The E3 Visa for Self-Employed Australians
If you're Australian, self employed and looking for some information on obtaining an E3 visa for the USA, avoid the same mistakes I made!
UPDATE: Immigration Bureau have published a great resource of information about getting an E3 visa. Check it out.
This article is particularly relevant for Australians with their own business (self-employed) looking to get an E3 visa, move to the USA and continue business from there. This was my situation in late 2014 / early 2015 and in this post I hope to outline some of the mistakes I made to try to stop you from doing the same.
- You can't simply start a company in the USA and sponsor yourself as the only person involved in the company
- A visa rejection wastes your money and bars you from travelling to the US on the visa waiver program - meaning you need a visa every time you want to travel to the USA. One lawyer told me this bar lasts for life. Another told me it's just a few years.
- Use free information online like Geoff McQueens blog post to inform yourself about everything that's required about getting an E3 Visa as an Australian entrepreneur. Being informed about everything required might allow you to do part of it yourself and save you some lawyer fees.
- Don't risk a visa rejection, get help from an E3 visa lawyer.
The E3 Visa for Australians
The E3 Visa for Australians is a really great visa class. If you're eligible, it seems to me to be by far the easiest visa to get. There are 10,000 E3 visas issues for Australians every year, that are exclusively available only to Australians. The quota for these E3 visas has never been exhausted and they can be renewed for 2 year periods at a time. The E3 is for anyone who is getting sponsored by a US company to work in a profession that they have at least a bachelor's degree qualification in.
Visit the US Embassy website for more information about the E3 Visa qualification criteria and more information
The Potential Trap of Free Online Visa Information
There are a few really great blogs out there which authors have put a TON of time and effort in to in order to help others get an E3 visa. The main one that was a huge help to me, and that gave me confidence to pursue this option for a visa was E3 visa for Australians blog from Geoff McQueen. The amount of information in this blog is astonishing. And really, really useful to understand the whole visa application process.
Ultimately, however, blogs like this gave me false confidence about how easy getting an E3 visa is, and led me to a visa rejection
My Self Employed E3 Visa Application Mistake
I'm a freelance web developer with a profitable business in Australia. I thought, based on what I read online, that it would be easy enough to move my business to the US and continue working. I set up an LLC using all the great information from Geoff's blog. I got my LCA approved and all my paperwork in order and flew down to Sydney from Brisbane for my interview at the consulate. About 5 minutes after my interview began, I was back outside the consulate with a rejection notice of my visa application. And I was devastated. The reason I was rejected was that I didn't establish an appropriate "Employer-Employee" relationship, which requires there to be at least 1 other person involved in your company who has the power to hire and fire you. This person cannot be you. In retrospect this seems so obvious, but at the time it wasn't and it led to my downfall.
There are different reasons for which you can be rejected for a visa, and some have slightly worse consequences than others (for example, if you commit fraud in your application... you will probably never be allowed in to the USA ever again). One thing that I wish I'd known before I applied is that if you are rejected for an E3 visa - even for a seemingly innocent reason - you won't be able to travel to the USA on an ESTA waiver program. One lawyer I spoke to after being rejected for my E3 visa said that this ESTA waiver ban lasts for the rest of my life. However, another told me that he thought it was just for a few years. I am yet to get proper confirmation about what the reality is, but one thing is for sure - a rejected visa application can have very real consequences. In my opinion, it's just not worth the risk.
How I Got My E3 Visa
Key lesson: use a lawyer
I ended up having a few consultations with different law firms, before finding Immigration Bureau who were willing to take my case as an E3 Visa Lawyer. I dealt directly with David Yurkofsky who, I must say, had the most impressive communication I've encountered when dealing with professional service people. Given my visa rejection, I had a ton of questions - and David answered all of them within a few minutes of me sending them to him. At some points he was sending me reply emails at 2am. Seriously impressive.
Even with the added complexity of my case after my E3 visa application rejection, Immigration Bureau's pricing was the best I found, and I shopped around a lot. They also had the allure of a flawless track record in E3 Visa applications; they've never lost an E3 visa case. The icing on the cake was that they were willing to give me a discount because I was able to do some of the work myself based on the knowledge I'd gathered from Geoff's blog post - thank you Geoff!.
If you're looking for an immigration lawyer for an E3 visa - do not look past Immigration Bureau.
I ended up having some serious luck that a former colleague of mine (based in the USA) was starting a company in the same line of work that I do - Digital communications and web development - and we were able to come to a business arrangement that was mutually beneficial to both of us. We ended up teaming up and with David's help, I got sponsored for my E3 visa.
What to Learn from My Mistakes
- You need a business partner or someone else involved in your company to establish an employer-employee relationship to be eligible for an E3 visa. You cannot be the sole employee and 'sponsor yourself'
- It will save you a heap of potential hassle, stress and a ban from the ESTA waiver program if you use a lawyer
- Immigration Bureau are exceptional immigration lawyers with a flawless E3 visa track record, great rates and excellent communication. Use them - click here to arrange a consultation