I want to be a part of it ...can I?
February 12, 2014 6:37 AM   Subscribe

I have always wanted to live in New York for a year. Life circumstances mean there is now a possibility of being able to make that happen, in theory. Can you let me know if this will remain a pipe dream or if there is a chance of turning it into reality? I would like to work as a counsellor, or with an NGO. Many specifics to follow.

I currently live in the UK. I am completing my MA in Counselling Practice this year, and my current work contract (Project Administrator for a charity) ends in May 2015. What I would love is to then make a big move end of 2015/beginning 2016 and live and work somewhere different. I've only visited New York but I would love to experience life there for a short time (at least a year), however I'd also be open to other suggestions. I'm asking so far in advance because I'd like to know exactly what would be entailed with regards to job-hunting, house-hunting, visas, professional requirements etc. Life has been a bit stressful lately so I would like to have something big on the horizon to aim towards. If all advice says no then I can maybe plan a move closer to home.

What I need to know is:

- What qualifications would I need to work as a counsellor/therapist in NY, or in the US in general? My training is in the Person-Centered/Rogerian model and I currently work as a Trauma Counsellor (specialising in post-conflict trauma). If anyone works in the field are there any registration requirements, or a particular body I should approach?
- I have also worked with various community organisations that dealt with domestic violence, asylum seekers and refugees, and migrant workers. If I can't practice as a counsellor, is it difficult to find paid work with such organisations, and can anyone name any specific organisations I could consider approaching?
- What kind of salary would I need to earn in order to live comfortably in NY? By this I mean being able to afford a small studio apartment and able to pay the bills and eat well, but I don't need an awful lot more than that. (Maybe enough for the odd cocktail...)
- Where would be a good place to look online for housing, and are there any particular considerations I would need to know about? For example, is it easy or difficult to get a one-year lease, how many months deposit is normally required etc. And what areas should I consider, given that I won't be making a huge amount of money.
- I've looked at some websites about what visa requirements are needed but I'm finding them hard to get around. Are there organisations that provide free advice on how to navigate the immigration rules?
- If NY isn't feasible for any reason, what other large city would be a good place to live short-term that would be liberal-leaning, have a nice standard of living for not ridiculous amounts of money and might have opportunities for working in therapy and/or the community sector?
- What kind of time frame would be reasonable to make all this happen?
- Finally, if anyone has experience of a similar transatlantic move, in either direction, what were the big pros and cons?

Any advice and signposting is really welcome. Thanks!
posted by billiebee to Work & Money (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's easy to get a one-year lease, that's the normal length of a lease. Three months' rent will usually be required up front. I would look at the Bronx, Queens, or Staten Island.
posted by corb at 6:55 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

In terms of working as a counsellor -- the term to check is Licensed Mental Health Counselor and it's overseen at the state level, so look on the NYS website. Licensure (for counselors) is fairly new in NY. I have no idea if the state has put any thought into what the requirements would be if you're coming from outside the US.

I don't know if you'd meet the requirements for psychologists or social workers, but those would be the other possibilities.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think I've seen job postings for workers with counseling background at shelters or homes for at risk youth that are live-in, something like this. That would sidestep the apartment and maybe the counselor licensing issues.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

i'm curious to see what other people would list as a "comfortable" salary to include that small studio... my guess would be 60k? depends on the location and how far you are willing to commute.

a one year lease is "easy" but a lot of places require rental history, a guarantor, and/or a salary that is 3x the rent or something along those lines. (bring a lot of deposit money ready.) if you can live with roommates you may find an easier time getting a room in an already established apartment than finding one on your own and jumping through those hoops. also since you are coming from the UK finding a furnished place would be ideal unless you have the time/money to start from scratch.

i did a 6 month stint in australia. biggest pro was freaking myself out by knowing NO ONE and pushing myself to do a lot of things way outside my comfort zones because of that. cons were constantly loneliness. i started to forget what my family and friends looked like. (this was before facebook and flickr and all that.) more cons - cost of getting a bed, printer, and other things that i only had to discard when i left only six months later. also flight and luggage and shipping... those things just add up.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:32 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Craigslist is where apartments are generally advertised, see the various sub-boards for an idea of going prices. It is a hot market (think London) and you might have an easier time finding a year lease once you are already in the country since many good places go within days. How do you feel about roommates? You will pay a hefty premium for a studio..I agree that $50-$60,000 is probably what you'd need to afford one in the safer areas of Brooklyn or Queens. Double that for Manhattan.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

How much money is "not a lot"? Rule of thumb around here is your annual salary must be at least 40x the monthly rent. Using that as a guideline, I'd say you'd need at least around 50k in salary to get a studio somewhere in the five boroughs, 70k for one in a close-in/trendy part of Brooklyn/Queens/northern Manhattan, 100k for one in Manhattan south of 96th St.

Rents can vary pretty wildly in all of these areas, and frankly when people dream of living in New York they aren't dreaming of living on the south shore of Staten Island or eastern Queens (which are basically suburbia), or an iffy neighborhood in The Bronx, and those are the areas where you can afford a studio on 50k. Be aware that there are lots of different "New Yorks." I think for the one you are likely thinking of, you'd need 65k to 70k in salary to get a decent studio.

Craiglist is the way to look for rental housing in most big US cities. In NYC, Craigslist is full of scams related to rental brokers who will reel you in with awesome apartments, and then try to sell you on shitholes. Brokers in NYC will charge you at least one months' rent, and sometimes more, to help you find a place, though the rental market here is so ridiculous that a good one is arguably worth it (there are a lot of bad ones, though, so beware).

Frankly, most folks in NYC in your position have roommates. You find a roommate by browsing the "rooms/shared" section in Craigslist and viewing places and interviewing with people. Typically, 2 or 3 folks will split a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment - so you'd have your own room - although crazier arrangements are not unheard of. You don't have to pay brokers' fees this way, though you'll still have to pay your first months' rent up front and a security deposit equal to one month's rent. This is really, really common in NYC, so much so that it's basically the standard for people who are not wealthy and do not live with their significant others.

You might also want to look into Philadelphia or Chicago, which have a lot of the big-city amenities (though not the ZOMG I AM IN NEW YORK! factor, which, having grown up here, I personally find overrated) but are much, much cheaper.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:55 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, be aware that the "40x rent" rule is for being approved for a lease by a landlord. I personally think that standard is a little too high - I wouldn't want to pay $1200 in rent on a $48,000 salary, for example.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2014

Generally, it's fairly difficult to get a work visa for the U.S. The most common visa is an H1-B, but those are sought after by tech companies who have lawyers and HR departments very familiar with the process. There are only about 65,000 visas available and they are taken very quickly. Your best bet might be to secure a position with an international NGO that has offices in NYC or another U.S. city and then have them transfer you internally using an L-1 visa. Alternatively, you could marry an American or do a degree in the U.S.

The U.S government web sites that list visa possibilities are very straightforward and easy to navigate; start at http://www.dhs.gov/visa-types.
posted by ashworth at 8:24 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

If NY isn't feasible for any reason, what other large city would be a good place to live short-term that would be liberal-leaning, have a nice standard of living for not ridiculous amounts of money and might have opportunities for working in therapy and/or the community sector?

Can you provide some additional specifics on what other places you might like to live in? Coast? Size? What do you consider a "nice" standard of living?

Most of the liberal-leaning large cities are expensive, but none so much as NYC (and San Francisco). Off-hand, and knowing nothing about your industry, I'd think Boston, DC, Austin, Chicago, Oakland, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle...but those are all over the map literally and in terms of expense and political leanings...it's a big country.

I hate to say it but I think your NYC plan might be a bit of a pipe dream. Not impossible, but by no means the easiest thing to do.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for NYC but if that doesn't pan out for you have you considered Canada? You would most likely be eligible for the International experience Canada visa for up to two years. If you choose Toronto or Montreal, NYC would be about a day's travel away so you could visit several times. I am unsure of the equivalency of your credentials - is it the same as psychology or closer to counselling (This is only applicable to ontario, Quebec has different regulations)? A well-known source for jobs would be charity village, rent in Toronto would be about $1,500 for a one bedroom about 20 mins via public transit from Dundas Square (obviously this amount would fluxuate a LOT on variables) and requires first and last month's rent paid upfront (and pledging your first-born child, there is a very low vacancy rate).
It would certainly be cheaper to live in Canada, but it is also not NYC if that is your real dream.
posted by saucysault at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The biggest thing I see here, I think, is the fact that I don't really see a company wanting to go to the expense of getting you through the process of a visa that will allow you to work here if they know you're planning on leaving in a year.
posted by Sequence at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about working for the United Nations? They have a lot of programs and you may slide into one very handily. You may also find a pretty nifty career there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:50 AM on February 12, 2014

Work visas to the USA are relatively hard to get. However, three month tourist visas are easy. Maybe you want to just save up and stay for 3 months? If you don't have a job you can pack a year's worth of NYC fun into three months. I worked in NYC for years and the best time I had was the summer I was unemployed.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are in the UK, you are going to have a much, much easier time getting a working visa from Australia than from the US. I am really sorry to say this but your chances of getting a visa not sponsored by and employer are basically nill, getting an employer to go through that process for someone who is only relocating is near nill, and getting a sponsored visa for a non-specialist job that can be staffed within the US is also near nill.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:41 AM on February 12, 2014

a) Go for one of the other countries in the Commonwealth
b) Tourist visa to the US
c) Another type of job - would you ever consider being an au pair, or is that an insane suggestion? They are often one year contracts, but obviously the job wouldn't be the first choice for your career progression.
posted by barnone at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2014

Thanks everyone for the suggestions, and the resulting reality check. Having done some research it's pretty unfeasible that I'd be able to work as a therapist, and yes it looks like getting a work visa for a temporary job would be basically miraculous. I'm also (just, ok?) too old for the other Australian/Canadian work visas. So at least I can start thinking of a change closer to home. However, I hadn't thought of just going on a three month tourist visa, which sounds like something I'd really like to do sometime next year so I'll look into that instead. So maybe I'll still get to see some of y'all at an NY meetup :)
posted by billiebee at 3:33 AM on March 19, 2014

« Older Help me help someone help someone else with their...   |   I need to build a "social media platform" to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.