On February 24, 2021, USCIS announced it is adding I-129 petitions for E-3 status to the list of case types eligible for Premium Processing. The USCIS Premium Processing service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee (at present, $2500) to expedite the adjudication of certain forms, generally within 15 days.
E-3 visas are reserved for Australian nationals working in a specialty occupation. The provisions governing the E-3 visa category are treaty-based but closely mirror the H-1B visa petition regulations. However, unlike H-1B beneficiaries, E-3 beneficiaries are not eligible for “portability,” meaning that they must wait until a petition filed by a new employer is approved prior to changing jobs.
Given that the current processing time for I-129s filed without Premium Processing is officially “6 to 7.5 months”, it is very difficult for E-3 holders to change jobs in the U.S. As a result, most E-3 holders would have to travel to Australia or to a third country to apply for a new visa in order to change jobs. Doing so has been particularly difficult during the global pandemic due to all of the travel restrictions and delayed visa processing. The introduction of Premium Processing therefore is a welcome relief for those currently in the U.S. in E-3 status who seek to change employers as well as to those in the U.S. seeking to change to E-3 status for the first time.