US Creates Special Visa for Australian Workers


 Washington DC, May 11, 2005 In a first for Australia, the United States has created a separate visa category (E-3 visa) specifically for 10,500 Australian business people and professionals seeking to live and work temporarily in the United States.  This achieves some of the human capital mobility goals that Australia established in the Australia US Free Trade Agreement.  

Trade Minister Mark Vaile said, “This new visa, passed by US Congress today, represents a quantum leap forward in the access that Australian professionals will have.  The global cap for the standard two-year business visa, the H1-B, is only 65,000 and last year only 900 Australians were successful, so to secure 10,500 places annually is a huge achievement.  It provides new opportunities for skilled Australians to take full advantage of the trade and investment links with the US in the years ahead. Even better, spouses of those successful visa holders will also have work rights, and dependant children need not apply for entry These places are over and above the capped visa entitlements that Australians are Once in operation, the new visa will offer a much better alternative to existing visa provisions and will be a boon for Australians looking to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement,” Mr Vaile said. 

“This is the announcement we have all been waiting for. Congratulations to the Minister for Trade and to the Australian Embassy team in Washington who worked on this initiative.  Special thanks to the many Advance members who participated in the campaign sending the Embassy your stories and examples.   This is a stunning result and is a huge leap forward for Australian professionals’ access to work in the United States.  The spousal working rights in particular will make a huge difference.” Elena Douglas, Advance CEO. 

Mr Vaile said it had become difficult for Australians who had been offered work in the US to get a visa. Australian companies in the US market had been unable to expand due to difficulties in bringing people over to train others or to create off-shoots in other localities. “Now Australians with relevant tertiary qualifications and work experience will be able to apply under the new Australia-specific E-3 category visa to work in the US,” Mr Vaile “The new visa is a result of intense behind-the-scenes efforts by the Federal Government, and bipartisan support in the US. In particular, Senate Majority Leader Senator First played a crucial role along with key immigration advisors on the Senate “I now look forward to working with the US Congress and Administration to implement the new provision, and build on the benefits we will reap from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement,” Mr Vaile said

US creates special visa for Australian workers
The Age

By Michael Gawenda
United States correspondent
May 12, 2005

 The US Congress has passed legislation that creates thousands of working visas for Australians and their spouses in what is seen in Washington as a sign of the special relationship with Australia.

"I don't think any other country at the moment would have been able to get this sort of visa concession in the current climate," an official said.

Some 10,500 E3 visas will be issued annually to Australians with tertiary qualifications who have job offers from American employers, including universities, government departments and businesses. There is no age limit.

Until now, Australians have had to compete for one of the 65,000 work visas issued worldwide by the US each year.

Last year, 986 Australians received an HIB visa, which does not allow spouses of visa holders to work and has a time limit of six years.

Once President George Bush signs the legislation, Australia will become the only country whose nationals are issued special work visas.

The provision creating these new visas was put forward by Senate majority leader Bill Frist and was tacked onto a bill providing an additional $US81 billion for American operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 There was no debate on the provision, which was passed unanimously by the Senate, but it is believed that there was widespread support for the new visas, given Australia's close relationship with the US.

The new E3 visa must be renewed every two years, but as long as the visa holder continues to have an employer sponsor, the visa can be renewed indefinitely.

Spouses of visa holders are free to find employment.

Trade Minister Mark Vaile hailed the new visa as "a significant breakthrough" that would allow Australian business to capitalise on the opportunities created by the free-trade agreement with the US.

The new visas are likely to come into effect in the next few months and will be especially important for US-based Australian companies that want to bring in Australian workers. Australians will still be able to apply for the HIB visas, which are basically decided by a lottery system.

- with Tim Colebatch


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