The number of E-3 visas the U.S. issues to Australian nationals has soared in recent years  –  and certain E-3 applications appear to be drawing more scrutiny.

E-3 visas are reserved specifically for Australian nationals filling specialty occupation roles. The number of E-3 visas the State Department issued rose by 79 percent, from 4,942 in the 2011 fiscal year to 8,834 in 2014. The number of visas denied has also gone up, with denial rates fluctuating between 9.4 and 11.4 percent since 2010.

Fiscal Year Visas Issued* Visas Denied Percentage Denied
2009 4,173 480 10.3 percent
2010 4,539 584 11.4 percent
2011 4,942 587 10.6 percent
2012 6,198 642 9.4 percent
2013 7,402 783 9.6 percent
2014 8,834 958 9.8 percent

* Includes E-3, E-3D and E-3R visas.

Though denial rates have not changed dramatically, BAL has seen anecdotal evidence of a trend toward increasing scrutiny of certain E-3 applications.

In particular, U.S. consulate officials in Australia seem to be more closely scrutinizing the question of what constitutes a “specialty occupation,” a requirement that must be met for a successful E-3 application. Applications listing general positions in the administrative, general or operations manager classification may face greater scrutiny, especially where the applicant’s role does not meet the “specialty occupation” threshold. Start-up organizations in which applicants sometimes sponsor each other in managerial level roles also appear to be drawing greater scrutiny.

With the jump in E-3 applications in recent years, it is possible that the annual E-3 cap of 10,500 visas could be reached in the not-too-distant future. It should be noted that the cap applies only to principal E-3 applications, and does not include dependent (E-3D) or renewal (E-3R) applications.

Fiscal Year E-3 E-3D E-3R Total
2009 2,191 1,421 561 4,173
2010 2,175 1,582 782 4,539
2011 2,546 1,663 733 4,942
2012 3,211 2,150 837 6,198
2013 3,946 2,530 926 7,402
2014 4,492 3,083 1,259 8,834

BAL Analysis: BAL will continue to track the increase in E-3 visa applications, including whether the number of annual applications approaches the 10,500 cap. Those applying for E-3 visas should ensure that they will fill a position that qualifies as a “specialty occupation,” a requirement of the E-3 visa that is seemingly facing increasing scrutiny at U.S. consulates abroad. Applicants should also prepare for the possibility that applications may be delayed or denied if officials determine that the position does not meet the appropriate threshold. Contact your BAL attorney with questions regarding job classifications, specialty occupations or any other aspect of the E-3 visa application.

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