Ask and ye shall receive

You've called the request line. How may I direct your call?
You’ve called the request line. How may I direct your call?

Well, after a somewhat slow start I did indeed get some good questions and perspectives from my readers. WAY TO GO, GANG!

One I got from Facebook involves me chronicling my adventures with trying Maine beers (of which there are a great deal), and I’ll cover that in more detail in a couple of weeks hopefully. Before I received that suggestion, I’d actually started thinking about how I should (and will, now) start visiting one local brewery per weekend to sample some more local wares and see more of the countryside.

Anyway, the rest of the questions I’ll answer right here for all of you. And if you’ve got more, by all means send them in!

I’ll start with Lou Lou, who happens to be a former student of mine.

Was the green card lotteria your one and only option? If no what were your other options?

That’s a negatory. After coming home from a trip in 2012 I was scheming to get back to the US on a permanent basis via the E-3 visa. That’s a non-immigrant temporary visa that allows Aussies (and citizens of a few other countries) to live and work in professional or skilled fields in the US for about two years at a time. It can be renewed, but you can’t parlay an E-3 into permanent residency. The idea is that you come over, work for awhile, then piss off, basically. Add to the economy but not drain from it, I guess. The upside of this visa is that it’s more simple for employers (bare minimum paperwork, jack shit cost) than other work-sponsorship routes.

The catch is that you can’t apply for an E-3 until you have a qualifying job offer in your field that requires the skills you learned in your degree. So you can’t just rock up and hope to get a job, and you can’t just get a job offer from Target or Mickey D’s. It needs to be a skilled profession in the field in which you studied. For those without a bachelor’s degree, you need to have 12 years of experience in that role – the rule is three years of job experience for every year of the bachelor degree (which is four years in the US, but I’m pretty confident Australian three-year degrees count too).

Another condition on this is that once you’ve got the job offer and the visa, and you move over there, you’re beholden to that employer because their name is on your paperwork. If you’re sacked, you have X days to get out of the country basically. If you get another job offer and want to take it, the new employer has to submit a job offer and re-apply for visa accreditation.

Anyway I was going that route through somewhat sketchy means – a friend’s company was going to “offer me a job” (that didn’t exist) to get me into the country, at which point I could apply for and presumably get another job to transfer the visa to. About two weeks before I was to submit all the E-3 paperwork, my green card lottery ticket came up.

This was a better result obviously because it meant a) there were no limits on how long I could stay, or my legality as far as residency goes; b) I can work at Target or a bar or wherever I want if I need extra cash or I couldn’t find journalism work; c) I’m not essentially defrauding the State Department – I could’ve easily been tossed out if I’d gone the dodgy E-3 route and been found out, and my buddy’s business could have got some unnecessary heat.

Lastly how did you find a job over there while you were in Australia?

Short answer: I didn’t.

Long answer: I didn’t. I spent close to three months in the US between August and October 2013 applying for dozens and dozens of jobs…and that was before I got the green card totally approved. I heard back from exactly three of them – one offered too little money for the area, one interviewed me and never returned another email or call again, and the third turned out to be the job I got…but that was only the second of three times I applied.

The third (and final) time I applied for my current job, I was in Australia, but only during my three weeks back home when I was finalizing my green card. That was the clinching factor in getting me the initial interview – I was legally allowed to work, I just wasn’t there yet. My now-boss told me to get in touch when I was back Stateside, and five days later I had my job interview over the phone. The previous two times I’d applied, I was an Aussie without any concrete availability to work, outside of sponsorship (which the company basically doesn’t have money to do). Third time was a charm because I was legal.

Along similar lines, this is from Christie, who found me via Reddit (one of very few who have, it seems):

I’m also a journalist, and am now thinking about the next step – aka, how to find a journalism job in the US. Would you have any advice about this?

It’s a massive numbers game, but on top of that I have no doubt that prospective employers or HR departments saw Australian job experience at the very top of my resume and tossed me into the “too hard” basket, green card or not. Regardless of my visa status, I’m positive there would have been the thought that since I’m a foreigner, there would be a shitload of red tape to cut through to sign me on, not to mention concerns about my abilities to translate my skills from British to American English.

All I could recommend would be for someone to come out here on the Visa Waiver Program, post up somewhere cheap and/or with local friends, and apply apply apply. There’s nothing stopping you from applying for jobs on a tourist visa, but you’d have to go back home to organize the E-3 once you got a job offer (because you can’t transfer from tourist visa to any other visa whilst in the US).

On top of that, have an American friend, colleague or service check your resume and cover letters. I wasted MONTHS and dozens of great job openings because my CV and cover letters weren’t in the correct US format. Yes, there’s a difference, and yes it’s important. The job market here in journalism is even more cutthroat than it is at home, from what I can tell. Employers are getting tons of applications, so they don’t have time to read four-page resumes full of your high school grades and hobbies.

This one comes in from Vord, and could probably fill a whole post of its own (which may actually happen down the track):

I’d like to hear about your experience with the every day things that stand out as differences between Australia and the US. Whether its the very weird orange cheese, the large portion sizes, or anything that stands out to you as different, tell us about it.

Like I said, I’ll probably do a full post on just this anyway, but I’ll try to give a Reader’s Digest version here.

Firstly, I think “large portions” is somewhat misleading. Sure, the average meal out might be bigger than it is in Australia, but it’s absolutely not always the case and comically oversized portions are more frequently found in the tourist trap/big-city popular restaurants that see a lot of business from visitors, hence the reputation spreads. In most of the places I eat out at around here, the portions aren’t all that much bigger than they are at home. They’re way friggin’ cheaper though.

“Weird orange cheese” is processed shit. There’s weird processed cheese in Australia too, so I’m not sure why everyone gets all worked up about this one.  Not every piece of cheese in the US is bright orange. Just the garbage stuff.

But that in turn is an interesting point – the variety of products here is just unbelievable. Just two days ago I was in the supermarket looking for some snacks for work and found myself in the muesli (granola) bar aisle. I must have stared at the shelves for eight minutes trying to figure out which ones I wanted – there were dozens of brands, dozens of combinations within the brands from different flavors to healthy options to everything you could ever think of. Same goes for many groceries – it’s stunning. Don’t like one brand of peanut butter? There are 50 other types. Which salad dressing should I get? Who cares? It’s $2 a bottle and if I don’t like it, there’s 900 others out there to try. Beer is the same, fast food is the same, most consumables are. My choices are practically never-ending, and that blows my mind constantly.

I think for the most part – and this will be subject to a future post, too – is “grass-is-greener” stuff. I can go on all day about how damn friendly everyone around here is, and I’ve been saying for years that the majority of Americans have been extremely hospitable in their interactions with me, but I’ve also heard the same in reverse about Australians. I can’t honestly say I’ve had people back home be so friendly to me, a total stranger, as they have here, but I realize that I lived in a different, less open-minded frame of mind back home when it came to interacting with strangers.

Smaller everyday things that I’ve had to get used to: paying before I fill my car up with gas, driving on the other side of the road (obviously), paying for some things with actual paper checks instead of direct deposit, small vocabulary differences (peppers instead of capsicum, for instance), that sort of thing. Certainly nothing that’s made me go “to hell with this, I’m going back home” – but of course, I’m very accustomed to the American way of life, having been here so many times before I actually moved. I’m sure there’d be a lot of things that would blow my mind to pieces if I’d never been here before now. Even some of my readers have made remarks in their comments that made me think “surely you knew about that already, right?”

Oops, this got long. As I said above, if you’ve got any more questions, don’t hesitate to send them in!

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5 thoughts on “Ask and ye shall receive

  1. Hi Adrian,

    I’m happy to say that I was successful in gaining a green card – after all that time, it’s hard to believe it all worked out! I was wondering if you had an email address where I could directly send you a message – I hate to be a pest, but I had a few more questions regarding the whole moving-to-the-States thing, and you seem very forthcoming with answers 🙂

    I hope all is going well for you! Your blog is really great – and frequently updated, which is even better!

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