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E-3 Visa Renewals - Maintaining your E-3 Visa
E-3 visas are valid in 2-year increments and can be renewed every 2 years. While 2 years may seem far off, it is important to plan ahead for the visa renewal.
E-3 visa renewal requirements include:
- Continuous sponsored employment in the United States by your U.S. employer.
- A valid Labor Condition Application (LCA) issued by the Department of Labor (DOL)
- Non-immigrant intent i.e. you intend to return to your home country upon expiration of your visa.
E-3 Visa Renewal Process
If your visa has expired and you need to leave the U.S. for travel, you will need to obtain a new visa stamp. To do this, you are required to either attend a visa appointment in person at a U.S. Consulate abroad or if you are able to return to Australia, do a visa renewal through the mail-in process.
The in-person appointment will be similar to your first E-3 visa appointment and you will be required to provide the same documentation. The mail-in process follows the same documentation guidelines but you will not have to book an appointment to visit the consulate in person.
Recommended visa renewal locations will vary depending on business needs, timeframes and visa interview availability at the Consular post. Whilst the U.S. Consular posts in Canada or Mexico may seem like a convenient choice, over the past 2 years, the availability of appointments for third-country nationals is extremely limited.
E-3 Visa Renewal in Australia
We recommend E-3 visa holders plan their E-3 visa renewal appointment to coincide with a trip back to Australia as it is often easier to secure appointments at a U.S. Consulate in Australia. With the mail-in option only available in Australia, it is a safe option and is a better way to ensure you will be able to get a visa renewed within specific travel dates.
As with all international travel and U.S. immigration issues, you will want to make sure to PLAN AHEAD for your E-3 Visa Renewals!
Appointment Backlogs at U.S. Consulates
U.S. Consulates in Australia and globally are currently experiencing higher delays and backlogs than they have in recent years. A few years ago, it could have been possible to obtain an E-3 appointment in a week or two – currently, even in Australia, the backlogs can be several months.
E-3 Premium Processing
As of February 24, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that individuals requesting a change or an extension of status for their E-3 classification on FORM I-129 will have the option to request a premium processing service.
What is Premium Processing?
Premium processing provides a processing alternative for various visas, inclusive of the E-3 Visa, guaranteeing a turnaround of 15 business days, as opposed to the standard processing time. The standard processing time can take up to 6-8 months, but the USCIS premium processing services allow individuals to pay an additional fee, which is currently $2,500 USD, to expedite the findings in the much shorter time frame of 15 business days.
This service will assist those Australian citizens who are currently residing in the United States that are seeking to apply to amend their current E-3 visa, to change their U.S. employer, to change their status, or to extend their status from within the United States.
For more information see our E-3 Premium Processing post here.
E-3 Extension of Status with USCIS Inside the U.S.
For those that can’t make it back home to Australia and are needing to extend their E-3 Visa status in the U.S. your best option is to extend your E-3 status within the United States until you can travel outside of the United States to visit an embassy or consulate or do a mail-in renewal application.
If you are wanting to extend your E-3 Visa status and have the same employer, you are authorised to file a petition to extend your status with USCIS. Upon filing, you will be automatically granted a continuation of the E-3 Visa status for 240 days whilst the petition is being reviewed. By using Premium Processing with USCIS, your status may be renewed quickly, usually within 2-4 weeks.
Unfortunately, visas cannot be renewed without individuals attending an in-person interview at a U.S. Consulate outside of the United States or through the mail-in process in Australia. Therefore, whilst an extension of your E-3 stay with USCIS authorises you to remain and continue working in the U.S, you will be required to have a valid E-3 Visa label for re-entry back into the U.S. following any travel outside of the U.S.
For general information about extending your E-3 status with USCIS, see their PDF: How do I extend my nonimmigrant stay in the United States?
Visa, I-94, and LCA Validity Dates
It is important to know that your E-3 visa has several components to it and all three may have different expiration dates.
The I-94 Arrival-Departure Form
The I-94 expiration date is the MOST important date to keep track of. If you are in the U.S. when your I-94 expires and you have not taken any steps to extend your stay, you may start accruing unlawful status.
The I-94 validity period determines how long you are allowed to remain in the United States in E-3 status. The I-94 is updated upon each entry into the U.S. and the most recent I-94 can be obtained online here. Oftentimes when entering the country, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will issue your I-94 to be valid for a full 2-years upon entry. It is important to keep in mind that if your passport is set to expire during your stay, your I-94 may be shorter than your visa expiration date.
E-3 Visa Label
Your visa label in your passport only determines when you can enter the United States. In many situations, an I-94 validity period may be much longer than your E-3 visa validity. In these circumstances, you may not be required to file an E-3 extension of status if your I-94 status is valid for a longer period of time than your visa.
The Labor Condition Application is the Department of Labor document that was required to be certified when you received your E-3 visa. The validity date normally is close to your visa validity dates. However, it is important to note that in order to stay in compliance throughout your E-3 stay, you must also have a valid Labor Condition Application (LCA). This is a requirement for every E-3 visa application, renewal and extension. If you believe your I-94 expiration is valid longer than your E-3 visa, please contact our office to develop a strategy where you can remain in compliance with U.S. immigration and Department of Labor requirements.
See our previous blog discussing E-3 visa extensions and renewal options during covid for more information
E-3 Visa Transfers (Changing Employers)
If you’re currently residing in the U.S. and need to change your employer information on your E-3 Visa status, there are two different ways to go about it; transfer your E-3 Visa to a new employer, or reapply for a new E-3 Visa.
1. Transfer your E-3 Visa to a new employer
To change employers whilst residing in the United States, your new employer is required to obtain an LCA for the position you will be employed for and to file a Form I-129 petition. This petition must be approved prior to you starting work.
However, by taking this route, you are ultimately just changing your E-3 status in the United States to be valid with your new employer, and it does not give you a new visa stamp in your passport; making it difficult to re-enter following international travel.
This is often a lengthy process, but E-3 Visa petitioners can apply for premium processing (see above) in order to speed up the approval process.
2. Re-apply for a new E-3 Visa
Your other option is to re-apply for a new E-3 Visa and re-enter according to your new employer’s instructions. This option is often easier and quicker and allows for individuals to apply either inside or outside of Australia.
The process of re-applying for a new E-3 Visa is much-like your initial application, except you will be obliged to tick ‘yes’ when asked if you’ve had an E-3 Visa before on your DS-160 form.
It is important to note that if you are changing employers and you have held an E-3 visa in the past 48 months, you will be able to get a new visa for your new employer through the mail-in process back in Australia.
What to do if my E-3 Visa Extension is Denied?
Denied prior to the expiration of your I-94: If your I-94 departure date has not yet expired, then you still have time to make a decision concerning your case.
Denied after the expiration of your I-94: If you filed the extension application before the expiration of your current I-94, you remain in lawful status as long as the application is pending or for 240 days, whichever comes first. See the USCIS Handbook for Employers - 6.7 Extensions of Stay for Other Nonimmigrant Categories M-274
If the response is a denial, and your I-94 has expired, the USCIS generally allows you 30 days to depart the U.S. starting from the date on the letter notifying you of their decision to deny your extension. If you do not depart within 30 days, you will be considered deportable. If your I-94 has expired you will also start accruing unlawful presence from the date of the denial.
Outside of transferring your status, you may be able to appeal your case or file a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider. Further information about filing an appeal can be found on the USCIS Questions and Answers: Appeals and Motions page.
If you are in the U.S. and your E-3 Extension or Change to a new employer has been denied, we advise you to contact an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer like Worldwide Migration Partners immediately to get timely advice on the best course of action.
E-3 Policy Changes
E-3 visa policy often changes. While the E-3 visa often goes 'under the radar' from immigration politics and the national publicity of the immigration debate in the United States, this does not keep the E-3 visa immune from policy changes.
Many times, with the E-3 visa, independent U.S. Consulates determine their own policy in relation to discretionary points of law. Here at Worldwide Migration Partners, we have seen numerous changes in E-3 visa interpretations over the past few years, whereas the actual regulations have not changed at all. It is critical to plan in advance with the right legal team to ensure that your E-3 employment will not be impacted.
To stay up to date with any policy changes be sure to join our mailing list or follow us on social media.
Help With E-3 Visa Renewal
Whether or not you worked with Worldwide Migration Partners on your original E-3 application, we would be happy to assist in your E-3 renewal wherever you plan to submit the application. Our team follows E-3 visa policy trends, timing issues, and closely monitors the E-3 visa as we are the largest US immigration law firm in Australia.
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a US attorney, an Australian migration agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 20 years of experience in migration law, including practising at the world’s largest US immigration firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.
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