E3 Visas through Umbrella Companies : the best solution for contractors

The E3 visa is arguably the best visa available for Australian contractors wanting to work overseas as we have outlined previously. We have partner companies in the US who will sponsor E3 visas for freelancers / independent contractors.

E3 Visa Sponsorship Companies - end client or management company?

For contractors the choice is whether to get sponsored by the end client directly or to use a third party employer. If you plan to work as a contractor in America then going through an umbrella company will increase your take home pay and give you more flexibility. It can also work for freelancers, but generally they will need to show an "anchor client". Best of all the process of getting sponsored is very simple. Using the end client for sponorship is also a very easy process, but you will earn less and your visa is tied to that employer.

The main benefit in umbrella company sponsorship is using salary packaging and expenses to reduce your taxable income. After all, umbrella companies specialise in maximising the net return for contractors! The exact amount you will net varies according to your daily rate and which state you will work in, but as a rough guide you can expect 70+% if you were earning USD 1000 per day. This includes processing LAFHA (Living Away From Home Allowance) and the expenses related to your relocation to (or within) the USA. A well run umbrella company will structure your earnings and offer additional benefits like reduced cost health insurance which puts much more money in your pocket than if you worked for the end client directly. We even know of permanent employees who have taken E3 sponsorship through umbrella companies and then subcontracted to their permanent employer in order to increase their net earnings.

The second big benefit of being sponsored by an umbrella company is that you don't need to change your E3 visa every time you change end clients. The E3 is quite simple to obtain, but still comes with a cost associated with it. If you took a few 3-6 month contracts and required a new E3 application each time it can be quite a burden. By setting the umbrella company as the sponsor you avoid this problem. Additionally umbrella sponsors are normally much more flexible about keeping your visa open if you are between assignments or wanting a break. With good planning they may agree to keep your visa for you if you wanted to spend some time travelling around the US between contracts.

How to get sponsored for an E3 by an Umbrella Company

The process of sponsorship is very straightforward - it takes just 2 weeks and costs USD 2750. When you have a confirmed contract job offer, you submit your paperwork to the umbrella company and their immigration attorneys will prepare the application. They submit it to the US authorities and then you visit the nearest US consulate for an interview.

Paperwork required for E3 Visa application

You need to show your CV, scanned copies of your Australian passport, degree and/or professional certifications. If you are taking your children or spouse then you will need the relevant birth and marriage certificates.

Freelancers need to demonstrate an "anchor client"

This means a client who provides a degree of security for the freelancers earnings. This may be through paying a high daily rate or offering a medium to long term contract. The reason for this is that all the US based earnings of the freelancer will need to go through the umbrella company. They charge a % management fee for sponsorship and contractor management, and need each freelancer to earn a certain annual income to make the business sustainable. Many umbrella companies are concerned that freelancers might only pick up small bits of work and miss this annual income requirement.