An E3 is a special class of H1B visa only available to Australians. It is a non-immigrant visa with a 2 year expiry period but is renewable indefinitely.
E3’s are good because there’s always plenty available (i.e. they never fill the quota, unlike H1Bs) and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get one if you’ve got a university degree.
On the other hand E3’s aren’t so great if you intend to get a Green Card as they’re classed as ‘no-intent’ visa; meaning that you don’t intend to become a permanent resident. This means it’s not so straight forward to progress to a resident visa class (i.e. a Green Card). This is the main difference between an E3 and a H1B. Another downside is that you may only stay in the country 10 days before and after your employment period. That’s not a problem if you’re your own boss, but it may be a tad inconvenient if you’re an employee and get laid off.
By and large the opinion amongst experienced entrepreneurs in the Valley is to avoid immigration attorneys for E3’s and save yourself $2-3k. They have no inside info nor do they provide any guarantee on getting you the visa. The process is extremely straight forward, can be completed entirely online.
How to Get OneEdit
Getting an E3 is easy if you know the steps. However there are two basic paths one can follow based on whether you’re an employee or a founder. If you’re an employee you can skip to the employee heading.
This section assumes you’re run a startup and want to move you’re business to the valley to attract investment and tap into the US market. In a nutshell what you’re going to need to do is establish a company that will then sponsor you in as an ‘employee’. Once you’ve taken the steps below simply follow the steps in the ‘Employee’ section.
If you wish to pursue investment then for the love of God establish a Delaware ‘C Corp.’ most Angels/VC’s won’t touch anything else with a barge pole. Of course nothing is impossible, but if you want to make life easy for yourself it's best not to get too creative here.
Establishing a C corp can be done online fairly quickly and painlessly (if anyone has suggestions on websites to use then it would be good to include these somewhere). Alternatively if you have a complex ownership structure you might want to consult an attorney as the wrong setup could lead to some interesting tax problems down the line.
Another thing to be mindful of here is that many folks are starting to report that the embassy is getting wise to self-sponsorship. As such it's a good idea to have a board in place that can "fire" you otherwise your application may be rejected. Remember this is an employee class visa. See the note below for additional suggestions about the Melbourne consulate.
To get an E3 you'll need:
- An EIN (Employer Identification Number). This is like a tax file number for a company, it's issued to a company by the IRS once incorporated. You'll need before you can move on to the next step.
- Once you have an (F)EIN or you find an employer to sponsor you, they will need to have their EIN verified in Chicago. Send a PDF of the (F)EIN paperwork to LCA.Chicago@dol.gov with the subject "LCA Business Verification Team". It usually takes about 2-3 days for them to verify the EIN and update the LCA database.
- A Dept. of Labour certification to employ a foreign worker. Before your company can hire you the US govt. wants to know that you're a skilled worker (i.e. have a University degree) and that your company intends to pay you a fair market wage for your skill set. This is mainly done to stop companies from employing unskilled foreign labour at ridiculously low salaries. Can take up to 3 weeks to be approved but usually takes 5-7 days. [Note: if you have a degree, the job type must match your relevant degree -- i.e. you can’t hire yourself as a cleaner when you have a BSc.]
- Apply online at http://icert.doleta.gov/
- Create an account, then choose to electronically submit a form 9035E (don’t download the PDF).
- For prevailing wages, these are two possible sources - http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesQuick.aspx, http://www.myvisajobs.com/Management-Analyst-Salary-Boston,%20MA/Ind.htm) (http://bit.ly/1EJuHiP has good charts and latest wage information in a searchable interface)
- Once can get a complete 7 years H1b database according to Year , Company , State , Job Titles by visiting following site http://www.consultantdb.com/ . Most interesting is that it gives full company h1b history. For Eg. check this one for Google . Use search for more info " http://consultantdb.com/h1b_visa_sponsors/2014/ " . It's interesting but true, this service is FREE.
- Once your labour application is approved you need to follow the steps to apply for an E3 visa here: http://canberra.usembassy.gov/nonimmigrant-visas.html. Specifically you will require the approval number from your DoL certification (LCA) to complete the DS-160 form.
- You can apply in Melbourne , Sydney and Perth . If you are already in the US on an E-3 you can apply for a renewal in Vancouver, Canada or Mexico City -- substantially cheaper airfare but watch the wait times.
- Book an appointment with the US embassy for an interview [warning: see notes below] here: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/au/ . You can pay by credit card online (currently $270). You will require the DS-160 confirmation number to book the appointment.
- Get your employer to complete a letter of offer. The letter should be on letterhead (US), be signed by an officer of the company and make clear the following:
- What the company does.
- Describe the position and skills required Why you have been chosen to fill the position (i.e. you posses expert knowledge, experience yada yada).
- A statement that the company believes your Australian degree to be equivalent to an appropriate US qualification (e.g. Baccalaureate of Computer Science).
- An affirmation that the position is temporary and that your employment will cease as soon as the company no longer has need of your services.
- Bring the following items to your appointment:
- Your passport
- Your certified and signed LCA form. Make sure it is signed by your potential employer!
- Your DS-160 confirmation (not the entire application)
- Your appointment confirmation which has two barcodes on it
- Your letter of offer from your future employer
- If you are hiring yourself, expect the consulate to ask lots of questions about your business, including asking for "financials". Bring along documentation to back up your responses, such as a few years of tax returns. [see note below]
- You may have to wait up to two weeks to see the embassy depending on how busy they are. Availability of appointment slots at the embassy varies. My co-founder only had a 3 day wait from when he booked, I had to wait 10.
- Choose the earliest appointment at the embassy possible. There's virtually no line and with any luck you'll be in and out in under 45mins. Wait till later in the day and you could be waiting up to 4 hours for an interview.
- The Melbourne consulate seems to reject all/most applications from founders hiring themselves. The Sydney consulate may be better suited. If you must apply in Melbourne, make sure you are not signing your own offers. Get a partner or investor to offer your the job and sign the LCA forms. Anything to make it appear that you are being hired for a genuine position ... and pray.