E3 Partner Visa in the USA - Will It Allow You to Work?

If your spouse has been offered a job in the USA and you're heading over there as well, there's a good chance you'll be on an E3 Spouse Visa - otherwise known as an E3-D. But even with this Visa, there are still a couple of things you'll need to do before you can apply for work.

What is an E3 Visa?

The E3 Visa is a special visa that was introduced in 2005 and that lets Australian professionals relocate to and work anywhere in the USA. It's easier to get (and less expensive) than a H1B Working Visa. The E3 came about thanks to a free trade agreement between the two countries. The E3 Visa extends to an individual (an Australian citizen), as well as his/her spouse and children.

In most cases, the company will handle the E3 Visa application for you, though you will likely need to attend an interview at the US consulate in your nearest Australian city.

Working on a Partner Visa

The E3 Partner Visa (E3-D) makes it possible to work in the USA, but you won't be able to work or start applying for jobs as soon as you land. Instead, there are a couple of things you'll need to do first:

1. Apply for an EAD 

An EAD is an Employment Authorisation Document that gives you permission to work in the USA. You won't be able to get a job without this, and it is dependently on the validity of your visa. Applying for an EAD requires going through the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and simply filling out a form.

An EAD can take months to be approved, so it's a good idea to fill it out and submit it as soon as you arrive in the country (assuming you want to find work as soon as possible). It does involve a fee, but you should check whether your spouse's sponsorship company will cover this for you.

Note that you won't be able to apply for an EAD until after you land in the United States.

Once everything is finalised, you'll be issued with a laminated EAD card that you may be required to present to future employers.

2. Apply for a Social Security Number

For tax purposes, you will likely be required to apply for a Social Security Number before you start working. Most employers will require you to have this, and it's similar to the Tax File Number we have in Australia.

To apply for an SSN, you'll need to make an application through the Social Security office and attend an on-site interview with your relevant identification and information. You'll also need to show your EAD.

Once you pass the interview, your Social Security Number and Card/ID should be sent to you (ideally) within a couple of weeks. The Social Security office recommends waiting around 10 days after you arrive in the US before applying for an SSN.

Remember, like your Tax File Number, your Social Security Number is sacred and identity theft can occur frequently in the US. Organisations like employers and banks may ask for your full SSN when you apply for a job or open a bank account, but otherwise you should only ever be asked for the last 4 digits of your SSN as ID verification.

3. Apply for a Business Licence

This is only necessary if you plan on running your own business in the US or if you want to engage in freelance work. Businesses in the US are governed by each state, so you'll need to find out about business licence registration and the legal regulations in your particular state. In most cases, you should be able to apply and receive your licence online.

With all of the above in place, you should now be free to apply for employment on your E3-D spouse visa. Good luck!