E-3 Visas: An Alternative to the H-1B Lottery

Both the H-1B visa and the E-3 visa allow U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, however the differences between the two are important for employers to understand.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) place a cap on available H-1B visas at 65,000.  Within five days from the start of the filing period, USCIS received 124,000 petitions.  A lottery determined which petitions were selected, subject to few exemptions.  With an astonishing 59,000 petitions not selected, the question for employers becomes, “Are you forced to leave your available position up to a lottery?”  The work your company does is important, and your employees are the driving force behind your product or service.  Nothing should be left to a lottery, least of all your employees.

Additional options are available to employers, and the E-3 visa is just one example.  The E-3 visa is a specialty occupation visa only available to Australian citizens.  A specialty occupation is one that, “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, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.”  -INA 214(i)(1).

Employers benefit from the E-3 visa because nothing needs to be filed with USCIS, and the $3,000 in fees that the H-1B visa requires does not apply.  Furthermore, the E-3 visa program is open to all businesses, not just Australian-owned or -operated companies, which is different from other E-Visas.  An employer must still submit a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor, ensuring a prevailing wage for the Australian worker.  E-3 visas are valid for two years, and there is no limit to the number of times it may be renewed.

Employers who are looking for specialty labor, and prefer not to play the odds, should consider an E-3 visa.

Sara Lowry, an attorney in our Livonia office, concentrates her practice on municipal law, litigation, and immigration law.  She can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or slowry@cmda-law.com.