This information is for the University of Houston hiring departments who have hired or are interested in hiring a nonimmigrant. This information does not constitute legal advice.
This category permits U.S. employers to hire foreign professionals (including professors, researchers, and certain technical personnel) of Australian nationality who have at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, if those individuals will work in a position requiring that degree.
In order for a person to obtain E-3 status, the prospective employer may file a petition for change of nonimmigrant status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the foreign national may submit a visa application with the U.S. embassy abroad. The Immigration Specialist files all official E-3 requests with the USCIS for UH.
The process does not officially start until the Immigration Specialist receives the completed forms and supporting documentation from both the hiring department and the employee. Please visit the E-3 Request Procedures section for detailed steps for submitting a request to petition for an E-3 worker.
Regular processing times (non-expedited) vary throughout the year, but normally average 3 to 4 months. The consular processing time depends upon consular-interview appointment availability and security/clearance checks. Please note that much of the processing time is beyond the control of the Immigration Specialist and the normal regular processing times are subject to change.
Eligibility for E-3
The E-3 worker is required to have at least a U.S. bachelor's degree, or the foreign equivalent, in the field of intended employment. If the actual requirements for a position include a higher degree, the foreign worker must have such a degree, or the foreign equivalent. Foreign credentials must be evaluated by an accredited credentials evaluator for U.S. equivalency determination.
Duration of E-3
E-3 status can be granted in increments of up to two years at a time. An employee can hold E-3 status indefinitely.
E-3 Job Description and Requirements
The E-3 is restricted to specific employment conditions. The department must clearly define (1) the employee’s job duties; (2) where the job will be performed; (3) how much the employee will be paid; (4) how long the individual will be employed; and (5) how many hours the employee will work per week.
The department must report proposed changes to these terms to the Immigration Specialist prior to the changes going into effect. The Immigration Specialist will determine whether it is necessary to amend an approved E-3 petition.
E-3 Wage Requirement
Employers sponsoring individuals in E-3 status are required to pay a certain wage level. This wage will vary depending upon occupation, level of responsibility, and the relative wages paid by UH and the wages paid by area employers for the position. UH must do wage comparisons:
1. Internal wages: UH must determine what it pays employees who essentially perform similar duties and have similar qualifications. UH must be able to explain pay differentials among similarly-situated employees through legitimate business-related rationale. This is known as the Actual Wage. UH cannot have a practice of paying foreign nationals less that it pays U.S. workers for similar work.
2. External wages: UH must determine what the prevailing rate of pay is for the position among area employers. This is known as the Prevailing Wage. UH cannot have a practice of paying employees less than the prevailing wage.
Once these wage levels are determined, UH is required to pay the higher of either the actual wage or the prevailing wage. UH must pay at least 100% of the prevailing wage.
E-3 Filing Fees
UH is responsible for the E-3 fees. This fee cannot be passed on to the employee.
* Initial E-3 (including change of employer and concurrent job): $460 filing fee.
* E-3 Extension and/or Amendment: $460 filing fee.
* Fees are subject to change.
** Premium (expedited) processing is currently unavailable for E-3 petitions.
*** Other fees apply for the consular processing.
E-3 Employment Start Date
The employment start date for an initial E-3 filing to change the beneficiary's status, to change E-3 employer, or for concurrent E-3 employment, will be the requested starting date or the date the petition is approved, whichever is later. When the petition is for the beneficiary coming from abroad, the employment begins no later than 30 days from the date the beneficiary arrives in the U.S.
The filing of an E-3 petition will be delayed by at least the seven business days that it takes for Department of Labor certification of the LCA.
Change from One E-3 Employer to Another
The USCIS requires that the petition to work for a new E-3 employer be approved. Proof of employment at the time of the new E-3 petition filing needs to be submitted.
The spouse and/or children under 21 years of age of an E-3 worker are entitled to the E-3 Dependent classification, which grants them lawful stay in the U.S. for the duration of the worker's E-3. E-3 Dependents may attend school. Spouses in E-3 Dependent status may apply for an Employment Authorization Card (EAD) that allows them employment in the U.S. Filing fees for the I-539 application for change of status to E-3 Dependent are determined by USCIS. Separate fees apply when processing the E-3 Dependent visa at the consulate.
UH does not prepare the E-3 Dependent application packet for the E-3 worker's dependents, but may include it with the E-3 petition packet as a courtesy. UH does not prepare the EAD application for the E-3 worker's E-3 Dependent spouse.
E-3 Visa Processing
The E-3 visa, which is the document stamped in the passport through a formal application at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, is necessary in order to be able to enter the U.S. and be assigned E-3 status. The visa application normally requires the scheduling of an appointment ahead of time and presenting consulate-specific forms and supporting documentation. UH will not prepare consular-based applications, but may provide direction to where visa application information and guidance are online.
Leave Without Pay
As benefits-eligible faculty or staff, E-3 workers must use paid leave for vacation, sick, or medical time off. Once paid leave has been exhausted, any unpaid leave must be for a personal reason and needs to be reported to the Immigration Specialist for proper documentation.
Volunteering in E-3 Status
E-3 workers may not work for UH without pay.
Change in Terms of E-3 Employment
Any proposed change in the terms of employment of those working pursuant to E-3 classification must be reported to the Immigration Specialist before the change goes into effect. Changes in title, duties, hours per week/FTE, wage, or place of employment that are considered substantial may require the filing of an application with the Department of Labor and/or a petition with the USCIS. The Immigration Specialist is responsible for evaluating such changes and determining the proper course of action.
Termination of E-3 Employment
Voluntary or involuntary termination of an E-3 worker must be immediately reported to the Immigration Specialist in order to follow required petition withdrawal steps with the Department of Labor and USCIS in a timely manner. The UHS University may continue to be liable for paying wages to a former E-3 employee if the Immigration Specialist has not been properly notified of the termination of employment.
Permanent Residency for E-3 Workers
The E-3 classification does not allow "dual intent," which in immigration terms means that the nonimmigrant cannot process a permanent residence application while in the U.S. in E-3 status. Please visit the Immigrant (Permanent Visa) Worker section for details on permanent residency.