Since the new Administration has signaled sweeping changes to the US’s policy on immigration, The Australian Community has been approached by many of its members who are concerned that the E3 visa may be abolished.
Clearly they are concerned about the potential economic and social impact that this will have on thousands of Australians living and working in the US.
Much of this angst is being fueled by alternative facts on social media, so given our charitable mission is to assist Australians in the US we believe that it is time for someone to step up and speak to the facts and less to the emotion.
The pragmatist would argue that Australians on E3 visas face a much higher risk of losing their jobs through economic risk, than legislative risk, so here are the top five pragmatic reasons why it is unlikely that the E3 visa is going away anytime soon.
#5 It is tied to the Australian Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA):
The AUSFTA was signed into law on 18 May 2004, and came into effect on 1 January 2005. The E3 Visa was signed into law one year later by President George W. Bush on May 11, 2005.
Given the timing of Australia’s support of the US during the Gulf War, it is widely believed that the E3 visa was created to thank Australia for its unwavering support during a very unpopular war.
The risks to the current Administration if it abolished the E3 visa, could be a perception that the US is dismissing the military commitment Australia has demonstrated since the second World War.
#4 It was created by an act of Congress:
When the US Government enacts a law, it is not an easy task to repeal that legislation. There is an exception where, if constitutional, laws can be repealed by Executive Order.
In light of the recent fallout from a less than amicable conversation with the Member for Wentworth, and the ensuing jump to Australia’s defense by a number of House Republicans, it is very doubtful that an Executive Order to abolish the E3 is going to be signed anytime soon.
#3 There are Bigger Fish to Fry:
The chart below shows data from the Department of Homeland Security listing the number of Non-Immigrant admissions to the US by visa classification.
In 2015 there were 172,748 H1Bs issued, 78,537 L1s issued, 13,093 (TN) visas issued under NAFTA, and a total of 10,507 E3, E3D and E3R visas issued*.
Last month The Market cheered when the Department of Labor released data showing that the total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 227,000.
Pragmatists would argue that if the US government were to look to abolish certain visas to impactfully create jobs for Americans, between the H1B and L1 visas there are more than 250,000 potential jobs that could go back to US citizens!
The fact is that at 10,507 there are simply not enough Australian workers in the US to see a significant economic benefit by cutting or abolishing the E3, notwithstanding the political fallout that would ensue.
#2 It could destabilize the Asia Pacific region:
If the current Administration were to repeal the E3 visa or AUSFTA, it could give rise to the perception that the US no longer values Australia as a most favored Nation.
To quote Professor Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the ANU:
“(The Administration) is needlessly damaging the deep trust that binds one of America’s closest alliances, China and those wishing to weaken the strongest alliance in the Pacific will see opportunity in this moment.”
#1 You do not want to poke the (Koala) Bear:
In 2015 there were 1,499,354 Australians admitted to the US on an I-94 visa*. Risking billions of tourist dollars by telling Australians that they are no longer welcome, does not make economic sense.
Taking an aggressive stance to negotiate concessions from its trading partners, may be good business for the US, but poking the (Koala) Bear by abolishing the E3 visa, when the US has key business and military investments in Australia does not make political sense.
It’s no coincidence that the Kangaroo and the Emu are featured on Australia’s Coat of Arms, as both animals are incapable of taking a step backwards.
What is the worst that can happen?
There is a story of an Aussie living in a house overlooking the beach in Sydney, who was being visited by a friend from London. When he left England in early January, the friend had not seen the sun for nearly two weeks.
Sitting on the sunny balcony overlooking the beach, and with a selection of fresh seafood grilling on the BBQ, the friend from London turned to the Aussie and said “To think that we sent you bastards out here for punishment.”
If you are an Australian working on an E3 visa and you have concerns, consider the pragmatist’s view; “What is the worst that can happen?”