U.S. Immigration Options to Sponsor Australian Workers


In addition to the U.S. immigration options available to all nationalities, Australian nationals have a special E-3 visa category for professional workers, and a bilateral free trade agreement for commerce and investment provides for E-1 and E-2 visa categories to facilitate substantial trade and investment, respectively, for traders, investors, and their supervisory and essential skills workers. These visas provide substantial flexibility and benefits, fostering economic ties and personal opportunities for Australians wishing to engage in significant business ventures in the United States.


E-3 Specialty Occupation Professional Visa Only for Australian Professionals

The E-3 visa offers a unique pathway for Australian citizens seeking to work in the United States, arising from the bilateral commitments made under the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement. Although not formally a part of the agreement, the E-3 visa was established by U.S. Congress and became law in 2005, reflecting the deepening trade and labor cooperation between the two nations. This visa category is designed to benefit Australian professionals specifically, offering them a streamlined process to engage in employment in the U.S. under terms favorable compared to other visa categories.

Key Features and Benefits of the E-3 Visa

The E-3 visa closely resembles the H-1B visa used by professionals worldwide, with several advantageous distinctions:

  • Spousal Employment: Unlike many other work visas, spouses of E-3 visa holders are permitted to work in the U.S. without restriction, providing significant flexibility for families.
  • Renewals: There is no maximum limit on the number of times an E-3 visa can be renewed, as long as the visa holder continues to meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Annual Quota Never Met: The visa is subject to an annual quota of 10,500, exclusive of visas granted to spouses and children. Unlike the H-1B visa, this quota has never been met, ensuring ample opportunity for Australian professionals.

Application Process

The process to obtain an E-3 visa involves several steps, starting with the prospective employer filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA) specifically indicating it is for an E-3 Australian citizen. Following LCA approval, applicants can apply directly at a U.S. consulate, streamlining their entry into the U.S. workforce. This process does not require a petition with USCIS as a prerequisite like the H-1B and other petition-based visas.

Additionally, Australians already in the U.S. on different visas can change status to E-3, provided they did not enter under the visa waiver program (ESTA).

Broader Implications and Opportunities

Since its inception, thousands of E-3 visas have been issued annually, allowing Australian professionals to contribute to the U.S. economy across various sectors. The flexibility and benefits of the E-3 visa not only facilitate professional mobility but also underscore the special relationship between the U.S. and Australia, promoting mutual economic growth through skilled labor exchange.

This visa represents a significant development in international labor mobility between Australia and the U.S., reflecting both countries’ commitment to facilitating skilled employment and cultural exchange under a framework of reciprocal benefit.


E-1 and E-2 Visas for Australian Entrepreneurs and Traders

The United States offers specific visa categories under the E-1 and E-2 treaty visas, tailored for Australian citizens due to a treaty of commerce and navigation between the U.S. and Australia. These visas facilitate the entry and operation of Australian investors and traders, along with their managers, executives, and essential skills employees, under temporary nonimmigrant status with possibilities for pursuing permanent residency.

E-1 Visa for Traders

The E-1 visa caters to Australian traders who engage in substantial trade with the United States. To qualify, the trade must be continuous and involve numerous transactions over time. While there is no specified minimum trade amount, immigration attorneys may often advise a monthly trade volume of at least $10,000 across multiple transactions to ensure compliance and minimize potential challenges. The business in question must be at least 50% owned by Australians who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents.

Australians can apply for the E-1 visa directly at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, with processing times ranging from one to twelve months depending on the consular post.

E-2 Visa for Entrepreneurs

The E-2 visa is designed for Australian investors who initiate and direct operations of an enterprise in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital. There is no rigid minimum for this investment, but it should be sufficient to ensure the successful creation and operation of the business. The investment must be at risk (meaning it is irrevocably committed to the business), from a lawful source, and the enterprise must not be marginal (i.e., it must have the capacity to generate more income than just to provide a living to the visa holder and their family). It’s recommended that the investment should be around $100,000 or more, taking into account the business expenses and funds for the “burn rate” necessary to support the business until it becomes profitable.

Similar to the E-1, the E-2 visa application may be submitted directly to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. The investor must demonstrate that the funds have been committed to the business, and the business is close to starting operations or is already operational.

Work Authorization for Spouses

Both E-1 and E-2 visa categories allow spouses of visa holders to obtain E-1 and E-2 dependent visas to work in the U.S. without needing a separate employment authorization document, as their work authorization is incident to their status.

Pathways to Permanent Residency

While the E-1 and E-2 visas are nonimmigrant visas which require nonimmigrant intent, holders may carefully pursue permanent residency through the EB-1C category if they are multinational managers or executives, or through the EB-5 investor program. Those not holding significant ownership stakes may qualify under the PERM Labor Certification process under the EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant preference categories.

High Visa Reciprocity Fee for E-1 and E-2 Visas for Australians

In addition to the standard U.S. Department of State Machine Readable Visa fees of $315 for E visas, an additional “visa reciprocity fee” of $5,592 is required for issuance of E-1 or E-2 visas valid for five (5) years to Australians, which is among the highest if not the highest visa reciprocity fee.


Additional Options for Australians

Review our Services page for an overview of the common temporary “nonimmigrant” and permanent “immigrant” visa categories, including hyperlinked articles for each strategy.


The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.