Working in America with the Australian E3 Visa
My partner and I have now been in the US for almost exactly a year now, and I thought I'd write a helpful blog post for others that are trying to work towards the same goal. We had a little bit of help from friends of friends, but there are still a heap of things that tripped us so I'm hoping this will make the transition a little bit smoother for others.
The E3 is an amazing visa. Basically, to qualify you need to be working in the industry that your university degree supports, or have 12 years of industry experience. You need an American company to fill out an LCA form stating that they are going to hire you. Here is all the specifics
That's it. It's actually super easy and quite painless if you can get all the jigsaw pieces fitting together.
What we did
We sold up everything in Australia, said our goodbyes and flew over to America. We landed in LA, but it was crazy hot so we found an AirBnB in San Diego and starting applying for jobs like crazy. We entered the country on a tourist visa each, which gave us 3 months to find something. We actually got married before leaving so that if only one of us found a job then the other could apply for the E3-D visa.
Being married proved to be unnecessary for the visa process, but it has made a number of things easier, like hiring a car and both being allowed to drive, or renting an apartment together... basically America doesn't recognise de facto relationships in the same way that Australia does, so wedded bliss = less paperwork. Oh, and romance and stuff.
In San Diego, we applied for jobs like crazy. We used Indeed.com, Monster, LinkedIn and Seek. Unlike Australia where I would normally only have 1 or 2 opportunities at a time, the US had so many opportunities for me it was crazy... every day I'd log on to those websites and find new and exciting jobs to apply for.
Unfortunately, some evil guy has gone around to all the major companies and sold them a recruitment portal, that requires you to fill in the same information over and over. Sometimes Monster or Indeed would auto fill it all, or the company would leverage off the information stored in Indeed or Monster, but mostly, you just had to fill out the same information over and over.
These same recruitment portal all have a section that basically requires a Yes/No for 'Are you an American Citizen?' and/or 'Do you have a work visa to work in the United States?' since the answer for both those was technically no, I think the portal would often automatically reject us. We both applied for jobs we were definitely over qualified for, and got knocked back... sometimes clearly automatically with no one actually having read anything we arduously answered.
I would suggest not applying that way. It was a massive waste of time of weeks and weeks of effort.
What worked for both of us was putting our resumes on Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn & Seek. That's it.
American companies are deathly scared of the lawyer-filled visa process, even after I explained that the E3 is identically to the Canadian TN visa.
Recruiters on the other hand, are more than happy to jump through the hoops if it means that can secure a role. Their clients don't usually care where the resource is from, just as long as they have the skills and experience to do the work.
For both my partner and I, recruiters found us a number of opportunities, the recruiters filled out our LCA form, we flew to Vancouver for our visa interview, the interview was a breeze and then we entered America again on the E3 visa without any issues.
We were happy to fly around to go to interviews, but honestly, both of us got our jobs over the phone. I also had one Skype interview which went really well. American companies are very, very used to hiring people from different parts of the country, so interviewing in person is surprisingly rare.
I've since learnt that there are companies like Precision Global Consulting that will help set you up as a contractor so that your E3 is tied to them and not an organisation... however, you do have to pay them a flat fee and 20% of your rate. This practise is quite common in the US. While it doesn't necessarily sound appealing initially, I'm on a good wage in America, and I'm still learning less than a third of what I was earning in Australia. My partner is earning less than half... and I'm sure that's because we are going through consulting firms... so you might very well profit from being a contractor. Also, my partner's contract is up in September, which is slightly stress-inducing... if it's not renewed than she'll have to go through the visa process again. You only have 10 days to organise a new visa before turning into an illegal alien.
Knowing what I know now, I would suggest staying in Australia, putting your resume on all those job sites and then (unfortunately) answering the phone at all hours to the recruiters who desperately want you in so they can secure the role and make a kajillion dollars off you.
I think you would save an incredible amount of money, can apply for your visa in Australia (there actually aren't too many American Embassies that know about the E3... Vancouver Canada and Barbados were kind of our only options).
We did have our San Diego accommodation address and American phone mobile on our resumes, so I'm not sure if that made any difference, but I would definitely, definitely recommend starting the process while you're in Australia.
Tips and tricks about moving to America
1.) Organise accommodation for your first month or so... whether hotel or AirBnB make sure it's something that you can have mail sent to.
2.) While still in Australia, apply online for a CapitalOne
secured credit card for $250 or so, and have that sent to that address, it'll make life so much easier. We had a few places that just would not accept our travel credit cards. It was nuts.
3.) Once you have your visa and you've entered America on your E3, apply for your social security number the day you arrive. You're pretty much not a real person until you have an SSN. It doesn't matter if you tie it to your accommodation address, but it will come in the mail. You can't receive it any other way.
4.) You can open bank accounts without a SSN (they'll fill it in later) but you can't get paid without the SSN. My partner had this issue where US customs put her first and last name in the first name field, and she shouldn't get her SSN for like 3 months, so no pay for her for ages.
5.) Get a couple of Secured Credit cards. Your credit score seems to be super important, and when you first arrive you have zero credit score. In America's eyes, you've never existed before the point of entry. Get the secured credit cards as soon as possible so that you can get real credit cards for real amounts in the near future. I'm making a point of the finances side because when you move to another country, you need to buy a lot of stuff, and it was really difficult for us for long time. We had to pay $1000 deposit to get mobile phone plans, etc.
6.) Be emotionally ready for a lot of bureaucracy and crazy rulings. Things work in America really smoothly, except if you're in the 0.01% which their systems and processes don't cater for... which describes us because we're foreign and don't know all the things.
7.) Americans are super transitional so wherever you land, there are always people new to the area that are excited to be your friend. Do try and make some American friends, seriously, there is nothing that compares to local knowledge.
8.) Have a separate American mobile phone and Australian mobile phone. I can't tell you how many times I've swapped the SIM card over and waited so many painful minutes while everything updates just to pay money with my Australian bank accounts.
I hope this helps, I'm happy to answer any questions and update and grow this post so that it becomes a bit of a one-stop shop for anyone looking to make the big move. America is filled with incredible natural beauty, I'm constantly blown away by how pretty everything is here.