Australians drawn from UK by US immigration's E3 visa

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US government figures show that an increasing number of Australians are choosing to live and work in the US. British government figures show that, over the same period, fewer Australians have chosen to live and work in London, traditionally the first port of call for Australians looking for a new home overseas.

Figures from the US's Department of Homeland Security show that 35,353 E3 visas were issued in 2012; a rise of nearly 4,000 on the 2010 total. In 2006, only 1,918 E-3 visas were issued. The E-3 figure includes both the principle applicant and any dependants that come with him/her. There are currently about 150,000 Australians living in the US whether with green cards (as US permanent resident visas are known) or on work visas.

UK Home Office figures show that the number of Australians living in the UK with work visas halved between 2005 and 2011. In 2005, 29,600 Australians were living and working in the UK. By 2011, this figure had fallen to 15,800.

The E3 visa was established in 2005 after negotiations between the Australian government and the US government of George W Bush. Only Australians can apply for an E3. There is an annual cap of 10,500 on new E3 visas but partners and children are exempt from the cap. The visa lasts two years and can be renewed an unlimited number of times.

33,000 E-3 visas issued in 2012

Although there is a cap of 10,500 on new E-3 visas each year, over 33,000 E-3s were issued in 2012. This is because the visas of dependants are exempt from the cap and because the cap only applies to new E-3 applications. Some of the 33,000 will be second or third E-3 visas.

The E-3 visa is similar to an H-1B visa in that those wishing to apply must first obtain an offer of employment in the US. The prospective employer will make an application to the Department of Labor for permission to employ the applicant. If this is granted, then the applicant will apply to a US consulate for the visa. It is also possible for Australian students in the US to apply to change their immigration status from F-1 visa holders to E-3 visa holders.

One difference between the E-3 visa and the H-1B visa is that dependants of E-3 visa holders are entitled to work in the US.

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