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You’re either seriously thinking of moving to the US from Australia, or you’re well on your way to planning your trip. It’s human nature to ring in the New Year with big ideas, big plans and big expectations. And what’s more exciting and daunting than moving to another country? Becoming President probably. But what are the odds of that happening to you? I mean, really…
I am officially 17 months into my expat adventure, and have learned A LOT along the way, so here’s a list of things to think about before you make the move.

1. VISA

That piece of paper Clag-glued to your passport means everything. There are a bunch of different US visas open to Australians. My experiences are with an E3 visa, which is for Aussies who have been hired in the US to work in a specialty occupation.

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Find more info about the separate visas available at USTravelDocs or get a quick guide below:
  • E3: Australian nationals and their spouses can work in the US under this visa. Every year 10,500 E3 visas are reserved for Aussies. You need to be sponsored by a US employer to apply for this visa. It expires after two years. However you can apply to renew your E3 visa. Read about my experiences lodging renewal paperwork and having the interview in Ottawa, Canada.
  • E3-D: For the spouses of Australian nationals who have been sponsored by a US employer to work in the country. The spouse does not need to have a job lined up before leaving.
  • H-1B: Much like the E3 visa, you will need to already have work lined up with a US business and hold a bachelor’s degree in a specialty field. It will allow you to live and work in the country for up to six years and 85,000 are issued each year.
  • L-1: If you’re lucky enough to work with an international company that wants to transfer you to its US branch, this is the visa for you! But you have to be at a managerial or executive level and have been employed in the Australian branch of the company for a year.
  • Green Card: Join the lottery like everyone else. You could be one of the lucky 55,000 from around the world to nab a permanent resident visa. Applications are accepted for a month between October and November.

The whole process takes a while so get amongst it early.

2. WORK

Most of the visas mentioned above require you to have a job to go to in the US. But how do you do that while you’re still in Australia? It seems difficult but it’s easier than you might think.
Join Aussie Expat Facebook groups or other communities, such as the fantastic Australians in San Francisco Facebook Group – they are an invaluable source of information and contacts when it comes to working out which companies like hiring Aussies and what jobs are out at the moment.
I highly recommend signing up to G’day SF. a weekly newsletter that lists job opportunities in San Francisco, businesses in the city that were started by Australians and companies that like to hire people from the Great Southern Land.
In case you were wondering, there are a few drawbacks to working in the US:

3. PLACE TO LIVE

It all depends on w here you’re moving and what the housing and rental markets are like there. I’m in San Francisco, which means a nightmare of Sydney-like proportions on the home-hunting front. I’ve written about this topic a few different times and that’s because it’s tough here. There isn’t enough housing for the amount of people who want to live here, which pushes prices up sky-high. My first tip is to check the neighbourhood you’re thinking of moving to, and you can do that by visiting the Australians in San Francisco Bay Area Housing page.
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If you’re Australian, you don’t have a credit history, which can count as a mark against you, especially when you’re going up against a bunch of other applicants with good histories. Here are a few tips to help the hunt:
  • Offer to pay a couple of months rent in advance, this sometimes sways the agent or landlord.
  • Bring over some rental references from previous landlords.
  • Show proof that you aren’t strapped for cash and can afford the apartment or house, ie bank statements from Australia.
  • Your work offer letter, with your salary, will help prove you won’t skip out on unpaid rent.
  • Be prepared to live in a small space with a few other people in the beginning.

4. MOVING YOUR STUFF

You’ve done all of the tough thinking, now it’s time to pack your stuff and GTFO. But how can you possibly chose what to take with you and what to leave? All of the furniture and appliances are easy to get either through expat social media groups (there’s always someone moving home and hoping to offload a house-full of stuff).

I compared the baggage policies of airlines flying from Australia to the US, to find one that would let me bring the most stuff with me. At the time, Virgin allowed you to have two checked bags weighing 20kg each. Bonza.

Anything left over can be boxed up and left with a nice relative who will ship it to you once you have an address. One of the cheapest options out there is Seven Seas Shipping, just remember that you get what you pay for. They will ship your belongings, on a ship, which means it’s going to take a few months and may be a little damp when it gets to you. I just sealed everything in a garbage bag inside the box. Done!

5. SETTLING IN

If you’re already here you might be going through that “what have I done?” feeling that plagues some of us when we make a big decision and shift well out of our comfort zone. Those butterflies will go away. I promise.
You want a week or so in the country before you start working to get acclimatised. Go exploring, meet up with some fellow expats, see the sights that you’ve been waiting for. Be a tourist! It’s what you’re here for, right?

6. BUYING A CAR

Do you need a car to get around? Once you’ve found somewhere to live you’ll work out pretty quickly whether public transport is a viable option for you. Unless you have the spare cash for a car lying around, you’re going to run into a bit of trouble.
A lack of credit history in the US will work against you so bring whatever documents you can to help out with getting finance. This includes previous loans you’ve paid off in Australia, proof of assets, try taking out a personal loan at your American bank, instead of a car loan. They can sometimes be easier to get, especially if they’re for small amounts.
Think about leasing a vehicle for the duration of your stay – that can sometimes be easier if you don’t have a credit history. Or, if you can get by without a car for a while, get a small personal loan from your bank and work off the debt (don’t get in over your head and miss any payments!) to start building your credit history.