find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Visa category opens US doors for Aussie lawyers

Visa category opens US doors for Aussie lawyers


Australian lawyers looking to practice in the US have more options than other foreign nationals – but finding a foothold in the market remains a challenge, according to two global firm partners.

Under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), Australian citizens have the option of applying for a visa in the E-3 category, which is a visa for professionals in specialty occupations.

"It is definitely easier for Australians to obtain US work visas compared to citizens of most other countries," Austin-based K&L Gates partner and immigration specialist Brian Graham said.

"Not only are the typical working visas – the H-1B and L-1 – available to Australians, but they also benefit from the treaty-based E-3 visa. The E-3 is a unique work visa which is superficially similar to the H-1B but made available exclusively to Australians working for US employers in a professional capacity."

Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie partner David Malliband told Lawyers Weekly that while obtaining employment-authorised visa status to live and work in the US is still notoriously difficult for foreigners, the AUSFTA substantially simplified the process for Australians.

"The E-3 category is available to professionals with university degrees who are offered positions in the US that normally require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a specialty field for entrance into the occupation," Mr Malliband said.

"Attorney positions will generally qualify," he added.

While the requirements for the E-3 category are virtually identical to the H-1B category, there are multiple benefits to the E-3 category.

"There are no numerical limitations to the visa, making it available year-round," Mr Malliband said.

"And there is no requirement for first obtaining a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval, reducing the overall time and costs for the process."

According to Mr Malliband, the process does not require an initial filing with the USCIS, but it does include a preliminary filing with the US Department of Labor (DOL) to confirm that the foreign national will be offered the prevailing wage for the occupation in the geographic area.

"The DOL generally processes those applications in seven business days or less," he said.

"Once the DOL approval is received, the foreign national may schedule an E-3 visa interview with the local US Consular Post to apply for the E-3 visa. E-3 visas are generally granted for two years and may be extended in two-year increments following the same process.

"For US employers who have identified an Australian citizen for an Attorney position in the US, the E-3 visa category provides an excellent solution to the employment authorisation issue."

While this may be the case, gaining admission to practice as a lawyer in the US is still difficult, according to Mr Malliband.

"Becoming qualified to practice in the US can be a bit of a challenge, without a US JD," he said.

"This turns on each US state’s bar rules – historically, it was easier to be accepted to sit the California or New York bar exams (as a foreign lawyer), although the exams themselves are notoriously quite difficult. Other states have their own rules – many require a US JD, or a certain number of years practising as an admitted attorney in another US state, before allowing admission."

He continued: "While there seems to be a general movement towards loosening up some of these restrictions for non-US lawyers to get admitted in the US, this is a slow process."

Further to this the legal employment market in the US is very tight, and an oversupply of lawyers making the industry extremely competitive.

“There is a surplus of lawyers relative to the number of opportunities in big law firms,” Mr Malliband said.

“Some opportunities exist, however, in smaller firms, local firms, public interest, etc.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Visa category opens US doors for Aussie lawyers
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Dec 13 2017
Young humanitarian lawyer California-bound
A young Australian lawyer will be travelling to the US next year for a prestigious nine-month study ...
Jackie Rhodes
Dec 12 2017
Report sheds light on LGBTQI inclusion in law firms
A recent report has revealed the varying perceptions on LGBTQI diversity and inclusion in the Austra...
Women in business
Dec 12 2017
Annabel Crabb headlines Women in Business Forum
Political journalist Annabel Crabb has appeared at the Coleman Greig Lawyers Women in Business Forum...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...