Advice on how to make a (temporary) move from Australia to America (visas, employment etc)?
January 5, 2009 6:53 PM   Subscribe

My wife has recently expressed an interest in moving from Australia to America to work for a year (possibly longer). Can anyone provide some advice on how to make this possible (visas, employment etc)?

My wife has recently expressed an interest in moving from Australia to America to work for a year (possibly longer). I am a little hesitant about uprooting our lives for the unknown, but am willing to investigate more and find out if it really is feasible.

I am an academic (University lecturer/researcher) with a PhD in IT and an MBA. I would like to stay in this field as I am quite happy with my career progression so far and feel that teaching at an American University would give me an invaluable learning experience and open up further opportunities for me when we return home.

We don’t really know that much about living in America, having only been there in a tourist capacity several years ago so have no idea of the best places to live, and where to focus our search. My wife does have quite a leaning towards Los Angeles though.

Can any MeFites shed some light on this for us and provide information regarding Working Visas, employment opportunities and location possibilities?

Thanks all!
posted by ranglin to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For yourself, look at what universities your current employer has partnerships or relationships with - whether for exchange, research, or other connections. This will give you an in and perhaps can help you identify and contact people. This may also allow you to hold open your position at home more easily.

Australians can now more easily get visas since the Free Trade Agreement was signed (the E-3 visa)- but if you can get a 'visiting lecturer' role or something, you may be able to get a visa more easily that way.
posted by AnnaRat at 6:59 PM on January 5, 2009

As an academic you'd get in reasonably easily. J1 visas are pretty easy to com by. I've had a few and have nothing but a bachelor's. Check what your wife would get if you got a J1, that might sort her out too. Getting in for Australians seems to be straightforward once you have a job offer.

A lot would depend on where you want to go. Different cities would be quite different in terms of life and climate.

LA is a lot better than people say it is. I stayed there for about 2 months and was very much surprised. But you would want to be near to where you work and that might be expensive.

There is an ex-pats society in LA, they might be able to help you.
posted by sien at 7:12 PM on January 5, 2009

Seconding AnnaRat - look to connections with your institution first. While many academics do well in the US, it can be a long hard process to obtain work there without exploiting connections. The actual hiring process takes several months. A partnership or exchange would make life much easier. They may also have advice on selling your experience and expertise to the US, writing a new CV, etc. If you have time, you may want to beef up your profile by attending a few conferences in the US, meeting more people in your field.

Another option is community colleges, which provide a great teaching experience if you like that side of your work.

E3 is definitely the way to go, and it means your spouse can work too. They are initially valid for two years.

Where to live will be determined by where you get work. Los Angeles can be difficult because it is so enormous, expensive, and your research specialty may not be found there.

The Australian American Association is quite good, many events, advice.

Good luck! This is something I want to do someday too.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:04 PM on January 5, 2009

First: the US is really big. There's 300 million of them, and don't discount someplace because of some individual's experience or a hunch you may have about the place and people. Mostly they are very nice, and will never tire of your accent.

Given the details posted you will likely find work in one of two settings, urban city and college town. American college towns can be a great deal of fun, and these are great places to be introduced to America, as they are often part rural and part urban.

There are lots and lots of urban centers as well - I think there are at least 3 cities with more than a million residents that I haven't even been to just down the road from here. These can be more fun and more lonely, and there are a lot more factors that come in to play. In Chicago- your commute could be an hour long, everything around you could be covered in graffiti and you could be someplace that is routinely violent at levels that would be unheard of in Australia. Think Port Arthur every month - just slower. The locals often won't loose any sleep over the inequality, misery, squalor and violence in their midst, but it can wear on you soul if you aren't oblivious or willfully ignorant.

Be wary of places that sell themselves to hard (hi LA!) as its often hucksterism. For example LA simply isn't worth the cost of living there - it's nice enough but I wouldn't move there thinking I was going to live on the 90210 set, and although I dig car culture, I don't dig it enough to spend most of my day in one. If the wife likes LA she'll likely like a good chunk of that state. And if weather is a concern why leave Australia? If you do come north you'll adapt, love it and then hate it just like the locals. Also note: you don't need to acquire a big suv to drive in the snow.

Second: the work visa system is a pain, and ideally you will find an employer that does all of the heavy lifting. Getting the job offer is going to be the key element of the process. I would work on that angle first, and then based on what is out there make a decision. Ask.mefi has piles of comparisons and well travelled (although not necessarily well heeled) people willing to expound upon the finer points of Austin TX or Madison WI (in fact they are twins separated at birth)

Third: the recession and financial crisis talk isn't just hot air. Many institutions aren't hiring - many states are broke (big state uni's) many private uni's have taken a big hit on their endowments, and many cities are really broke (often heavily rely on property taxes for income), which eliminates many community colleges. Not everywhere is in the same boat - but LA & Cali have been hit pretty hard by this crisis - and they just had a pretty bad recession out there not to long ago.

Finally: you might consider Vancouver or other fine Canadian cities & join the rest of the Australian population on the Whistler ski hill.

Good luck! You'll have to get used to watching footie late at night, and having your parents air mail you treats.
posted by zenon at 9:14 PM on January 5, 2009

You say your wife wants to live and work in the US but you don't say what her field/current job is. Does she want to work? Or is she happy to live there while you work? If she is a professional, would you be willing to be "the spouse" rather than the other way around?

Just so you know, the academic job market is *brutal* right now. As zenon says, many universities (especially state-funded ones and private ones who have endowments that have been hit hard) have cancelled searches this year - not just full time but also visiting. Your best bet might be to look for sponsored fellowships or exchange programs.

Make sure you get good health insurance that covers both of you. Health care here is a disaster.
posted by media_itoku at 12:08 PM on January 6, 2009

Okay, where do I start? This is such a huge deal. My husband and I just went through this process a year ago - However, I am a Yank and he is the Aussie, so he was able to come over on a spouse visa. We lived in Melbourne, Australia and upon moving back to the States, moved to a small university city in the Midwest. We couldn't be happier to be back.

Initially, we looked into a work visa with an immigration lawyer and found that a Spouse visa would be faster for us (four weeks as opposed to months or even years). He had a job lined up before we came over (fortunately, in the same IT firm that I work at) but work visas can be quite tricky - Depending on the work visa that you apply for, it can be tied to your ability to prove that your degree(s) and work experience are tied to the position you are applying for and that your talent is unique (that no other US candidate can fit the bill). We looked for the longest-term work visa that he could be considered for. You may find a company/school willing to hire and sponsor you but if they decide to pull the rug out from under you, you might be on a flight back to Australia, sooner than you'd like. Zenon has a great point about the economy cutting funds for academic institutions - Private Unis are also taking massive endowment hits.

My main suggestion would be to take in a consult with an immigration lawyer - They can look at your background and give you options, realistic timeframes and an idea of costs. I should also mention that this process is incredibly expensive. I don't even want to think about the amount of money that we spent on the immigration process, let alone the international move. We also work with several different folks from various countries in Europe and Asia and I have worked with our corporate immigration lawyer to hire - It is a very lengthy process even if you have a company willing to submit paperwork for you - And while they will file all of the paperwork, you will still need to do the legwork. Finding a job can be done along the same lines as in Australia - Recruiters/Headhunters, networking, online - I have no idea for you other than to tell you that you need to do a lot of research in the area you are interested in.

On a personal note, if you decide to take the plunge, I would suggest you plan on staying more than a year - It has taken us that long to even begin to feel settled after being away for several years. Even a local move is hard enough, but an international move has so many more facets to consider. The culture shock alone can take a year or more to get through.

Now, Los Angeles. I can't think of a better place for a couple to move, but a lot of people might disagree. It all depends on what you are looking for. I didn't read anything about you having kids, so on that assumption, LA would be a great place to start. Even with the down turn of the economy, there seems to be plenty of jobs, schools, activities, culture. You could never be bored for a second. My husband even loves LA. But it's fast enough that LA is not a place that I would want to raise kids (I hope none of my friend in LA are reading this, Sorry!). I lived there for 4 years (from 98 to 02, in Toluca Lake and South Pasadena) and I truly loved it. I just grew increasingly tired of the traffic and the cost. If you live in a big Metro area in AU, you probably wouldn't be shocked by the cost of living in LA. The cost of just about everything in Melbourne was equal to or higher than the cost of things in LA. It depends on where you want to live and work and what kind of lifestyle you and your wife want to lead.

Another thing you need to consider - Health Insurance. You do need it, but I would not say it's a disaster like media_itoku says. It all depends on your experience. I have the experience of both Australia and US (and Canadian, for that matter) healthcare systems, and quite frankly, healthcare for my husband was one of the reasons that we decided to move back to the US. Here, we both have great jobs, which subsidize health insurance and we receive the best care we could ask for. However, going without insurance in the States is not advised because it can be devastatingly expensive. With health insurance here, the rate you pay for services is ultimately lower, because the doctors are paid negotiated rates and write off costs based on the plan tailored by your employer. Just don't go without basic health insurance, even if it's just catastrophic care, or you will be paying top rates.

One other thing to note, income taxes are much lower here - It varies depending on where you live in the US, but you will be pleasantly surprised about the income tax compared to AU.

Ultimately, I think the suggestions of getting involved in some of the groups of Australians in the US, consulting an immigration lawyer and researching locations will help you the most to get started. But I would give this a huge amount of serious thought and research. I wouldn't give up my experiences of moving internationally for the world, but at this point, it's not something that I would want to do again.

All the best!!!
posted by inquisitrix at 9:58 PM on January 6, 2009

« Older Soviet Cowboy Fonts?   |   If music be the food of love, post on... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.