By Christian Thurston
One of the biggest challenges to getting a job offer in the US is explaining the E3 visa to potential employers. In a short email you have to oh-so-delicately explain the visa, reassure the employer that it’s fast, cheap and easy and keep them focused on what an awesome candidate you are. That’s not easy.
What’s amazing is that even though there are thousands of emails a year sent from Aussie candidates to US employers we’re each reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch every time we do it. That’s a bit silly if you ask me. Why not spend that time on the parts of the process that you can’t automate and get the most out of your limited runway?
What if that was done for you and there was also a neat little infographic you could use so that an employer can understand in 30 seconds what it would take you eight paragraphs to explain in an email (that nobody will ever read)?
Well, that’s what I’ve set out to create here.
The E3 visa conversation with employers
The most common situation where you’ll have to explain your visa is during one of the early email screens with the potential employer. The three most common people to read your email are the recruiter, the hiring manager, and the immigration attorney.
The email should also be written in a way that makes it easy for the employer to forward. It sounds like a small detail but it’s an important one. It could make the difference between someone making an internal case for your candidacy or archiving your application because they think you need an H1B which is super painful.
When to discuss the E3 visa?
I personally recommend not bringing it up until the employer does. The simple reason is that the later in the process it comes up the more receptive they’ll be to your visa status. At that stage, they’re more likely to be interested in employing you in general and they’ve already invested a lot in learning more about you.
At the same time never hide or mislead the company about your status or try and dodge the question. That’s not just sketchy but you also don’t want to waste your time talking to an employer that is deadset against sponsoring visas. If you get the sense that the employer doesn’t have the resources or bandwidth to handle visa sponsorship then it’s in your best interest to tackle the issue head on and save both yourself and the employer time.
The E3 process isn’t expensive in and of itself but they may insist on using a lawyer and that part will usually cost them $3,000 or more. For a small business that’s a lot of risk up front and if they don’t have the stomach for it then better to find out sooner rather than later.
Question: What’s your visa status?
For visas, I’m actually in a very fortunate position. There’s a visa solely for Australians that takes 1-3 weeks to get, costs $205 and they’re always available. Here’s a neat infographic that tells you everything you need to know in 30 seconds.
To give you a sense of how straightforward the process is: many Australians do the company’s paperwork themselves and it takes them about 4 hours in total. I’d be glad to discuss in more detail if needed and feel free to forward this internally to whoever is most appropriate.
[Insert question here to get the conversation focused on your candidacy and discuss next steps in the process. Be directional, not open-ended. For example: “For next steps I’d be happy to come in for a face-to-face interview” not “So, what are the next steps?” The former is easier for the recipient to respond to.]
Question: Do you need an H1B?
Actually no, I’m in a very fortunate position because I’m eligible for a special visa. I can get a visa not many people have heard of because it’s only for Australians. It’s called the E3, costs $205, takes 1-3 weeks to get and they’re always available (unlike the H1B which is really painful, as I’m sure you know).
Here’s a simple infographic that explains the E3 visa and shows how much easier it is than an H1B.
[Steer conversation back to your candidacy.]
I’d probably go with the E3 visa fact sheet instead of the comparison infographic. It’s better to stay positive and not introduce associations with the H1B. If you have reason to think the employer knows a lot about H1B visas then the comparison infographic can be useful in those circumstances.
Another tricky issue to consider is that filing costs are one thing but there are other costs your prospective employer will have to consider in your case that they wouldn’t if you were American. The first are the lawyer costs associated with doing your visa paperwork.
Some Aussies offer to do the paperwork for the company and, indeed, I did all the paperwork on the company and employee side for my first E3. Most of the time the company, for obvious reasons, will insist on using immigration lawyers for the E3. They cost several thousand dollars.
Relocation costs are sometimes offered but most of the time you’ll have difficulty negotiating for them unless the company wants to do whatever it takes to get you working there. In those cases explaining the E3 is less of a stumbling block to begin with.
I’ve yet to hear of any Australians who were able to persuade an employer to cover relocation costs. Very few will and if they do then it’s a company-wide policy they have, not something you’re likely to get them to start doing just for you.
The most obvious expense is having to leave the country to do the consular interview for the visa. This is if you’re already in the USA when you get the job offer. Anecdotally it’s something most employers will cover but if you’re going to work for a bootstrapped startup where money is tight then they might not be able to do it.
I haven’t covered any of these costs in the infographics – I’ve only covered the filing fees. That’s because the other costs are harder to ballpark and the purpose of the infographics is to focus on helping the candidate get the employer excited and focused on the positives.
If you’re speaking to tech companies in the Bay Area then lawyers fees and visas runs aren’t likely to be an issue. The key thing to convey is that it’s fast and easy for you to get an E3 visa (I’m assuming you’re eligible and meet all the requirements here) so in those cases, I’d focus on letting them know how fortunate they are that with you there’s no H1B issue.
E3 visa infographics
E3 visa fact sheet
E3 vs H1B visa infographic
I’m going to continue updating this page so if you have feedback or suggestions for better email copy or other improvements then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment here on my public Facebook thread.