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Many Australians aren't using U.S. E-3 visas

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A US visa programme the E-3 visa set up to allow Australian professionals to live and work in America and which can be renewed indefinitely is struggling to make up the numbers with just a quarter of the 10,500 E-3 visas annually available to Australians being used.

The special E-3 visa was created under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement in 2005. Under the visa, Australians can stay in the U.S. for two years initially; The visa can then be renewed indefinitely in two-year increments.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. State Department, only 2,545 E-3 visas were issued in the 12 months to October last year. The peak year for the E-3 visa was 2008, when 3,000 visas were issued.

Critics suspect the lack in interest in the programme is due to the fact that applicants have to secure an offer from a US employer before even applying for the visa. Also visas are limited to those with university degrees hired to work in a "specialised knowledge occupation".

The E-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa in that it allows specialised graduate level workers to come to the.US. Although it is different to the H-1B because it is only available to Australians and can be renewed indefinitely. Applications from Australians for H-1B visas have also declined with only 537 visas issued to Australians last year, three times fewer than in 2004. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many Australians apply for an E-3 visa in preference to an H-1B visa. It is much cheaper obtaining an E-3 visa compared to an H-1B visa; Also spouses of E-3 visas can gain permission to work in the US much more easily compared to spouses of H-1B visa holders.

To qualify for an E-3 visa, you need to meet the following requirements:
  • Are a national of Australia
  • Possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials
  • Will fill a position with an US employer that qualifies as a specialty occupation; The specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields and at least the attainment of a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent. The employer will then apply for the E-3 visa.
If you would like to apply for a US visa, can help. is a specialist visa consultancy with nearly twenty-five years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.