For Australians Searching for an Alternative to the Competitive H-1B Visa, the E-3 Specialty Occupation Visa May Be the Answer

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

E-3 visas were created for nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia for temporary employment in specialty occupations.

AustraliaFor citizens of Australia, E-3 visa is an alternative to the competitive H-1B visa.  This specialty occupation visa, which was created by law by President Bush in 2005 in Section 501 of the REAL ID Act, is solely for for nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Eligibility for the E-3 visa requires (1) theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields, and (2) at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.

Unlike the H-1B, which is only available for three years, with an optional three year renewal, the E-3 visa is available for up to two years per extension, and has no maximum number of extensions (with some exceptions).  It can therefore be renewed indefinitely as long as the visa holder continues to meet the visa requirements.

Annual Cap

There is an annual cap of 10,500 initial E-3 applications for each fiscal year that
applies to principal E-3 aliens. This cap applies to all initial E-3 applications made abroad, and to all change of status to E-3 applications made through USCIS.

In comparison, the H-1B, which is subject to an annual cap of 65,000 visas, with an additional 20,000 visas available for holders of Master’s Degrees, applies to applicants from all countries in the world.   This is significant, because due to high international demand, H1-B applicants had only a 27% chance of making it past the lottery to substantive application review in 2015.  In contrast, applicants for the E-3 visa are only competing for spots against other nationals of Australia.

Furthermore, applicants for the H-1B must apply on April 1 to be eligible to start working the following October.  Applicants for the E-3 may apply at any time during the year and will attend an interview at their closest consulate in Australia or the country where they reside abroad.  You cannot apply for this visa from within the United States.

Eligibility Criteria

American Visa (XL)To qualify for an E-3 visa, you must demonstrate that you:

  • Are a national of Australia;
  • Have a legitimate offer of employment in the United States;
  • Possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials; and
  • Will fill a position that qualifies as a specialty occupation.

Note that you must have an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in order to apply for this visa.

What is a “Specialty Occupation?”

A “specialty occupation” is an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation.

As such, in order to be eligible for an E-3 classification, an alien must be able to show he or she will be employed in a specialty occupation in the U.S. and he or she possesses the required U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree (or its equivalent) in the specific specialty to meet the minimum requirement for entry into the occupation in the United States.

Family of E-3 Visa Holders

Visa holders’ spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are entitled to the same E-3 classification. Their spouse is entitled to work authorization, but their children are not entitled to work under this visa.

To find out if you qualify for the E-3 visa, or to obtain assistance with filing your application, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (323) 450-9010; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

World webWe have offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, California, and work remotely with clients from around the globe.

*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular case, as each case has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by and attorney and USCIS.




About gradyfirm

The Grady Firm, P.C. provides exceptional legal counsel to its clients as their dedicated Immigration, Global Relocation/Expansion, and Human Resources Department. We deliver superior customer service and holistic strategies tailored to each client’s background and goals. As a truly global practice, The Grady Firm attorneys provide the business, immigration, employment counseling that American companies need to thrive, and cultural background which foreign entrepreneurs need to be successful in a new market. Our tech-savvy, multi-lingual attorneys are fluent in Spanish, Italian, German, and Farsi. They are licensed in California, and can practice immigration and intellectual property in all 50 US states. The firm serves innovative clients from around the world from its offices in Beverly Hills, Irvine, and San Diego, California. Learn more about us at

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