Effective February 24, 2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will allow those filing a petition for E-3 status to request premium processing. E-3s are available only to nationals of Australia who are coming to the United States solely to perform services in a specialty occupation.
Premium processing allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of certain forms, generally within 15 business days. With processing delays extending past six months in some instances, E-3 applicants previously seeking to renew their status via USCIS risked losing work authorization. While E-3 applicants have added flexibility in that they can apply to renew their visa directly at the US Consulate or Embassy abroad – an option generally not available for other work visa categories – travel restrictions and US consular post closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have hampered this process lately.
The premium processing option will now allow many E-3 workers currently in the United States to potentially bypass processing delays and decrease the risk that they may fall out of status. Employers are advised to still file well ahead of any expiration to help ensure that the E-3 employee remains work authorized.