Moving to the US for Aussies: Chapter 4

The Inconvenient Truth

Australians have a capacity to be direct, and a book written by Australians should be nothing less.  Think of this chapter as your friends dishing out some tough love.  They just want to be sure that you can separate fact from fiction.

Let’s first address the Elephant in the room

For those who move to the US with the support of their employer, the machinations of relocating to a new city is for the most part transparent.  They arrive to a job, an apartment, and their greatest challenge may be finding their new favorite restaurant.

However, the plight of the Aussie who lands in NYC looking for work, is a very different story.  They must start from nothing and rely on savings to sustain them throughout their job search.  Their hope is that they will be gainfully employed in their sunny new apartment in six to eight weeks because they read on social media that US employers are lining up to hire Aussies.

For most, the harsh reality is that finding work takes between three to six months, and their savings run out well before a second interview.  This is the inconvenient truth for many Australians.

Over the past decade we have witnessed the emergence of the E-3 Hopeful.  An Australian who may be visiting the US as a tourist, but would see it as an opportunity if they were offered a career in the US.

No-one should ever tell you that you cannot follow your dreams, especially not in New York.  However many Australians are unaware of an US Immigration concept:  Immigrant Intent.

Immigrant Intent is a USCIS concept that every foreign national entering the US has the intention to immigrate to the US, and it is therefore up to the individual to prove at the time of crossing a US border, that they do not intend to stay in the US and that they should be allowed to enter on a non-immigrant visa.

It becomes complicated for the E-3 Hopeful, as it is the duty of every Border Protection Agent to prevent anyone from illegally entering the US who they suspect is may be looking for work.

Just in case you missed that last point, Immigrant Intent includes entering the US on a tourist visa, to look for work, and a Border Protection Agent will send you back on the next flight to your original destination if they simply suspect you have immigrant intent!

They do not understand that you intention is to find a job and then leave the country to apply for the E-3, and then legally reenter the country on a work visa.  In the mind of USCIS, it is black and white:  You are breaking the law if you are entering the US to look for work.

Every year there are hundreds of Australians who have been detained at a US border, and deported for unwittingly telling an Immigration agent that they are here to look for work on a Tourist/B Visa, or posting something that was flagged on their Facebook page or in their LinkedIn profile.

How you explain to a Border Protection Agent your reasons for entering the US on a Business or Tourist visa for any other reason than business or tourism is up to you.   However, like any relationship, if you make an early misstep courting Lady Liberty, it could result in a very nasty break up.

USCIS Law is Complicated

Under 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3), the 30/60 day rule is used when a nonimmigrant violates his or her status in one of the following ways within 30/60 days of entry:

  • Actively seeking unauthorized employment and, subsequently, engaged in such employment;
  • Enrolling in a full course of academic study without the benefit of appropriate change of status;
  • Marrying and taking up permanent residence; or
  • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be required, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment.

The 30/60 day rule generally arises with regard to nonimmigrants who enter the United States on B status. The purpose of the 30/60 day rule is to help consular officers determine whether the nonimmigrant willfully misrepresented a material fact regarding his or her application for a visa.

New USCIS Guidance has the 30/60 Day Rule extended to 90 Days!

US Immigration have tightened regulations and are now enforcing denial of applications for change of visa status now within 90 days.

If you are applying for a change of visa status whilst in the US, seek professional advice first!

What you don’t know, will hurt you

Discovering that your planned move to the US is based on bad assumptions often comes too late for many expats.  The vision of finding work and moving into your own apartment in less than three months is simply unrealistic for most.

Assuming that you will have a job within six weeks is one of the most common bad assumptions.

Common Mistakes in Finding Work

Firstly, if someone told you that finding work in New York is easy -unless you are a CPA with Big Four accounting experience – they are lying.  A recent article in News.com.au discussed the challenges facing Australians seeking work in the US.

“The simple fact is that a surplus of E-3 Visas does not mean a surplus of jobs”

Understanding that finding work is not as simple as most believe comes as a shock to many Australians.  It can take anywhere from three to six months… or longer to find work.  For anyone who may be seeking work, there is a real prospect that even after six months, you may still be jobless.

The rookie mistakes are submitting a multi page CV as opposed to a one page Resume, having a “.au” in your email address or a +61 in front of your phone number.  Our Perfect Resume template assists members in producing a professional, one page, US resume.

Feedback from members is that posting on job boards can be a complete waste of time.

The one thing that can most damage your chances of ever finding work is reaching out to employers from Australia: It simply demonstrates a lack of commitment.  You have to have boots on the ground to be taken seriously.

An E-3D may find more job opportunities given that they do not have the same professional or full time requirements of the E-3, but it now takes up to 180 days to process an Employment Authorization Document!

E-3Ds face the same challenge of applying for jobs too soon if they do not have their EAD in hand.  The Australian Community has been providing guidance based on Recruiter and Employer feedback, which is that it is a very different conversation between “I am still waiting on my EAD” and “I have my EAD”.

For the E-3 Hopeful Aussie, their initial challenges are not only to prove that they are better qualified than an American worker –  and explain the E-3 process without using the word “sponsorship” – but overcome further headwinds created by the USCIS promoting the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order to US companies.

In a later Chapter, we have recorded a video of an Immigration attorney speaking directly to a prospective employer, explain how the E-3 is very different to a H-1B – so you do not have to.  This chapter is written so that you can share this information directly with your employer.

Credit and Banking

Everything from opening a mobile phone account to renting an apartment is governed by your credit rating.  There are three Credit Agencies that give you a credit score and they can range between 280 and 900.

Image result for credit rating

In the example above, a good credit score is  above 700, however let’s look at the factors that get you there.

  • Amount of Credit – The more credit you have, the better your score.
  • How much is Debt? – Paying off your credit card bill each month improves your score just as carrying credit balances forward hurts your score.
  • Any late payments? – If you miss a monthly payment, that is a major ding on your credit score.
  • Hard Inquiries – If a lender, retail store or credit card company performs a credit check, this is a ding on your credit score. The more hard inquiries, the more it hurts your score.
  • A Mortgage – It is a little chicken and egg, but if you have a mortgage and you pay on time this can boost your score.  However missing a mortgage payment is a worst case scenario for your credit score.

Special Note: If you receive a “You have been approved…” letter in the mail, ignore it.  You are not approved as it is just a marketing ploy by the credit card company.

If you are just starting out you do not have a reasonable score so you will most probably be denied AND the Hard Inquiry will actually hurt your score!

There is a plethora of information on the web about building credit, but it has to start somewhere.  Fortunately for our members we have built a great relationship with HSBC’s expat services.

Under this program members of The Australian Community can access credit not only here in the US, but before they arrive in the US so they have a US Bank account and credit score on arriving.  Details are in this article.  

Leasing your own Apartment 

With the advent or Airbnb and social media groups, short term accommodation has become a commodity item.  Many Expats arrive in the US having already secured some form of accommodation – outside of a Hotel.

Do your homework!  Check real estate websites to understand what the real cost of renting is in NYC.  Share accommodation will be at least $1,200 to $1,500 per month for the smaller of a two bedroom apartment in an OK area in the City.

The role of a Real Estate Agent or Property Management company in New York is very different to that of Australia.  

Here the Tennant can pay a fee to the Agent of 15% to 20% of the annual rent to find an apartment, but what is difficult to fathom is that they always act in the best interests of the Landlord, and not the Tennant!

Living month to month in short term accommodation or in a communal dwelling is clearly not how most Australians envision living in the US.  Their goal is to have their own apartment.

Firstly finding an apartment for under $2,500 per month in Manhattan, or even the better parts of Brooklyn and Queens is the first challenge.  Where most Australians come to grief is that there is a formula used by Agents to calculate if you can afford an apartment in the first place:

Salary >= 40 x Monthly Rent

If the monthly rent for an apartment is $2,500 per month, then you have to earn at least  $100,000 per year!

Your credit score is also an essential consideration when a Landlord or agent looks at a tenant application.  Even if you earn $100,000 in this case, if your credit score is low, your application will be denied.  A hard inquiry on your credit history may also rub salt into the wound.

Paying six to twelve months of rent in advance can assist in overcoming Landlord concerns, but not everyone has the financial resources to shell out a minimum of US$15,000 to $30,000 up front.

If you never have to sofa surf for an extended period of time, fall victim to an accommodation scam, or constantly live with the anxiety about finding your next short term rental, you are among the lucky few.

Don’t forget to file your Form AR-11 to notify USCIS of your change of address within 10 days – the penalties include fines and Deportation!

Health Insurance

Not having health insurance in the US is like not wearing a seat belt – you can do it, but if something happens, the consequences can be devastating.  Travel insurance is not health care and non-residents have eligibility challenges for certain health care plans.

Often, there is no simple way to overcome the health insurance gap between arriving in the US and going onto your new employers health plan or “Obamacare”.  Going six to nine months without a health insurance plan is a real prospect for some Expats.

Compared to Australia Health Insurance costs in the US are astronomical.  This is why your US Employee Benefits can be as much a consideration as salary when considering a job offer. 

To put costs in perspective, a Family plan from the NY Health Exchange can cost $2,000 per month in premiums and you still have a $35 copay for a Doctor visit.  A Family could also have to pay $4,000 to $8,000 in an annual deductible, taking their yearly health costs to north of $30,000 if you include Dentistry.

If you think that is expensive, an emergency appendectomy can cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

It is important to understand that not all employers offer immediate health coverage for their new workers.  You may have to wait as much as 90 days before your benefits kick in.

Due to its complexity, Health Insurance is covered in this chapter.

US Drivers License

In New York State, the Law says that if you maintain a New York address for 90 Days you are considered a New York Resident.  It also states that after 90 days, you have just 30 days to convert International and out of State licenses  to a NYS Drivers License.

Simply put, if you intend to drive in New York State for more than 120 days, you need a New York Drivers License.

Social media has made a dog’s breakfast of this subject with anecdotal stories of using your Aussie Drivers license to rent cars, or posts containing “How will the Cop know if you get pulled over”.   NY Law says that after 120 days, your Australian license is no longer valid and if you are pulled over it is the same as driving without a license.

Lie to a State Trooper and your day is going from bad to worse.  Rule No. 1 applies here – Obey The Law!

Yes, it is inconvenient, but after studying for a computer test, taking a driver education class and passing your driving exam, you are good to go.  It’s not as if you need to learn how to drive – other than keeping right instead of left!

The benefits of a NYS license are felt every time you are asked to produce ID.  A NYS license carries much greater weight than an Australian license – especially with domestic air travel.

A more detailed explanation on obtaining your NY Driver License is found in Chapter 16.

The only Guarantees are Death and Taxes

Over the last six years, The Australian Community has been assisting its members overcome many of the challenges of living in the US.  Albeit that within its Private Social Network are both Employment and Mentoring Groups, our Public Charity is not a silver bullet for finding work.

Yes Employers occasionally post jobs within our Network, but our role is to provide guidance to those seeking work, not to act as an employment agency or a legal firm.  If someone were to join our organization with the expectation that they will be offered a job or receive free legal advice, then they would be mistaken.

In NYC it is 60% who you know and 40% what you know.  Making a personal connection with a Recruiter or an Advocate within an organization is your best bet to finding work.  You can be assured more members have found work by making connections at our events, than posts within our Employment group.

Australians have a mindset for problem solving and finding ways to overcome adversity.  This same mindset should never be applied to US Law.

Social media serves as a good reference for day to day challenges and feedback from other Australians on where to find things.  However seeking visa advice outside of which Embassy has the fastest E-3 turnaround, can get you into serious hot water.

We are seeing an increase in E-3 applications being moved to Administrative Processing, and this is causing serious concerns for those effected Australians.

Our organization has always recommended seeking professional advice on any matter that effects your Health, Liberty or Finances.  We do understand that some E-3 applications are very straightforward, but if your decision not to use a lawyer is based purely on affordability, then how do you expect to pay $3,000 to 4,000 per month just to keep the lights on in NYC?

What Next?

Committing to any relationship is a big step, and moving to New York is one of the greatest commitments you will make.

All too often we hear of Aussies, even with Green Cards, who return home within a few months having failed to find work.  New York is not for everyone, even for people born in this country.

Often, the return home is due to a miscalculation of finances, or the length of time it takes for the interview process.  More often than not, it was the perception that finding work is easy for Australians, and that is simply not the case.

Our organization does not purport to have all of the answers, but we are quite vocal about educating our members on the right questions to ask.  Providing answers is up to the professionals, and we can certainly connect our members to someone who has the right answer!

Click here to read “Moving to the US for Aussies” from the beginning

About The Australian Community

The Australian Community is a 501(c)(3) Public Charity and its Mission is to connect Australian living in the United States through social. professional and charitable initiatives.

All contributions are fully tax deductible under Section 170 of the IRS Code. The Australian Community is also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code.

You can also learn more and Join The Australian Community