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I have all but been offered a position with an American company for a software development position. However, I have discovered I am ineligible for an E3 Visa (an Australian resident visa for working in the US) because I don't have a degree and I don't have the equivalent 12 years experience either.

The company has said they can hire me on an exclusive contract as an Australian business and then I can fly to and from every 90 days. I know this isn't an ideal solution, so I am asking those here who perhaps might have been in a similar situation or know of someone who has if there are other options I can explore? I would be willing to fly to a neighbouring country or state and entering the US via alternative means if it means there is potentially an easy way or perhaps visa I haven't heard of for coming to the states for a year.

I know there is a H1-B visa where the company can petition the appropriate agency for a visa, but it is more expensive, has limited intake and takes considerably longer, would I qualify for a H1-B visa? From what I could see, it mentioned needing a degree or experience, but I could have perhaps not been reading the correct information. I have about 10 years experience and my industry is quite specialised, the reason they've expressed interest is because of my experience and unique skillset that fits in with what they are looking for and due to competition and lack of decent developers, they're hiring outside of the country.

Reading this on the requirements section actually makes me think I could get a H1-B visa without a degree:

The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree.

But then it says this under the section can I qualify without a bachelors degree:

Having education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience that is equivalent to the completion of a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation, and having recognition of expertise in the specialty. through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty. In general, 3 years of work experience or training in the field is considered as equivalent to 1 year of college.

If, only temporarily, I were to sign a contract for development services with the US company (employed as contracting services with an Australian company) and then I fly to and from, could I run into any potential issues with this immigration wise? Technically I am also consulting for them and I would be flying over for business purposes which would include meetings, helping makes decisions and steering the development of the product in many aspects, but also developing while I am there.

If I mentioned business purposes and then said I am consulting and whatnot, would it be suspicious I am flying in and out every 3 months or am I overthinking this? Is it possible to be contracted by an overseas company and travel so often for the maximum stay period without rousing suspicion? I don't want to do anything wrong here.

The company is reputable and not trying to be dodgy, they want me and I want to make this a simple process for both the employer and myself. It would be a concrete contract that would be looked over by lawyers and appropriately approved with clear clauses and stipulations. I just need to know what my options are for travelling and working.

Another option is to fly over, but limit the amount of times and duration and work remotely here in Australia for perhaps 50% of the time. They want me onsite because I will be attending a lot of meetings and moving very quickly trying to find the sweet spot for things, and the timezone differences will make that a difficult task.

I understand this is a difficult topic and any answers here would merely be advice and I should seek the opinion of an immigration lawyer. I haven't received a formal offer or anything yet, so I am just preempting my options and seeing what I can do should an offer come through and I accept it.

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I am not familiar with E3 but H1B has similar requirements. You need BS degree or 12 years of experience. It will allow you to transfer your H1B visa and work to other companies in USA.

But IANAL - you need to talk to legal expert in visas to get advice specific to your exact circumstances. Maybe your skills are enough advanced to qualify.

  • Thanks for the answer Peter. I might seek the advice of someone on the subject. From what I have read, others have done similar things where they've started a company and travel under the guise of working through that company. I will ask the company to seek the advice and go from there (they might have already done so). – Dwayne Charrington Sep 8 '14 at 23:56
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    If you are working as a company (independent contractor), it is much easier because you are technically not "employed" according to USA laws. But: there are laws to prevent companies to abuse this gap and employ workers as independent contractors (and save by not paying benefits etc). – Peter M. Sep 9 '14 at 0:05
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    You may want to ask on workplace.stackexchange.com about details how stay within limits of law, or find out where limits are. You may want to have some other customers, in USA or elsewhere, and not work 100% for a single company, to show that you are in fact independent contractor and not 100% employee of one USA company. – Peter M. Sep 9 '14 at 0:05
  • Fortunately, USA has agreement with Australia about Social Security taxes so at least that is not a problem: socialsecurity.gov/international – Peter M. Sep 9 '14 at 0:08

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