The familiarity of a shared language, alongside the novelty and challenge of a new cultural, political and economic environment make the US a great destination for Australians looking to live and work overseas. Whatever you’re looking for from your new life abroad, you’ll find it in the US. Vibrant cities, immersive history, rural wilderness or beachfront idyl - the USA has you covered.
Use this guide to help you map out the steps to finding a new job in the US. We’ll also cover a smart way to save money when arranging your move by using the low cost international payment service from TransferWise. You may also benefit from a TransferWise multi-currency borderless account to manage your money between Australian and US dollars as you live, work and travel in America. More on that in a moment.
The US is a large and diverse country, so the life you build there will largely be dictated by the area and city you choose to live in. However, there are some aspects of life - and particularly working life - that are fairly universal, and that you’ll want to research and understand before you travel.
Working in the US is likely to mean a competitive environment, where overtime is common, and you’ll need to negotiate to get the best possible employment terms.
It’s common for American workers to get very limited vacation time - and, surprisingly, people often don’t use all of the vacation days they’re granted¹. For a newer worker, chances are you’ll only get around 10 days a year away from your desk. This is in stark contrast to the standard 4-week paid leave available for workers here in Australia. Infact, US workers’ paid vacation typically only rises to somewhere in the region of 20 days a year after 20 years service with one employer.
Make sure you’re clear on the terms of your contract before you accept a new role - and also look at the employer healthcare benefits available so you can choose how you want to protect your health while you’re in the US.
If you plan on working in the US, you’ll need the correct visa. There are a wide range of visa types, depending on the work you intend to do. In most cases you should already have a job lined up before applying, and you can get the paperwork started around 90 days before you intend to travel to the US. Getting a visa will usually involve making an appointment at the US consulate closest to your home, and providing documentation including:
- Your completed application form
- Your valid passport, and some additional photos
- Proof you’ve paid the visa application fee online already
- Evidence of your work history and qualifications
You’ll be able to find all of the information you need at the US Travel Docs website, including details of how to apply and the fees you have to pay.²
There’s no age limit if you’re applying for a work visa for the US³.
However, depending on your age and personal circumstances you may have different visa options available to you. For example, if you’re enrolled in post-secondary education at an approved institution and plan on travelling to the US to work during the summer, you might find the Summer Work Travel visa option works for you⁴. Check out all the details and the full range of visa types, online.
Australia has a long standing double taxation treaty with the US⁵. This means that you should not have to pay tax twice on income you earn while you’re working in the USA. Instead, any American tax paid is offset against your obligations at home.
In general terms, if you’re considered tax resident in America, you’ll probably need to pay taxes on your worldwide income, which may include Federal Income Tax, Social Security Taxes, and depending on where you live, State and Local Taxes.⁶ It’s a good idea to get professional advice to help you navigate a new tax system and make sure you don’t end up paying more than you need to.
You’ll have plenty of options when it comes to looking for a job in the US. Start off by looking at the broad advice provided online by the US government⁷, and then start to explore web based listings and recruitment agents such as global recruitment brand Indeed⁸. Other well known sites with a national reach include Career Builder ⁹ and Monster ¹⁰, or you can find local listings from specialist sites operating in the area you’ve chosen to live.
Getting a phone plan, setting up rental payments and accessing essential services will all be easier if you have US bank details. The largest retail banks in the US include JP Morgan Chase¹¹, Bank of America¹² and Citibank¹³ - making these a great place to start if you’re looking for a local bank account to use while you’re working in America.
Most US banks require you to provide a Social Security Number (SSN), as well as proof of your identity and residential address. This means that in practise it can be hard to open an account before you arrive in America.
If you need to make payments in the US before you’re able to get an account open - for a rental deposit for example - take a look at low cost international transfer options with TransferWise. You’ll be able to send money using the Google exchange rate and for just a small transparent fee, which can work out much cheaper than using your regular bank.
And if it’s not convenient to wait until you arrive stateside to open an account you could also consider getting a borderless account with TransferWise as an alternative to a traditional bank account. In this account you can hold over 40 currencies, and get local account details for AUD, USD, NZD, GBP and EUR to receive money in these currencies free via local payment methods. You’ll be able to send payments online, spend easily with your linked debit card, and switch your funds to a different currency at the touch of a button, using the mid-market exchange rate and for a low fee.
It’s no surprise the USA attracts so many foreigners to its shores. It’s the land of opportunity, after all. If you’re planning on living the American dream, use this guide as a starting point for your research into the US jobs market - and don’t forget to consider practical issues like managing your money while you’re overseas.
Getting a borderless account from TransferWise can be a smart and simple way to cut the costs of international transfers, and let you get settled in the US more easily once it’s time to move.
All sources accurate as of September 16 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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