US new land of opportunity

Australians dreaming of working in the technology sector in the US have the country's immigration policy firmly on their side.

Australians dreaming of working in the technology sector in the US have the country's immigration policy firmly on their side.

Visa restrictions for Australians seeking work are now so loose that American companies cannot seem to hire enough Australian talent.

Huge Inc, an international digital creative agency headquartered in New York, has hired 90 people this year including 15 Australians, because - besides having talent - they're easier to employ than other nationalities.

"The E3 visa has changed things for American companies because they can mobilise their Australian workforce and there is no issue," said Laura Taylor, a human resources manager at Huge Inc.

"You can say that you want to hire this person and within a month it can happen."

The E3 visa is now the secret weapon for Australians aspiring to work in the US. Signed into law in 2005 by president George Bush as part of the free trade agreement between the US and Australia, its original motivation was Australia's contribution of troops to the Iraq war.

The visa is geared for "specialty" occupations but whereas a similar visa, H-1B, is open to all nationalities and has a cap on numbers, the E3 is solely for Australians and its quota is rarely filled.

"The E3 visa [application] is one of my favourite things to work on because [it is] so easy," said Ms Taylor. "The H1-B has all these countries competing for a limited number of visas. It is very difficult because when it opens up in April for an October start date that cap is met by the end of the week with all the companies vying for those visas."

On the other hand, she's never had a problem with the E3. "Every one has been a sure-fire case."

Karl Stanton, one of 15 Australians working at Huge, said that without the E3 visa his career path would have been very different. He had worked in Sweden before heading to New York.

"I wouldn't be here except for the E3," Mr Stanton said.

"I don't have a degree and I worked straight out of school. [It'd be] impossible to do on pretty much any other visa."

Because of the visa category, he says, the focus for ambitious Australians has changed from the traditional work stint in London to opportunities in New York.

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