This is a common thought… here’s the scoop:
There is no viable difference to us if you are SAG-E or SAG… AS LONG AS you are 100% willing to join the minute you become a “must-join”. The only time union status is a tough-call is if you are non-union.
The reason being, in order to Taft Hartley an actor, we have to prove to SAG-AFTRA that you are the only person outside of all union actors that is best suited for the job (which can be cumbersome) and if the reasons are not found to be valid (he was reeeeally good won’t cut it), the production could be fined.
Besides the hefty initiation fee, another reason to not rush your union status is to consider that you may want to work on building enough footage for your reel (and credits for your resume) with non-union work first. You won’t be able to do that once you join.
Of course, there are many great pros to joining once you are a must-join OR feel compelled to join… but don’t think that by waiting on it, you are any less of a viable casting option 👌