For a number of years we have been publishing data on Australian visas from the Department of Homeland Security. The information is released at different times of the year, and some remarkable data has recently come to light.
Given the growth in the number of Australians in New York and other large cities, a persistent question is how many Aussies are living in the US, and how many are just visiting?
The latest data from the DHS is shedding some light onto whether the Aussie sitting at the table next to you is likely to be a tourist, or on a work visa.
Australians on Non-Immigrant Visas: H1-B, O-1, E-3, L-1 et al
The total number of US temporary worker, non-immigrant visas issued to Australians and their families grew from 74,160 in 2016, to 79,538 in 2017. This is an increase of just over 7%.
O visas were up 7% from 6,151 to 6,583, and L-1 visas, up 4% from 11,933 to 12,434. H1-B visas were slightly down from 2,113 to 2098 in 2017.
E-1, 2 & 3 visas were up 9% from 43,672 in 2016 to 47,734 in 2017. However, the following table shows the significant slowing in growth of new E-3 approvals, up less than 1% from 5,609 in 2016 to 5,657 in 2017.
The annual cap for new E-3 visas is 10,500 so only a little north of half of the allotted visas are being approved.
Note: For those doing the math, you must factor in that an estimated 10-15% of Australians repatriate to Australia or move onto new roles in Asia or Europe each year. This accounts for the delta between new visas issued and the total growth.
We did see an increase in E-3 Renewals from 2,026 in 2016 to 2,306 in 2017, up nearly 14% as more Australians remained on their existing E-3 visas.
The total number of E-3D visas (Dependent Spouses and Children) dropped 3% from 4,299 in 2016 to 4,169 in 2017.
In 2017 E-3 denials were down, and this would indicate a better quality of new and renewal E-3 applications.
What is remarkable is that E-D denials grew by more than 17% in 2017 after declining in 2016. This indicates that a greater percentage of E-3 applicants with spouses and families had their visa denied.
One area of remarkable growth is spouses and children of E-3 holders who are not Australian citizens.
In 2016, there were 749 non-Australian citizens on E-3Ds – up 13.3% over 2015 – and 834 in 2017 – up 14.7% over 2016 – contrary to the overall decline in E-3Ds of 3% in 2017.
Tourists vs Residents
Any Australian who has entered the US is familiar with the I-94 card. It is the final say on how long you have until you must exit the US. If you are on an E-3 and you reenter the US, the I-94 must be dated past your visa renewal date. Mistakes often happen so always check the date in case a mistake is made.
This year we have a focus on I-94 admissions by Australian residents who entered only on visa waivers and B visas. This gives a greater insight into the number of tourists, and the E-3 Hopeful – an Australian who may stay up to six months in the US looking for work.
The number of Aussies residents entering the US on a visa waiver was 1,431,077 (up 2.7%) and 32,831 (up 8.5%) on a B visa. It appears that the c.30% drop the value of the $AU from its peak in the summer of 2011 is not deterring Australians from coming to the US.
Overall, 2017 saw a steady increase in the total number of Australian citizens (including Australian workers who are US residents) entering and re-entering the US: 1,576,901 up 3.1% from 2016.
After a 53% jump in 2016, 13,320 Australians were issued with a B-1,2 visa in 2017. This was up less than 3% over 2016. This initial jump in B-1,2 visas in 2016 may be due to a decrease in Australians entering the US under an ESTA visa waiver, and opting for a B visa which allows up to six months in the US (in any one year).
Note: In 2017 there were 32,831 entries into the US by Australians on B visas, yet there were only 13,320 visas issued. This is due to Australians on new and existing B visas making multiple re-entries. Similarly, the 1,576,901 non-immigrant visa entries by Australians includes multiple re-entries.
So Where are all the Australians on E-3 Visas?
New York continues to lead California as the preferred destination for Australians working on the E-3 visa. Cali is followed by Texas, Washington State and Illinois. Massachusetts pipped Florida this year with 1005 Aussies settling in Red Sox territory vs 992 who will be cheering for the Marlins!
The DHS data also shows that contrary to the purported 20,000 number of Australians in New York on an E-3 Visa, in 2017 only 14,696 Australians (and their families) were in New York State on E-3 visas.
The number of Australians in New York State on E-3 visas in 2017 is up 13.4% over 2016. This YoY growth shows little abatement as 2016 was up more than 15% from 2015. New York is still the #1 destination for Australians on E-3 visas.
Given the total number of E-3 approvals were up less than 1% Nationally in 2017, New York and California (up more than 9% in 2017) are displacing other US States as the preferred destination for Australians on E-3 visas.
This year we did a deeper dive on how Australians are obtaining Green Cards. What may surprise many, is that only a few hundred Australians arrive in the US each year after winning a Green Card in the Diversity lottery. The vast majority obtaining their Green Card from Employers, Marriage and other immediate family members.
In a Nutshell
The 2017 data can be interpreted in many ways, but what is certain is that:
- A record number of Australians entered the US in 2017. Visa waiver entries were up 2.7% and B visas were up 8.5%, but new E-3 visa approvals were up less than 1%.
- E-3 renewals are up 14%
- Total E-3D visas are down 3%
- E-3D denials increased by 17%
- Non-Australian citizens married to Australians on an E-3 visa is showing remarkable growth, up 14.7% over 2016, in contrast to an overall drop of 3% in E-3D visas.
- New York remains the #1 State for Australians working on E-3 Visas.
- Only 14,696 Australians (and their Families) on E-3 visas are living in New York.
- Only 325 Australians won a Green Card in 2017.
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