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Covington Helps Australia Secure Unprecedented Visa Legislation

June 27, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 2005 - Covington & Burling represented the Commonwealth of Australia in its successful effort to obtain unprecedented access for Australian professionals to the U.S. labor market.  On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law a new immigration provision that will enable 10,500 Australian professionals each year to live and work temporarily in the United States.  The provision, passed as part of the emergency Iraq and Afghanistan funding bill, created a new visa subcategory - the E-3 visa - which is exclusively available to Australian "specialty occupation" workers, as that term is defined in the context of the popular H-1B visa.  The E-3 visa has a number of important and desirable characteristics.  First, E-3 visa applications are made at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, unlike the H-1B application process, which requires an approval from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Second, spouses of E-3 visa holders are authorized to apply for work authorization (a benefit not available under the H-1B visa).  Third, spouses and children traveling to the United States with an Australian professional are not counted against the annual 10,500 cap.  Fourth, an Australian's E-3 status is valid for up to two years and can be renewed indefinitely in two-year increments.

The passage of the legislation capped an effort by the Australian embassy, supported by Covington, following approval of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in January 2005.  Covington lawyers and legislative specialists supported the Commonwealth in providing legal advice on complex areas of U.S. immigration law, preparing draft legislation, and engaging in a successful outreach effort to navigate the proposal through Congress.

The Covington team included Stuart Eizenstat, Martin Gold, Roderick DeArment, David Marchick, Elizabeth Letchworth, Les Carnegie, and Brian Smith, all of whom are based in the Washington, D.C. office.

Click here to read the Embassy of Australia's press release on the issue: http://www.trademinister.gov.au/releases/2005/mvt036_05.html.

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