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Frequently Asked Questions – Nonimmigrant visas


Application issues

Q: I was arrested/convicted of a crime years ago. Do I need a visa?

A: Individuals who have been arrested for, or charged with, a crime may need to apply for a visa prior to travel.

Q: I had a drink driving charge. Do I need a visa?

A: ESTA will assess your eligibility for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The assessment includes questions regarding previous arrests and/or convictions. However, a conviction for driving under the influence is not considered a crime of moral turpitude with regard to the Visa Waiver Program. If you choose to apply for electronic travel authorization via ESTA, the system will advise you whether you must visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa. For further details on ESTA and to see if you are eligible for the VWP please refer to the ESTA website.

Q: My company is sending me to the U.S. office for training or to attend a conference. Do I need a visa?

A: You can attend short, in-house training courses or conferences in the United States on the Visa Waiver Program if you will stay for less than 90 days or on the B1/B2 visa if you will stay for 6 months. You should carry a letter with you on the Company Letterhead stating the purpose of the trip, the approximate length of stay, and that your salary will continue to be paid from the Australian Company. If your company has affiliated offices in the United States, you must be able to show that you will not be providing services during your training period.

Q: Can I apply for a visa in Australia if I am not an Australian passport holder or a permanent resident here?

A: An applicant has the right to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at any U.S. consulate abroad, therefore you can apply at any U.S. consulate in Australia.

However, it may be harder to qualify for a visa when applying outside your own country of permanent residence. At your interview you will be required to demonstrate that you have strong ties abroad, and that you will return overseas after your visit to the U.S. If you choose to apply in Australia, keep in mind that your application may be refused, and the application fee is non-refundable.

If you do apply in Australia, please bring documentation to your interview to establish that you:

  1. Have a residence abroad which you do not intend to abandon
  2. Are coming to the U.S. for a definite temporary period
  3. Will depart upon the conclusion of your visit
  4. Have permission to enter a foreign country after your stay in the U.S.
  5. Have access to sufficient funds to cover the expenses of your visit and return passage

A decision on the issuance of your visa will be made at the time of your application and is solely at the discretion of the interviewing officer. Once this decision has been made, there is no course of appeal other than to make a new application at a later date.

Q: Does the U.S. recognize De Facto relationships?

A: No, the U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships, so to qualify as a spouse for a visa application you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Q: Do I need individual bank checks/postal money orders for the issuance fee for each family members work/study visa?

No, you may include the one bank check or one postal money order for the total amount of the issuance fee. (The Post Office will however issue individual receipts for each application fee paid.) If any one visa application is delayed, however, you may need to make alternate arrangements.

Q: I don't have a credit card or a computer. How can I make a visa appointment?

A: You must submit your visa application, pay the application fee, and schedule an appointment online.  If you don’t have a credit or debit card, you can pay your nonimmigrant visa application fee in cash or with a card at a designated Australia Post Office.  You can also ask a friend, relative, or travel agent for assistance with your visa application. Many public libraries offer access to the internet

Q: My passport expired but my visa is still valid. How can I transfer my visa?

A: A visa is valid for the time stamped on the visa even when the passport is no longer valid. As long as the visa is not damaged in any way, your passport wasn’t reported lost or stolen, and you have not changed your nationality, you may carry the "old" passport containing the valid visa and the new passport when you travel, presenting both at the point of entry. The Consulate will not transfer a visa to the new passport.

Q: How can I renew my nonimmigrant visa?

A: A nonimmigrant visa cannot simply be renewed regardless of its type. If you need another visa, you must submit a new application, and if approved, a new visa label will be placed in your passport. However, you may qualify for the Fingerprint Reuse Program to be exempt from another interview

Q: I have an indefinite visa. Is it still valid?

A: Indefinite validity visas are no longer issued. They are valid for only 10 years from the issue date. If the visa was issued longer than 10 years ago you need to apply for a new visa unless you are eligible to use the Visa WaiverProgram.

Q: What should I do if I lose my passport and visa while in the United States?

A: Please refer to Lost and Stolen Passports, Visas, and Arrival-Departure Records (Form I-94)

Q: My I-94 wasn't removed when I left the United States. What should I do to ensure that my departure is recorded?

A: All departures are now reported to Customs and Border Protection by the airline or cruise ship upon which you depart. If you departed by a land border and your exit was not recorded you will need to contact CBP for further instructions. 

Q: I am HIV positive. Do I need a visa to travel to the United States?

As of January 4, 2010, HIV positive status is no longer considered to be an ineligibility for travel on the Visa Waiver Program. For further information please see:

Specific Visas Types

Q: My DS-2019/I-20/I-20M form hasn't arrived from the United States. Can I apply for the visa with a photocopy of the approval notice to work/study?

A: You may attend your interview with a copy, however, a visa cannot be issued until the original form has been submitted to our office. Please also ensure that you have signed your original forms.

Q: Can I enter and travel around the United States before and after my F/M/J program?

A: The permitted grace period is generally up to 30 days before the start of your program and up to 30 days after the completion of your program (program dates are on Forms I-20, I-20M and DS-2019).

The grace period is to be used for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S., and for no other purpose. You are not permitted to enter, exit and re-enter the U.S. during either grace period. For further information please refer to The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website.

Applicants who wish to enter the United States earlier or remain after the grace period, and those who wish to use this time to visit Canada or Mexico, are advised to apply for a B-1/B-2 tourist visa prior to entering the U.S. You can apply for a B-1/B-2 visa at the same time as you apply for a student/exchange visa. An additional MRV application fee receipt is required for the B-1/B-2 visa, as well as supporting documentation.

To enter the United States under one visa and change to another visa type you may either:

  • Depart the United States and reenter on your student/exchange visitor visa. If you choose to enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa prior to commencing your student/exchange program you must depart the United States at the conclusion of your holiday and reenter on your student/exchange visa no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of your program. You may have a one-way ticket when entering with a valid visa.

Q: How do I apply for an athletic/sports visa?

A: Athletes usually travel on a P visa. If the company in the United States is paying you sponsorship fees, you must have a P visa. Alternatively, the B2 tourist visa or Visa Waiver Program allows participation in contests as amateurs or for prize money only

Working Visas

Q: Does the United States have a working holiday visa program?

A: Yes, the student work and travel program allows Australian and New Zealand post-secondary students and recent graduates (within 12 months of graduation) to work and travel in the United States for up to one year.

Q: What is the difference between a work visa and an E-3 visa?

A: An E-3 visa is a certain type of work visa available only to Australian citizens. For more information see our E-3 visa page.

Q: What is an E3 visa? 

A: An E3 visa is a work visa classification available only to Australian citizens working in specialty occupations.  There is an numerical limit on the number of 10,500 E3 visas that can be issued every year.

Q: What is a specialty occupation? 

A: A specialty occupation is a job that requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, a bachelor’s or higher degree (or its equivalent in work experience) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States, and state licensures to practice in the occupation, if required.

Q: What documents do I need to present at my interview for an E3 visa? 

A: At a minimum, you must have your valid Australian passport with at least two blank, facing visa pages and a completed Form ETA-9035 (Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers, also known as an LCA).  The LCA should be signed by your employer on Page 4 and be approved by the Department of Labor on Page 5.  You may also need to present proof of attainment of the required bachelor’s or higher degree, or its equivalent in work experience as determined in writing by an accredited evaluator.

Q: Can my spouse and/or children accompany me to the United States if I get an E3 visa? 

A: Yes.  Married partners and unmarried children and step-children under the age of 21 can qualify for E3D (dependent) visas based on their relationship to you.  E3D applicants should be prepared to provide proof of relationship by presenting marriage or birth certificates issued by the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.

Q: How long can I live in the United States with my E3 visa? 

A: The maximum validity of E3 visas is two years, however the visa may not be issued for a period longer than shown on the approved LCA.  There is no maximum number of E3 visas a person may obtain consecutively, but at each application, the applicant must convince the interviewing officer that their stay will be temporary in nature.

Q: Can I change from an E3 visa to a Green Card? 

A:  No. 

Q: Is there an age limit to apply for a work visa?

A: No.

Q: Can I get a visa to do casual work?

A: The only visa that permits casual work is the Student Work and Travel Program J1 visa. All other work visas require a single sponsoring employer.

Q: Can my relative in the U.S. sponsor me?

A: Only your employer can sponsor you for work.

Q: Can I present a copy of my I-797 approval notice for my work visa?

A: A copy of the I-797 petition is sufficient at the interview, the original copy sent in the mail by USCIS is not required as the information will be verified electronically.

Q: How long can I stay after the end of my working visa?

A: On the E, H, L, O, P, Q, and R visas you may enter the U.S. 10 days before the official start of your work and you may stay a further 10 days once your employment has ceased.

Sourcing U.S. products and services

Q: Where can I get assistance in sourcing U.S. products and services to import into Australia?

A: The U.S. Commercial Service, with offices in our Sydney and Melbourne Consulates General, assists Australian companies to do business in the USA by finding that particular U.S. company, product or service. Whether you simply require contact details for known U.S. companies, or plan to travel to the USA to source new U.S. products or services, we can assist.