Questions about a Canadian taking a Post-Doc in Orlando
May 6, 2010 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I was offered a post-doc position in Orlando, Florida today (yay!). As the fantasy of employment after a PhD becomes a (potential) reality, I'm overwhelmed with figuring out what I would need to do and the associated expenses will be required for me take this position. Those who have tread before me, please help steer me in the right directions.

Relevant personal details
I'm a married Canadian citizen living in Toronto. My wife is a PhD student here and pregnant (yay!). She's due after my start date and would take her maternity leave with me. We're also contemplating how she could finish her doctoral work (necessitating travel between Florida and Ontario) while I finished my 2 year position.

Working, legally
The post-doc is something out of the ordinary, as I would be working for Disney in central Florida and affiliated with an academic organization for the purposes of the post-doc.

I know I need to apply for a visa. I am responsible for it and need to do the legwork to get it. I'm thinking the TN status (NAFTA Visa) as a Research Assistant. I've found information about this status and feel pretty comfortable with the process.

—Does this sound about right?
—I won't have the PhD degree in hand at the time that I move. A problem at the border?
—The job description is for a research fellow. Any idea if the wording be an issue (i.e fellow versus assistant)?

I'm blissfully unaware about the ins and outs of health insurance. I know that there is a National Postdoctoral Association that offers what appears to be a somewhat affordable $182 / month health plan for me. Adding the SO and a child balloon the cost by $766 / month which seems like a lot.

—Are there other options out there for the SO and child?
—A website, ehealthinsurance dot com was suggested to me as a place to shop for health insurance. Are there better ones?

Other one-time costs I anticipate
-an apartment finding trip
-purchasing furniture we don't feel like or what to pay to move

—Are there others I'm unaware of?

I don't know what I don't know
—Are there things that I'm missing?
—Any general suggestions on how to proceed?

Thanks in advance!
posted by gavia to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats! (Disney has postdocs?)

I've been following this recent thread about moving.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:57 PM on May 6, 2010

Normally you would get insurance through your employer, which I guess in this case would be Disney or the research organization. You should speak with them first, as any insurance you get through those plans will be much cheaper and better than something you get on your own.
posted by ohio at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2010

Response by poster: @madcaptendor Thanks! Yup, that's an excellent thread.

@ohio Thanks for the suggestion. I believe that I do not have access to the company's coverage. Perhaps I'll ask about the academic affiliation, but I think my links do not extend to access to insurance coverage.
posted by gavia at 7:19 PM on May 6, 2010

One bit of advice as far as the health insurance goes: It may be cheaper to get two separate plans -- an "Individual" plan for yourself and an "Individual +1" plan for your wife and the baby. The two separately can be much cheaper than one "Family" plan (which must be priced higher to account for families with 3 or 4 children). Not all companies may offer the Individual +1 (it's designed, I think, for childless couples or single parents), but it may be worth it to shop around for one that does.

Also, you could look to rent a furnished apartment to save on furniture purchasing/moving costs -- I'm sure there are many in the area.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:52 AM on May 7, 2010

Hi, Gavia, and congratulations! I can't help with the first three questions, but since we're in the middle of moving for a postdoc, too, I can tell you the little I know about moving costs.

First, have you attempted to negotiate for moving expenses? It's not at all unusual for universities to cover postdocs' moving expenses, and, for a company like Disney, I can't imagine that paying for your moving expenses would cause much of a dent. Even if you've already accepted the position, it's not too late. Call human resources, or whoever you've been negotiating with, and ask. My school's career counselor instructed me to say, "On the personal side, I'm really excited about this position! On the business side, there are a few things I wanted to check in about."

Second, does Disney contract with a relocation service? Using a full-service relocation company can be expensive, but they may offer substantial discounts to Disney employees, and they may even direct-bill to Disney.

Of course, the cost of moving depends on how far you're going, but for us, moving a two-bedroom apartment about 1,000 miles, the relocation company was going to charge about $2,500, including loading/unloading and the actual moving. We opted to go for a U-Haul instead, which will be about $1,000, plus gas, of course, as well as the cost of moving guys hired from Craigslist. So we're budgeting about $2,500 for the total move.

Good luck!
posted by miriam at 4:56 AM on May 7, 2010

Congratulations on the employment. I don't know much about corporate relocation assistance, etc., but if you're looking for info on the area, neighborhoods, etc., I could give you that. I moved to Orlando a couple years ago and it took me an entire year to figure out where I really should have been living. Anyway, if you're looking for that kind of advice, send me a message.
posted by dervish at 5:18 AM on May 7, 2010

Check into the details of what any insurance plan you are considering covers. It might not cover childbirth, or might have a waiting period before it does. Any waiting period will almost certainly not cover someone who is currently pregnant.

From your link:
12. Does the insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
Pre-existing conditions are covered only if you have previously had some sort of health insurance coverage. Otherwise, there may be a waiting period. Please contact Garnett-Powers for details and more information.

Pregnancy may well be considered a pre-existing condition. In general, you can expect your health insurance plan to not cover as many costs as you would like.

It's quite likely that childbirth will be the largest expense you are facing, especially if there are any complications or your wife chooses a type of care that is not covered by the insurance.
posted by yohko at 6:41 AM on May 7, 2010

Most postdocs are here on J1 visas. Postdoctoral positions exist in a gray area of trainee/employee, hence the lack of health insurance.

The academic institution with which you're affiliated -- do they have an office of postdoctoral affairs? They should be able to help you as well.
posted by desuetude at 6:42 AM on May 7, 2010

Response by poster: @desuetude You may not be able to answer this, but are most on J1 visas because they are not Canadian / Mexican citizens? I'll check in to see if an office like you describe can help me out.

@yohka Your caution about pregnancy is noted. We're planning to have the bambino in Canada to avoid what you describe.

@dervish Thanks for the offer, I'll contact you by MeFi mail

@miriam Its clear to me that I'm going to have to argue for some kind of assistance with moving expenses. Its good to know what other institutions do. Good luck with your move!

@Rock Steady Good to know about the differences between family and +1. I'll look into it.
posted by gavia at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2010

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