I’ve been living in the US since 2015 and my E3 visa was coming up for its second renewal. This was my experience…
If you are just getting started and want to know what the E3 visa is, we have another post on that for you here.
The E3 visa requires renewal every two years. You have to renew your E3 Visa from outside the US. I elect to do it in my home state of Victoria, as I have free accommodation there, the Melbourne consulate is familiar with the E3 and it double as a great time for a family visit.
I try to have my visa interview at least a month before my previous visa expires.
I start the process of applying for the visa 3-5 months before the date I want or have the interview.
Step 1: LCA
The first step is for your employer to lodge the Labor Condition Application (LCA). Once the LCA is approved and you get the document back, make sure your employer signs it (I nearly missed this step before my last interview – it’ll save you a lot of stress the day before your visa interview if you have your employer sign the LCA as soon as it’s approved!).
Step 2: Letter Of Offer
Obtain a letter of job renewal from your employer indicating that they would like you to continue working with them for the period of the visa renewal (2 more years). This should also include:
- Your salary
- Your name (marching your name on your passport and LCA)
- Your position, mentioning your specific skill set/experience/degree
- The location you’ll be working
- Be signed and dated by your employer
Step 3: Make sure you have decent passport photos
Your passport photos should be taken less than 6 months before your visa interview. In the US you can have these taken at Walgreens or CVS (although there are definitely cheaper options out there.) In Australia you can get them at Australia Post or OfficeWorks.
Step 4: Complete your DS160, book the date of your interview and pay the interview fee
The DS160 is an online form that you need to complete before booking your interview time. It is probably the most time consuming part of the entire process. You will want to have all your information by your side while completing this. I recommend having your previous DS160 handy as it will make the process a bit easier. Remember to save frequently as the US Travel Docs system is clunky and will log you out several times during the process. You will also need an electronic version of your passport photos to upload as part of this process.
Once you complete your DS160 go ahead and book in your interview date – you’ll want to do this about 3 months before the date you want for your interview to get the best schedule.
Important: keep an eye on your inbox. The consulate rescheduled my interview by a couple of days and they only notified me via email.
Step 5: Book your flights
I recommend giving yourself a couple of days before your interview to allow for any missed flights or anything that might delay your arrival for your interview. I did not allow that window on my most recent visit, but thankfully the rescheduled interview gave me a few extra days.
The consulate recommends that you don’t schedule your return flight before you have your interview. That may be expensive though, so I just tried to allow for 2-3 weeks for the visa to be sent to me. I also got travel insurance just in case something needed to be rescheduled.
Step 6: Your Visa Interview
I catch the 16 tram from Flinder’s St Station. It is not apparent from the outside which building is the consulate (no American flag) so make sure you have the address in google maps. There is usually a red AFP vehicle out the front which should help you find it.
On the day of your interview, make sure you arrive to the consulate early. DO NOT bring a lap top, iPad or luggage to the interview. You will only be able to take your required documents and your wallet with you into the interview. Security typically only lets 5 people through every 5 minutes. On the day I went the security line took 30-45 minutes to go through.
You’ll want to bring to the interview:
- Your Australian Passport (with more than 6 months til
expiry TheLCA signed by your employer
- The letter of offer from your employer
- The printed cover page from your DS160
- Evidence of your 4 year University Degree or 12 years experience (or equivalent combination) in the area you’ll be working
- Hard copies of your passport photos
- Evidence of continued connection to Australia eg Australian Bank Accounts, Address in Australia etc.
They typically won’t look at everything listed above but it is better to over prepare. I recommend bringing all this in a clear plastic pocket or folder.
As you go through security, a clerk will check you in and make sure you have your passport with some of the necessary documentation. They’ll get you to place your keys, phone and other items in one tray and your documents and wallet in another. They will hold on to your phone, keys etc and give you a token to get them back after your interview.
You’ll go through to your visa interview and wait in a first line where they will finger print you and check your documentation. You’ll then go into line 2 which will be your main interview. It is usually pretty quick. They’ll ask you some clarifying questions to make sure you aren’t making anything up then let you know that they’ll mail your passport with the visa to the Australian address provided on your DS160.
It feels freeing after your interview, but technically even when you get your passport back there is still one more step.
Step 7: Entering The United States Of America
As you enter the US you tend to go through a quick interview where they will verify your visa. Make sure you have all the documentation that you took to your interview available in your hand luggage. I have been asked to provide the letter from my employer and other evidence that I work there like business cards.
One thing that I noticed
I hope this helps you as you work through your next E3 Visa Renewal. What was your experience with your renewal? Did you do it at a consulate outside Australia? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below…