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Common Misconceptions About US Life (Part 1 – New York)

Its interesting when I was thinking about what to talk about today, I was wondering what the average person struggles with. When you first think about moving to the US and imagine life in a particular city, what images conjure in your mind and what experiences do think you will most enjoy?

From this I came up with topic where I will hopefully demistify all that is unclear for you as well as tell some home truths about actual life versus what you might experience on a holiday or see on tv/movies.

Sex and the City is widely seen as one of the main players in the modern female sexual revolution but it also helped glamorize New York as a must live destination beyond what it was already thought to be.

Each year wherever you are in the world, you hear the story about some local home grown star from your region of the world who went to LA and Hollywood after years of struggle and made it big with that major movie, tv deal or recording contract. Then you see things from Paris Hilton parties to the Oscars televised and California also seems like the place to be.

NY and LA are probably top of most people lists of places to visit and potentially live if they desire the US and are two cities which have many benefits you probably aren’t aware of but also huge negatives that you would never really experience properly unless you live there. These are the things I think anyone should consider when moving to any city in the world.

Firstly let’s talk about NY

You watch a sitcom like Friends or Will and Grace and as mentioned above Sex and the City and whole NY experience just seems like 24/7 fun if you love city life. I mean you have hundreds of shows to choose from, thousands of restaurants, conveniences everywhere as things run for 24 hours, life, musical events every day almost, celebrities everywhere without even mentioning the endless famous sites, museums and areas. Then you take in the type of lifestyle they seem to portray on TV with their jobs and it all seems so easy. IT ISN’T

New York City is made up of 5 parts with Manhattan being the most famous (the other FYI are Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Staten Island). Now Manhattan rentals are on average the most expensive in the US and the World by a fair way given what you get. The price for a studio so a 1 ROOM apartment with a mini kitchenette and tiny bathroom attached in a middle of the road area of Manhattan usually start around $1,800 USD (so approx 1,260 GBP and 2,770 AUD as I write) per month. While most other living costs in NYC are cheap compared to world standards (although expensive by US standards), the rent alone takes a huge chunk of the average person’s salary. So groceries, utilities, internet/cable, cell phone, etc. are all pretty cheap because of the competitive market. However health costs are not but will leave that for another post 🙂

NY probably work longer hours than most of the country and remember the average US company only gives 2 weeks annual leave and just because a day is a Federal Holiday doesn’t necessarily mean it is a day off. Each company decides that policy (generally 2 federal holidays, Martin Luther King Day in January and Columbus Day is October are often omitted)

So with large expenses, longer hours, tiny apartments and less holidays do you think the slack lives of Joey on Friends or Jack on Will and Grace are even remotely possible!

I am not trying to scare you about life in NY, it is amazing and as mentioned above there is so much to do..all the time BUT be prepared for the reality of NY. It is ultra competitive, it is harsh and ruthless, the people can seem snobby and unfriendly at times and finding a place to live is like Christmas sales in other parts of the world, if you turn your back, it will be gone!

NY has the only fully operational 24/7 subway system in the world. It is 3 times bigger than The Tube in London and has more stations than all the other subways in the US combined. It is easy to get around.

NY is also extremely safe in most areas. From being the most violent and dirty cities in the US in the 70s and 80s, it is now in the top 5 safest cities in the country with very little crime at all given how many people live here. The streets and subways are very clean with barely any graffiti or damage and the police presence is large and visible all the time. You can walk around Central Park at night, take the subway all hours and be perfectly fine. Of course there are the odd really undesirable areas in outer Brooklyn, outer Queens and areas of The Bronx but for the most part everyone is always stunned by how clean and safe the city is.

So while this is only a short outline of NY and only covers some parts and as promised I will do other parts of different cities and aspects of life, I hope this cleared up a few misconceptions in your mind 🙂

Good Luck As Always and Happy Australia Day/Indian Reupublic Day/Chinese New Year

CJ

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The 10 Steps To Your E3 or H1B Visa and Work

OK i just wanted to do a quick note on the outline of getting your visa so it is an easy reference post with not too much fluff for people so they get an overview. I am not sure either if there are exactly 10 steps but it sounds like a nice round number so lets start writing and see how many major steps there are.

Step 1. Find An Employer (Visa Sponsor) – without going into too much detail as I will ina later post my favourite sites include craigslist.org, monster.com and linkedin.com for searching

Step 2. Have The Employer Fill Out The Sponsorship Document and Pay The Relavent Filing Fees – I guess technically you could do this on their behalf and pay for it and then have them send it but chances if it is a reputable employer they will do it all probably via their attorneys. For H1B this requires filing to both US Immigration and Department of Labor and for E3 just Department of Labor.

Step 3. Understand Your Dates – For E3 this is relatively simple as the forms can be filed all year around and although their is an annual quota it has never been reached and you can begin employment at any time. As for H1B this is more complicated as there is annual filing date of April 1 and hard quotas as well. Even if you get your approval and your visa from the consulate you cannot begin employment until October 1 that year.

Step 4, Make you Interview – When you have or anticipate to have all your documents both from your employer and the ones you have to prepare yourself along with fees, photos and other proof documents ready then book an interview with your closed US consulate that can process that type of visa. Every country and sometimes city has different wait times, methods of interview, turnaround times, etc. so be prepared

Step 5. Book Your Ticket – Depending on how brave and confident you are, you could have done this earlier on in anticipation of getting your visa but in any case I will put it here. Be prepared at your port of entry into the US especially if you have an E3 visa (as it is largely unheard of even by Immigration staff at the border) to answer potential questions. Don’t worry if you have all in order you will be fine, although it may seem tense depending on the person you get. I have had both awesome and not so good people.

Step 6. Get A Social Security Number – This is essentially your key to living in the US and is vital from everything to opening a bank account, getting a mobile phone, credit cards, signing a lease, potentially getting paid…although with a lot of these things technically it is not required but you have to do a lot of talking to superiors and no what you are talking about (I will discuss this in a later post). You can only do this from within the country and it can take up to 6 weeks for them to send you your card and number but usually it is 2-4 weeks.

Step 7. Start Work!!

Well what do you know I guess it was only 7 steps…and like I said there is more detail and tips to the steps above which I will cover in the future as well as steps in between like finding a place to live, best phone plans, discounts, etc. but this at least is a high level overview of your journey.

Bon Voyage 🙂

CJ

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