Understanding the time frame and requirements for renewing an E-3 visa allows you to coordinate your travel to attend an E-3 renewal appointment, or if returning to Australia, use the convenient the mail-in option.
In this post we discuss the key factors that determine your legal status in the United States under an E-3 Visa, the planning to consider when your E-3 is nearing expiry and requires renewal, and the different ways you can renew or extend an E-3 visa while you’re in the U.S. or Australia.
The Components for Legal Status in the U.S. on an E-3 Visa
It is generally believed that a visa is what grants the holder legal status within the United States, however your visa is a document that allows you to enter the U.S, on specific terms. There are three other factors that are critical in maintaining legal status in the U.S. which generally have different expiry dates, though all components must be valid together.
Your passport, I-94 and Labor Condiiton Application (LCA) must all be valid to continue to work, and be present in the United States.
The first priority in any travel-related work, is to check your passport validity. If it's set to expire within the next two years we recommend renewing your passport, especially prior to completing an E-3 renewal or extension, or new visa application.
There is a mail-in renewal process for Australian passports in the United States, however, this doesn’t apply to children's passports. Double-check any children's passports at this time too, keeping in mind they are only valid for five years, not ten.
This can take a matter of days if you use priority processing for Australian passports, so keep this in mind when traveling and consider the expedited option for processing your passport renewal when back in Australia.
The second priority that is always recommended, is to check your I-94 validity whenever you’re traveling in the United States.
Remember, your visa is the knock on the door to enter or reenter the US, the I-94 is the entry document and determines how long you are in legal status within the United States. This can be checked online, or forwarded to you by your attorney.
Double-checking your I-94 provides you with enough time to catch any mistakes made, and correct them before continuing travel or starting renewal processes.
Though rare, we have seen mistakes made by the CBP Officer at the point of entry in relation to length of stay granted under specific visa categories. Checking your I-94 before it expires is important to ensure an amendment can be processed while you are in legal status.
LCA Expiration Date
Finally, prior to your E-3 renewal process, we recommend checking your LCA expiration. Your LCA is your Underlying Work Authorisation, which works alongside your I-94 and visa.
These three things are always what needs to be checked in terms being in lawful status within the US, and applying for renewal on an E-3 status.
Check that all three will be valid together, and check your LCA won’t expire prematurely to your I-94.
Renewing or Extending Visa Status
There are three methods that you can renew your E-3 visa, or extend your E-3 status either in the United States or abroad.
Through the USCIS While Remaining in the U.S.
The first option to renew or extend an E-3 visa is by completing an onshore application to USCIS, which will extend your E-3 status by another two years. This process can be helpful if you can’t leave the U.S. and obtain a new visa.
The USCIS extension of status can be complicated at times, so if you are considering staying the US to extend your E-3 status, contact your attorney to discuss if the process is suitable to your situation.
A positive change to the USCIS onshore application is that they offer premium processing for those petitions.
Standard USCIS processing is approximately 6-8 months, which is why we don’t typically recommend it, though premium processing significantly cuts down on that time.
It is an additional $2,500 fee on the petition, but provides certainty with a guaranteed 15-day turnaround. This is ideal for people needing work certainty or in circumstances where it isn't possible to leave the US.
This option does have downsides if you are required to leave the US. While the USCIS will extend your legal status within the US, you will be required to apply for another visa for re-entry. For more information please see this article on visa renewals and extensions.
Through a Consulate or Embassy Abroad
The second option is getting an E-3 renewed or extended at a consulate or embassy abroad. Historically, this is the most popular option to renew an E-3 visa, mostly due to timing.
This is an option that can be added to an existing travel plan to Australia or another country, making it convenient to tie your renewal into travel for a secondary purpose. These applications are generally referred to as one-step applications, as they are in short, and extend the E-3 status you’ve already been in, and get a new E-3 visa label in your passport at the same time.
Extending at a Consulate abroad is ideal if you travel a lot and need to ensure you have a valid visa to be able to return to the United States. In this case, we can coordinate with you ahead of time, ideally six months, to talk about travel plans to line up this process with existing or necessary travel plans.
With this process, you have to attend an appointment at a consulate abroad or complete a mail-in application in Australia.
In Person Appointment for an E-3 Visa Renewal
At most consulates and embassies around the world, you are able to make an appointment as a third-country national to get an E-3 visa. However, some are more familiar with the E-3 visa process and therefore will offer more appointments for the specific E-3 visa class.
Understanding this and finding the best place for you will streamline the process. We have had success through London, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, The Bahamas, for example though appointment availability is somewhat in flux and it is best to check with us ahead of time for our recommendation.
These appointments are also available in Australia, in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, and are typically booked out a month or so in advance. The advantage to returning to Australia when doing a renewal is using the more recent mail-in process.
Mail-In Process for an E-3 Visa Renewal
More popular in the last few years, applicants can mail in their applications and will typically have their response within two weeks. We recommend sending in the application as soon as you arrive in Australia to align with deadlines and allow time to make any necessary flight changes.
It is important to note that if you have children, there is the possibility of them requiring an in-person appointment. If they were under 14 and have celebrated a birthday, they now need to attend an in-person appointment to renew their status, which we recommend doing in Australia. When this is completed, they are able to use the mail-in option for future renewals.
Spouse Work Authorization
E-3 spouses are now given automatic work authorization. This is a great step toward providing independence and streamlining renewal processes for E-3D dependents. This means as a spouse of an E-3 visa holder, you will be able to work immediately once you attain a social security number that is valid for work authorization in the US.
The processing of renewing or extending an E-3 can be stressful, in most part due to the timing. There are usually no surprises throughout the process, but ensuring you have all appropriate paperwork and plans coordinated to streamline the process can ease a lot of stress and concern. We recommend marking out six months prior to your visa expiration date to contact us, so we plan with you the most efficient process.
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a U.S. attorney, a registered Australian Migration Agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 25 years of experience in U.S. Immigration Law, including practising at the world’s largest U.S. immigration firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature, may not, and is not intended to constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information, and is for general informational purposes only. It does not represent legal advice specific to any individual/s situation, and should not be relied on as such. Please contact us for a consultation for legal advice for your individual circumstances.