’t know is that the visa waiting times the State Department disclose don’t apply to people coming from a third country to renew their visa.

Given its proximity to the United States, US consular offices in Canada are a popular place for non-Canadians to visit to get their visas issued/renewed. To give the Canadian’s a chance at getting appointments in a timely manner, the appointment system treats non-Canadian residents very differently – but I didn’t find this out until I’d booked flights and made arrangements!

When it comes to booking your appointment, the first thing to do is go to canada.usvisa-info.com – at the time of writing, this will redirect you to a website that looks like the image below. Fairly obviously, you click “Apply” if you haven’t already gotten into the Canadian’s visa appointment system (your email address is unique to this system).

canada-application-0

The first page is a static page which aims to route your request properly. I ticked the box saying I was a non-Canadian citizen residing in the US – it doesn’t really matter though, because these first questions are just to try and route you to the right answer.

canada-application-1

The system then warns you that Third Country Nationals (TCNs) might have to wait longer and that a visa might not be granted by the US.

canada-application-2

Once you’ve passed this point, you need to enter a couple of details and choose a password, as well as accepting the standard terms and completing a captcha. Easy enough. Then comes the fun part – filling in the specific details for your application (DS-160, visa class and more).

canada-application-3

It is the last radio button on this form that makes all of the difference. If you tell them you’re traveling from another country to apply for the visa in Canada, your appointment time will stretch out – in my case, from 8 days to 8 months!

Given I had to renew my visa by early July, and it was currently early June, and I’d only returned a couple of weeks earlier from my quarterly trip back to Australia and didn’t fancy spending $2000 on flights (northern hemisphere summer is high-season for most airlines), I figured I’d roll the dice and tell them I was not traveling from another country – I ticked no and booked my appointment for June 27th.

The last confusing piece in the process is choosing where you want to get your passport and the visa mailed to if it is approved. The drop-down list of places is suburb/city names, which probably make sense to someone in Canada, but since I’d never visited before I required a bunch of Google Maps searching to find out what the heck each one was (since there was no “Vancouver” option). The closest location to downtown Vancouver is Burnaby, BC.

After completing the form and paying the fees (which include the courier fees for Loomis Express, a subsidiary of DHL), all I had to do was wait and stress about the fact I’d claimed to be based in Canada when in fact I’d flown in the day before my appointment.

Entry into Canada

Flying into Vancouver was easy (and really pretty), but I do have one word of advice when you get to Customs/Border/Passport control. When they ask what brings you to Canada, do not tell them you’re there to get your US Visa renewed. This is a very bad idea – basically, the Customs lady took 10-15 mins of going through all my visa paperwork to form her own opinion on whether I’d get a visa from the US guys or not, and there was a very real possibility she could have denied me entry and told me to head back to the US.

This is because, from a Canadian perspective, if the US said no to my visa renewal, I was now going to be Canada’s problem. So, tell them you’re taking a few days off to explore their beautiful city/country for a holiday – you’re a tourist, plain and simple. They’ll then stamp your passport (under the Visa Waiver program, Aussie don’t need a visa and you can stay for 90 days in Canada) and you’re good to go.

One other small point about Vancouver – they’ve got one of the neatest metro systems in the world. It is called Skytrain (much of the track is elevated) and since the mid 1980’s this thing has run super reliably because none of the trains have any drivers! Very very awesome, and super convenient to use when getting from the Airport to the City, and then from the City out to Burnaby when you go to pick up your passport.

Attending the Appointment

Because I booked my appointment 20+ days out (when the wait time was just 8 days) I got a very early appointment – 7:30am. In addition to your Passport, your DS-160 cover page, your LCA and your employment letter of offer (and potentially your degree, but I didn’t bring mine), you’ll need to bring two passport sized photos. I didn’t see this in the instructions for Vancouver’s appointment, and thus I joined a line of folks at a photo place across the road who didn’t realize it either.

Additionally, do not bring anything bigger than a lunch-box – the storage lockers they use are only suitable for small purses, phones, etc. I had to leave my smartwatch downstairs too – if you bring a bag (I bought my laptop bag) you’ll need to go to one of the cafes across the street and pay them $5 to stick in the corner for you (they make no promises as to its safety – all care, no responsibility).

You line up outside to get checked in. Would be cold in Winter!!!

You line up outside to get checked in. Would be cold in Winter!!!

When you check in and hand over your switched off phone, etc, you’ll queue up outside (this must be really unpleasant in winter – it does have a roof though to keep the rain off) and you then get bought through in group of half a dozen or so to be metal-detector scanned, etc.

After you get through the metal detector, you join Line A where an officer who’s sitting behind a counter (as opposed to glass) goes through your paperwork and makes sure you’ve got everything you need.

This was the big risk in my case – my appointment was clearly for someone who had not traveled from a third country to get this appointment, and he was asking everyone their legal status in Canada. When my turn came, and he asked me my status in Canada, I said “I’m here under the 90 day Visa Waiver Program”. My hunch/hope was that this legitimate legal basis for being in Canada would satisfy the requirement (even if it was a bit sneaky). I didn’t offer anything further – no “I flew in yesterday”. I think he asked where I was staying to try and establish legitimacy, and the fact I’m a bit of a maps/geo nut helped because I said “Oh, I’m based in Yaletown” (a local district, highly recommended by the by) which also helped him decide I was in Canada legally and thus wave me through.

A girl who was in the queue downstairs around the same time as I was from Europe and she’d left her work permit card in her bag (downstairs, back out through security, and across the road), so she had to go down and get it out and come back before the Line A guy would let her go to the next stage. I think it was the Line A guy who gave me my “number” from a ticket machine like you get at the DMV/RTA – this number was my number for the rest of the appointment process.

The Line A guy took my passport and DS-160 wrapper form and passed it back to some folks behind some serious looking glass in a control room type thing, and told me to go to Line B (right next to Line A). The people in their control room did whatever they did (perhaps a desk-review of the passport, etc?) for what probably took 20 minutes or so (they spent more time in mine than anyone else’s, which was a source of concern), and then they call your number (roughly in the order that you were in) and then you take it down the back of the room to Window C (where a guy does the biometric fingerprint capture).

Since the E3 requires a consular interview, you then queue up again and wait to go upstairs (can’t remember which floor, but it was a fair way up in the elevator) and then you wait up there for your turn to go to the window and have someone ask you questions about your work, employer, education, role and the rest to determine if they’ll grant your visa.

In my case, the interview went pretty smoothly and the guy told me my visa was approved, but there was one problem – the State Department’s global system for granting visas had been offline for over two weeks, and they had a pretty insane backlog. He couldn’t tell me when the visa would be printed and put in my passport because their computer systems in Vancouver hadn’t yet been “cleared” to do their job at that point (Friday the 27th).

So, while the return date wasn’t known (and that was a worry), I felt super relieved the guy in Line A let me go through even though I’d ticked the box saying I wasn’t traveling from a third country to get my US visa in Canada, and the guy upstairs said my visa application was approved!

Tracking your passport

From the appointment onwards you track progress using the same canada.usvisa-info.com website you used to book your appointment – by entering your email address and the password you chose in that step, you’re able to track where you are at in the processing process.

While your visa is being processed (before it is released to the couriers), the blue Canadian visa-info website will actually direct you to track progress using a different system which is tied to the original DS-160 application system. This system uses the DS-160 Application ID you got right back at the start of your DS-160 process to tell you where you’re up to.

canada-application-4

Once the visa is “Issued” the canada.usvisa-info.com website will show you the tracking number for Loomis and you can focus tracking your passport.

In my case, the backup in visas because of the tech problems meant I was expecting to be waiting a few days longer than usual to get my passport back. However, at one point I checked the DS-160 website (Monday night) and saw my status had changed to Administrative Processing. When this happens, it usually means you’re facing a delay of weeks (the website says it normally gets resolved inside 60 days!!!) – and obviously, as I’m sitting there in Canada without a passport I was pretty panicked about this state of affairs! The good news is it only sat in the Administrative Processing state for a day, and then by Tuesday night its status had changed to Issued. Phew!!!

When the visa is issued and delivered to the courier (Loomis Express) the canada.usvisa-info.com website will give you a tracking number, which you can then track with Loomis directly. In my case, it didn’t quite work this way – July 1st is Canada Day, and in addition to most businesses being closed, the Loomis website decided to take the day off too – from 7am until 11pm (my first and last checks that Wednesday) the website timed out with a 500 error and I couldn’t track my passport at all.

The good news was that come Thursday morning, 6 calendar days and 3 business days since my interview, my passport was showing up in Loomis’ systems as being at their Burnaby address and ready for pickup.

Picking up your passport from Burnaby

Returning to trusty Google Maps, I saw that the Loomis location Burnaby wasn’t too far from Lake City Way skytrain station. I headed down to the Granville skytrain station, bought a 2-zone ticket (they’re good for 90 mins or so) and rode the 30 mins or so out to Lake City Way station. Given these trains have no drivers, if you’re lucky you can get the front seat – pretty cool view and way to ride a metro!

IMG_20150702_101949

If you do this, the main thing to know is that you have to get off the Skytrain at Commercial-Broadway station, walk along a passenger walkway back towards the city for 5-10 mins, and then board a train on another line in the direction back to downtown (Waterfront station) to get to Lake City Way station the fastest. The reason for this is that the trains leaving the city travel in one direction around a loop, finishing near Commercial-Broadway – the Lake City Way station, though is near the top of the loop, so by changing trains and direction, you save 20 mins of extra travel time by cutting out the largest part of the loop.

PANO_20150702_110026

When you get out at Lake City Way station, you’ll want to walk up the road called “Lake City Way” for half a mile or so and turn right onto “Express Street”. Note that you’re probably one of the few people who go to Loomis Express on foot – the road, pictured below, isn’t at all pedestrian friendly, with no footpath and a lot of trucks going back and forth. But with no Uber or Lyft in Vancouver at the time of writing, I figured it was better to take on this challenge than support the taxi cartels.

IMG_20150702_105001

The reason for the passport photos (that I didn’t bring originally) at the appointment is made a bit clearer when you pick up your passport – inside the package at Loomis Express is one of your passport photos so the courier guy can check it really is you.

So, a little before 11am on Thursday July 2nd, I had my passport and new visa!

Recommended Timing

The recommended timing for doing the Vancouver visa renewal (if you decide to) is as follows:

  • Week 1 – apply for your LCA. Note that the date the LCA is granted is the date that your new visa expires, so don’t get your LCA until you’re ready to then go onto getting your DS-160 (which you need to then book your appointment).
  • Week 2 – get your DS-160, and book for your appointment. Your LCA should only take a week to get approved (if you’ve done it right) and the DS-160 is just a process (no review/approval required there) so you should be able to get your DS-160 and appointment the day you get your LCA back.
  • Week 4 – attend appointment. Assuming an appointment delay of 10 business days, you’re probably going to be waiting until into Week 4 to get your appointment.
  • Week 5 – passport and visa returned. The Consulate says that it should take 3 business days for your visa to be approved and issued which tallies with my experience. If Canada day hadn’t occurred I would have had my passport back on Wednesday after a Friday appointment. If you have an appointment on Monday, you should have your visa back in your hand on Thursday.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is very doable to get your E3 visa renewed in Vancouver (and since a renewal is functionally no different to getting one for the first time, new visas should also work fine). However, the fact you have to lie on the appointment application form to get an appointment in a reasonable time means that doing so is pretty risky; I think I got pretty lucky with the Line A guy waving me through after I told him my legal basis for being in Canada was the Visa Waiver program. If the Line A guy doesn’t let you through you’ll end up being turned around and you’ll need to book a flight to Australia (or Mexico City) and apply to an appointment there to get your visa processed (with no refund for the Vancouver appointment you got turned away from).

The other factor to consider properly around the process is costs. My two reasons for choosing Vancouver over Sydney were time and cost. The flights to Australia take a day each way, and the cost at $2000 or so is a lot more steep than $350 return to Vancouver from SFO.

However, if you can stay with family or friends when you’re in Australia, you’re avoiding the costs of hotels or AirBNB accommodation in Vancouver. I ended up paying around $1300 for accommodation (Thursday to Thursday), which makes the price difference pretty small ($1900 for flights and accommodation), and because of the Canada Day and backlog delays I had to do a change of date on my return flight which had costs as well making the Sydney vs Vancouver cost difference all but disappear.

While I definitely came out ahead on time (and being on the same timezone as my US team when we were announcing our fundraising round was really beneficial), in my case the benefits of Vancouver were positive but not as overwhelmingly as I thought that’d be. If I was paying Sydney hotel prices though (more than Vancouver prices) the Vancouver option would be a long way ahead on the cost side of things.

Hope this helps other folks who are running the gauntlet – would love to hear people’s own experiences in the comments below too!

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

* There is one exception to this, which is where you nominate to have your visa assessed and approved on-shore with USCIS – the downside of this is that it is like a really long visa interview which leaves you unable to leave and re-enter the United States while it is being determined, a process which I’m told takes something like 6 months.

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.

155 thoughts on “E3 Visa Renewal in Vancouver

  1. Hi Geoff,
    I am from Australia. I came on my first E-3 visa. I had my E-3 visa stamped from Australia.

    Then I changed job (new employer). For second E-3 visa stamping I went to Australia.

    I am in the process of changing job again (new employer). This time I would like to get my 3rd E-3 visa from Canada (either Toronto, Ottawa or Vancouver). Please remember this is new employer and not E-3 renewal.

    Can I go to Canada to get my E-3 stamped, when changing employer? If you can provide some information based on your experience, it will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks and Regards.

  2. HI Geoff, I am in a similar situation as you. Because we just had our child here in US, we cant travel to Canada before our E3 visa expires so we have applied for extension with USCIS. Our plan was to wait for 6 months, let the baby grow and wife recover from a difficult delivery and then go to Canada for E3R. A couple of questions:
    (BTW: Both my wife and me have our own E3s sponsored by our separate places of work)

    1. We will be driving to Canada. I think US customs will not have any issues letting me out of US but what if the Canadian agent says: your original E3 is expired and no guarantees you will get a new visa so go back to US. I think there is a chance I will be stuck in no mans land (E3 being expired).
    1a. Do you recommend getting E3Rs before E3 expires? This will negate the (nightmarish) situation above)

    2. One thing I cant get a clear answer on is : once you get an extension within US on your current E3, does this extension allow you free travel outside US and obviously entry back. If this is the case then question 1 isnt a big problem.

    Any insight would be highly appreciated.

    Cheers
    Omi

    • Hi Omi,

      Sorry to hear about the difficult delivery, but great to hear she’s on the mend and you’re parents now! The Canadian border agents seem to be pretty cluey at looking at your expiry of your visa; it isn’t grounds for refusal, but they obviously don’t want to have you as *their* problem.

      I don’t know about #2 (I’ve never done it) but perhaps others in the comments here can help. I’ve avoided the adjustment of status in large part because I’ve heard you can leave and time, but not come back without a new visa.

      • Thanks for the reply Geoff. So I take it you renewed your visa before your E3 expired. Though this way (as you have explained already) you keep loosing a few months every time you renew. Well…pickle is what I find myself in. Maybe I will just go and have a cuppa in my local coffee shop in Melbourne …and get a new E3 while I am at it.
        Cheers

  3. Hi,
    I’m just looking for some general advice on first time E3 visa applications – specifically whether it’s worth trying to apply at the consulate in Vancouver as a first time applicant or to just put up the cash and schedule a trip back to Aus when the time comes?

    Right now I’m in Seattle on a B2 visa looking for work (so far have had one job offer given and recinded because they thought they could provide sponsorship and then decided they couldn’t, and also in the process of interviewing for another job with a big Seattle based company but the role is HR and they don’t know if it fulfil’s the ‘specialty occupation’ requirements sufficiently) so it’s not an immediate query but I want to know what my best course of action is when the time comes to actually schedule the consulate interview.

    I’ve done some research and so far have come across fairly mixed reviews about the whole ‘first time E3 applicant outside Aus’ scenario. Some have gotten through fine, others have had issues.

    So my questions to you and the general E3 forum universe are:

    1) How many success/failure scenarios for first time E3 applications in Canada, specifically Vancouver are you aware of?

    2) In your opinion is it worth risking it with Canada or should I just fork out the costs for a trip to Aus?

    3) If I do decide to risk Canada but fail can I then just reapply at the Aus consulate, I know I’ll have to declare not being granted a visa and have to resubmit my application paperwork but the LCA and LOO from my employer won’t need any action, correct?

    Any input/advice is greatly appreciated!

    • The stories I’ve heard about “don’t apply for first visa outside australia” are generally all from a few years ago when the E3 was much less common. From what I’ve heard, anywhere that does them now will do a first time one (but I don’t have any data or ratio to share; just every time someone I know has gone to do it, it has worked a treat).

      The speciality occupation piece isn’t hard to overcome – I know people who’ve gotten in on the flimsiest stuff. The degree qual is pretty important though. I think on the whole consular officers, working as public servants, think as long as a legit sounding employer paying the prevailing wage for someone with a degree thinks it is speciality enough, then who are they to be know-it-alls of industry. There’s examples of a particularly bad luck situation or a prick of an officer (who may have formed an opinion the business sponsoring is shit, or you’re being sketchy, or just had a bad day) denying someone, but I don’t hear about them as much as I hear about someone coming in on a super super entry level role title and pay (a lot of the folks I know are startups who are very early and are barely drawing a salary, so they have to choose cheap roles to get over the prevailing wage).

      In terms of what you should do, my general advice is look at the $$ in total, including not just flights but also accommodation. Unless you have friends or family to stay with in Vancouver, you’ll find the place is as expensive as Sydney. If you have friends/family to stay with in AU, then that can have a big impact on costs.

      Re: the LCA surviving a denial, I believe they do; I had a friend get rejected on a technicality and he refiled. It makes sense they survive personal rejection cause they’re an authorization for an employee to employee an alien on a visa. But I don’t know.

  4. Thanks so much for your quick reply! The fact that the majority of recent first time applicants you know of have gone through fine is definitely reassuring – and so is the amount you know of in entry level roles getting through.
    I think I’ll try for Vancouver – my cousin is moving there early next year and a few aquaintances from uni live there so hopefully I can find someone willing to put me up when the time comes, or a cheap Air Bnb.
    The title of the job I’m going for is ‘Senior HR Advisor’, the role requirements are a minimum of Bachelor’s Degree or requisite time at the company – so hopefully that’s sufficent for the degree requirement, the main issue is convincing them that it is.
    I have a phone conference with some program managers from their Immigration department tomorrow so hopefully it goes well and they give the go ahead to move forward.
    Thanks again for your advice!

  5. I am in Van City doing my E3R and my visa was denied, as commission does not count as a prevailing wage therefore my wage was too low and therefore they weren’t certain that I could independently support myself. Do you know anything about reapplying after a denial?

      • My LCA had the prevailing wage on it but when we did my continuation of employment letter we had my base wage + my commission = slightly higher then the prevailaing wage (thinking that would be fine). I’m assuming that I just need my employment to bump my base wage up to the prevailing wage and then I’m good to go.

  6. Hi Geoff, I am currently doing my DS-160 now I have my LCA approved. on the address and phone information page did you enter your U.S details or Australian? I am a little confused as I am living in the US and doing this trip to canada to avoid flying back to perth… Not wanting to muck this up so any advice would be awesome! Thanks a tonne!!

    P.S this blog post is awesome – Thank you for sharing!

      • hi Geoff, back again I am at the Canadian consulate booking part and chose “NO” to “renewing” my visa as I was on an e-3 visa went home and re-entered on an ESTA, as I am not on the e-3 would you say this is correct? I ask as the employer is the same but it expired on my re-entry to U.S after a trip home to Oz (thus entering on ESTA) so reapplying for the same employer again but doing so from Canada. Was I correct as I am not really renewing it while on it, rather applying for it all over again with the same employer?

  7. Hi! Geoff

    I had E3 visa renewal appointment in Ottawa on 11/04/2016 while my visa expiry date was 11/07/2016. Visa office handed me a 221g – Administrative Processing letter stating that they need to verify my employment and he did not ask for any additional documentation. I am now stuck in Canada for 10 days along with my wife and daughter living at my friend’s place in Toronto and there is no sign of any status update. The website still says ‘Administrative Processing’.

    I wanted to know if I can travel back to USA on tourist(ESTA) visa and wait till they ask me to come back with the passports? Thanks a ton for your help.

  8. Great article Geoff thanks for posting.

    I have recently moved to a new state, so same employer, new project in a different state and the immigration people where I work have advised a new LCA and E3 visa is required if one moves to a new state. Never heard of that but will they know more than me.

    We have decided to get the new visa in London, seems an easy option, the embassy their seems to be very familiar with E3, mentioning it specifically on their website (London being full of Australians why wouldn’t they be). Employer is paying anyway and we can fly direct to LHR from Charlotte.

    Just thought I would mention the London way here as an easy option for others who might fancy a week over there doing some sightseeing while they renew.

    https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/australian-professional-specialty-visas-e-3/

    Tom

  9. Geoff, congratulations on the incredibly detailed information. I’m also a Canadian and stupidly assumed it was easier under NAFTA. I waded my way though numerous sites before being thoroughly educated on how simple it can be. I’m a flight instructor just north of the US border and keep getting interesting job offers. Most Potential US employers don’t have a clue about hiring foreigners even when they have dire needs for their skills.

    Each time I looked for and got good info, it came from an Australian and I’m very grateful to the incredible amount of time and effort that you have devoted to assisting other Australians.

    Email me and I’ll express that appreciation personally.

  10. Geoff, congratulations on the incredibly detailed information. I’m also a Canadian and stupidly assumed it was easier under NAFTA. I waded my way though numerous sites before being thoroughly educated on how simple it can be. I’m a flight instructor just north of the US border and keep getting interesting job offers. Most Potential US employers don’t have a clue about hiring foreigners even when they have dire needs for their skills.

    Each time I looked for and got good info, it came from an Australian and I’m very grateful to the incredible amount of time and effort that you have devoted to assisting other Australians.

    Email me and I’ll express that appreciation personally.

  11. Just renewed, this post was super helpful at calming the nerves.

    Coming into Canada I told the border guy that I was there for leisure/skiing. When he saw my visa was about to expire he noted it and I said I was here to renew my visa too. Didn’t seem to phase him.

    When I was asked at the embassy what I was doing in the country it was “on what basis are you in Canada”. I said I was on the 90 day visa waiver. She clarified “but you live in the US?” and I confirmed. Didn’t seem to be a problem.

    Thanks for posting these! Pickup my passport Monday.

    • Hello Ned,
      I am travelling to Vancouver for my E3 visa interview next week (Interview is scheduled for Jan 17th 8 am). How long did it take after the interview for passport pickup? I am planning to travel back on Friday Jan 20th.
      Thanks in advance.
      Esme

      • My interview was at 7:30am on the Thursday and I collected my passport at midday on the Monday. I suspect if it wasn’t for the weekend the turnaround would be around 2 business days but not 100% sure. Hope that helps!

      • Esme, can you confirm if you got your passport back by Friday? I have a Tuesday appointment as well and thinking if I should book return flight on Friday.

  12. Hi geoff,

    What a Great blog, thank a lot for writing up this blog and i appreciate all the fellow aussies who asked questions and shared experiences here. I guess i have seen this a little late. Here is my situation
    A little Background:
    I have entered US first time in Jan 2014 on E3 Visa and then extended it for another 2 years in Nov2015. My I-797 was approved until Nov 2017. I have travelled back to India to Visit family on Dec 2016 and went for a consulate interview on 1/3/2017 in Chennai, India.

    What happened on the day of the Interview:
    we were sent to Window15 an Indian Lady sitting at the window asked for both passports(wife and mine) Then she looked suspiciously and asked for LCA and I-797. While looking at computer and documents she made a Red tick mark on passport then asked us to wait in the lobby. She kept passports and documents with her.
    After 20 minutes we got called to same window she handed over all documents and asked us to give finger prints in Window18. Gave our FP and joined the second line for actual Interview.

    while we joining the second line one of the lobby Assistant came and checked our passports and said you have a red tick on the passport, please go back to Window15 and get a Green Tick mark before join this 2nd line. We Went back to Window 15 and asked her to put the green tick mark. She took my LCA and I-797 again and reluctantly put a green Tick mark.

    FInally joined the 2nd line for Visa interview line, we were sent to window 25. VO asked only one question about employer and gave Yellow slip then asked us to wait in lobby.

    Waited for 1 hour and got called to same window VO asked few more questions and made us wait in lobby again. We waited until end of the day in Consulate and finally got a blue slip for 221(g) admin processing.

    It has been 30 days and didnt get any update on the status yet. Now i have secured another job offer in USA and would like to withdraw this application and re-apply for a new E3 visa under my new employer.
    1. Am i allowed to make another application while my previous one is pending under 221(g) ?
    2. Is there a way to cancel/withdraw the application which is in 221g ?
    3. One of my online advocae who charged me 150$ and said legally,i can make new appointment and file another Ds-160 with new employer details. I dont have to withdraw my current pending applictaion. I dont know if i can trust her.

    Please provide answers to above questions with your best knowledge.if anyone already have this experience please share it will be alot useful for me.

    • Hi there! Sorry to hear you’re going through this. Administrative processing is terrible! The feeling of not being in control and having a lack of information available can be really hard to deal with. I had a similar experience recently in Ottawa (I did a writeup of it on my blog: http://jamesmorrell.com/e3-visa-renewal-in-ottawa-canada) except I got a yellow form and was processed quite quickly. It’s very strange to me that you received that mark at the first window – that says to me that something was off about your initial paperwork, as that process is to check that you have met all the necessary requirements to attend your interview.

      If I were you, I would look in to getting a lawyer to get some proper advice. I’ve included my recommendation about lawyers on my blog, and I really stand by this. There are a lot of complexities about Administrative Processing, withdrawing applications and so on that can land you with lasting consequences for applying for visas in the USA in future. It’s worth getting professional advice.

      P.S – Geoff, thanks again for a great blog!

  13. Hi Geoff,

    I was working in Miami on E3 visa. I went for my visa renewal to Tijuana,Mexico and got it renewed last year. Couple of months later, my project location changed but with same company and I’m currently working in Austin,TX. My company got new LCA etc. But they are insisting I should go for a new visa renewal as my location/LCA is changed as that’s the new rule. Is this true? Do we have to get a new stamping every time we change our project location/LCA within our visa period and with same company?

    • Hi there,

      This is technically true, but most of the time being assigned to a new project and flying to work on it and flying home again doesn’t constitute a full relocation – you stayed living where you were living and your employer is the same employer. That said, if it really is a transfer (internally) the issue is the Prevailing Wage test – this is very geographically sensitive (a King’s Ransom of a salary in Backwater, AL is probably below the poverty line in San Francico, CA).

      Since you are in the US on the conditions of your employment, if your employer has gone and done this, then if I were you I’d follow along.

    • Hi Jesudass,
      If your employer paying for the visa, why not get one, so you have another 2 years of visa life.
      Btw, you renewed in Tijuana ? Last time I heard only Mexico City does the E-3 renewal. Was it easy in Tijuana ? Any challenges ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s