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Best U.S. Visas for Australians: E-3 vs H-1B vs O-1

Whether you're an Australian citizen looking to move to the USA, or an American company seeking to hire workers from Australia, this article is for you!


Introduction: USA Work Visas for Workers from Australia

To be employed in the USA, non-U.S. citizens need to have a visa, green card, or another form of legal work authorization. Several visa options are available to Australians, including the E-3 visa, a visa only open to nationals of Australia.

Today, we're discussing the differences between three U.S. nonimmigrant visas; the E-3 visa, the H-1B visa, and the O-1 visa. First, what do all three of these visas share in common?

  • Temporary work authorization for a U.S. company: Once you work for a U.S. employer, your experience won't be much different if you're on the E-3 visa, H-1B visa, or O-1 visa.
  • 15-day visa processing time with premium processing: By paying an extra fee to USCIS, you can get your visa processed in under 15 days.
  • Apply from abroad or inside the USA: No matter where you are, you can apply for these visas. (Exception: you cannot apply from inside the U.S. if you entered on ESTA).
  • Bring your family members with you: Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21) of E-3 visa holders, H-1B visa holders, and O-1 visa holders can live in the U.S.
  • Visa application through USCIS: The application process is nearly identical for all three visas. Gather the required documents, fill our Form I-129, prepare your visa with an attorney experienced in immigration law and then submit your visa application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for approval.
  • Get your visa stamp at a U.S. consulate: If you’re filing a consular visa application from outside the U.S., you'll. need to attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate before entering the country. If you are filing from inside the U.S., you will need to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy next time you travel internationally.

E-3: U.S. Visa for Citizens of Australia

The E-3 is a U.S. visa only available to citizens of Australia. The E-3 visa requirements include the following:

  • Having an Australian passport
  • Having a job offer from a U.S. company
    • The job offer must qualify as a "specialty occupation"; and
    • You must have a Bachelor's degree or many years of experience related to the occupation.

H-1B: U.S. Visa for Specialty Occupation Workers

The H-1B visa category requirements are very similar to the E-3 requirements, but the H-1B is available to nationals from any country. The H-1B eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Having a job offer from a U.S. company
    • The job offer must qualify as a "specialty occupation"; and
    • You must have a Bachelor's degree or many years of experience related to the occupation.

O-1A: U.S. Visa for Individuals of Extraordinary Ability O-1A

The O-1A visa category requires applicants to have received a major internationally recognized award such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic Medal.


Meet three out of eight criteria Extraordinary Ability criteria:

FAQ: Which U.S. visa is right for me?

E-3 visa for Citizens of Australia or H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa

The E-3 and H-1B visa are very similar. Both are meant for individuals in “specialty occupations”.

For most Australians, the E-3 is an obvious choice over the H-1B. Why? The criteria are almost identical, but the likelihood of approval is higher for the E-3 since it's available only to Australian citizens. In addition, the E-3 visa can be extended indefinitely, while the H-1B is only valid for a maximum of six years.

One advantage of the H-1B compared to the E-3 is that the H-1B is a dual-intent visa. It is less complicated to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. on a dual intent visa. You can still adjust your status and apply for a green card on a single intent visa like the E-3, but your immigration attorney will likely advise you to stay in the U.S. for an extended period while your green card is processing. 

The E-3 and H-1B preparation process is very similar. Both require you to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor. After the LCA has been approved, you can file your visa petition. 

E-3 visa for Citizens of Australia or O-1 Extraordinary Abilities visa

The first thing to consider when comparing these visas is whether or not you qualify for both. The E-3 and O-1 have very different qualifications. 

If you qualify for both, you may choose the E-3 if you have a spouse that would like to work in the U.S. E-3 dependent spouses qualify to work for any U.S. employer. O-1 spouses can only work in the U.S. if they obtain a separate form of work authorization.

You may opt for the O-1 if you want to work in a role outside USCIS's approved "specialty occupations" or if you don't want to be limited to the E-3 prevailing wage requirements. 

The E-3 and O-1 both allow unlimited extensions. Both visas are single intent visas. The process of filing O-1 and E-3 is similar, but LCAs are not required for O-1 visas. 

Get help with your visa application

Choosing a U.S. work visa is both a personal and professional decision. Start a conversation with our team if you want support as you explore your U.S. immigration options.

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.