The E-3 visa for “Certain Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia” was enacted as a part of “The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005” (May 11, 2005). E-3s are similar to H-1Bs but are only available to Australian citizens. Unlike H-1Bs which are subject to the annual quota and lottery, 10,500 E-3 visas are allocated annually to Australian specialty occupation professionals, and those are completely separate from the H-1B numbers. No lottery exists for the E-3 category because it has not historically been oversubscribed. The obvious benefit to a greater supply of visas than annual demand is that pursuing an E-3 does not come down to chance as it can with the H-1B lottery, but another great benefit is that since E-3s are not subject to a lottery a person may apply any time during the year, as needed.
In order to qualify for an E-3, the job must be a specialty occupation, meaning a position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in a specific field of study. The Australian professional must be able to demonstrate he or she has that related degree or equivalent experience. Australians can apply for E-3 visas directly at a US Consulate or if they are in the US they can apply to change their status to E-3.
The family (spouse and children under 21) of an E-3 holder are also eligible for E-3 visas and status. Spouses are eligible for work authorization, but they must apply for it separately within the US.