Do you have an E-3 visa that will expire soon? What are your options?
With the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis currently limiting travel and visa renewal options, many Australians may find themselves in the United States with an E-3 visa expiration date that is quickly approaching. Normally, E-3 visas are valid in 2-year increments and most Australians will travel to a U.S. Consulate back in Australia to renew their visa. With the current unprecedented crisis and U.S. Consulates globally closed to most visa appointments, this may not be an immediate option to renew your E-3 visa. Fortunately, there are other options available to extend your ability to live and work in the United States that do not require international travel or visa appointments.
My E-3 Visa is Expiring and I can’t travel – What do I do?
If you are currently in the United States and your E-3 visa is expiring, the best option under the current situation is to extend your E-3 status within the United States. As long as you are extending your E-3 status with your same employer, you are allowed to file a petition to extend your E-3 status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Upon filing the petition to extend your E-3, you are given a continuation of authorised employment for 240 days. Typically, the extension of status will be reviewed during this time and you can continue working in the US while your case is pending.
If your current visa is expiring soon and you are not able to renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate, as is likely the case with the current situation, you may decide the best option available is to file an extension of your E-3 status or even a change of employer petition with the USCIS while you remain in the United States. This will allow you to stay in the United States in valid status and continue working until you can travel internationally to renew the visa at a U.S. Consulate.
Extension of Status (from within the U.S.) vs. Visa Renewal (at a U.S. Consulate)
It is important to understand that extending your status from within the United States does not renew your visa label in your passport. A valid visa can only be issued or renewed by attending an in-person interview at a U.S. Consulate outside of the United States. While the extension of status described above will give you the authorisation to remain in the US and continue working in the US, you will still be required to have a valid E-3 visa label for re-entry back into the US after any travel outside of the US.
Changing Employers with an E-3 Visa?
If you are currently in the United States with an E-3 visa, you are allowed to file a petition to “change employers” from within the US; however, unfortunately you can only start employment with the new employer AFTER the petition has been approved. Currently, the USCIS is taking 3.5 – 5 months to process these extensions. If you plan to change employers from within the United States, please contact our office so that one of our lawyers can help you plan the best approach.
I-94 Expiration Date is different from my E-3 visa? What about my LCA?
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 US and the most recent I-94 can be obtained online here. Often times when entering the country, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will issue your I-94 to be valid for a full 2-years upon entry.
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. However, it is important to note that in order to stay in compliance, 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 US immigration and Department of Labor requirements.
We are here to help!
Our US-legal team is 100% based in Australia and the majority of our clients are Australians. E-3 visa applications, renewals and extensions of stay are our specialty, so get in touch with our team today. We would be happy to work on an appropriate strategy so that you can continue working in the US during this critical and unprecedented situation.