Hello again, and welcome back to this long overdue post, where I share my experiences of moving to the US on the 12 month graduate visa. So yes, it’s definitely one that’s overdue and on the cards for a while now. But to be honest, it wasn’t really until recently that I noticed the interest for such a post, with messages coming in from those at home who have recently finished up their studies and are interested in doing the same. So I figured I’d better get it finished and up here so it can actually be of some use! If you’re anything like me it can be a stressful and confusing time, deciding to jump ship and head for the US is not a decision that comes around too often. And so, from the minute the idea entered my mind, to the day I packed up, I was online searching for everything and anything I could find that was in any way relatable to the idea of moving. From visa eligibility concerns, to how I would ever manage to find an apartment, and everything in between. So now that I’m here almost a year (a whole 10 months to be precise – scary!), I think it’s fair to say I’m finally qualified enough to give you some pointers on making the move.
So for those of you that don’t know, I’m currently on the 12 Month Graduate Visa. This visa is open to Irish passport holders in their final year of college as well as recent graduates (both under/post graduate), looking to gain US experience in their field of study. When I applied for this visa back in July 2017, graduates were eligible to apply and enter the US 12 months from the date of their graduation. However, I’ve since been told these terms have changed slightly, and graduates must now enter the US and start the visa within 12 months from the date they actually finish their course (ie. your last day in class/last exam). For instance in my case, I graduated in December 2016, allowing me to apply and enter the US until December 2017. Whereas, if these new terms were in effect back then, I would have had to have applied and entered by July 2017, a year from the day I handed in my last piece of coursework, my thesis. So please keep this in mind and be sure to enquire if you’re toying with the idea, as you might not have as much time as you think.
So having done some digging and asking around, I went with the Irish International Immigration Centre (IIIC), who are primarily based in Boston, with an office in Belfast too. I had initially looked in to going with USIT as they seemed to be the wider known company offering the 12 month graduate visa program, but found them to be pretty expensive. After some asking around, I learned of the IIIC. Not only are they a lot cheaper, but super helpful too, without being too full on. The program itself cost me approx. €850. This doesn’t include the SEVIS fee (approx. €150) which is payable during your interview at the embassy. You should also factor in your insurance, which is compulsory criteria to meet your visa eligibility (approx. €300) as well as flights, which you can organise yourself. This was one of my favourite aspects of choosing the IIIC, as it allows you to shop around for insurance and flight fares, as opposed to the higher fixed rate of flights and insurance that other companies incorporate into their packages. I’ll leave both links below where you can take a nosey for yourself. Once you apply on you’re sponsor of choice, they will begin your application, schedule a call and talk you through the steps that will follow. It’s a fairly timely, but tedious process so don’t stress.
The interview is a compulsory part of the process that you must attend at the Embassy. Once you’ve been deemed an eligible applicant for the visa and submitted your required documents, your sponsor will inform you to schedule your interview appointment at your desired location. I went to the US Embassy in Dublin as it was handiest for me at the time, but there is also a US Embassy in Belfast where I attended my J1 summer interview in 2012. It might seem daunting or intimidating, but for the large part it’s fairly casual. I have heard it’s become a bit stricter, but in most cases as long as you have all the required documents you’re advised to take, can convince them you’re not crazy, and can show reason to come home once your visa expires, you should get the green light. Considering your application is successful, the Embassy will hold your passport in order to process your visa and post it back to you once it’s done. So definitely bear this in mind and allow for some wiggle room when booking your flights. It can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to get it back, and the last thing you need when you’re trying to enjoy all the obligatory send-offs is the stress of not having a passport, let alone a visa!
Let The Packing Commence
I’m a bit of a disastrous packer to be perfectly honest, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m including this section! But, I did learn a few things along the way that might be of some use to all my fellow disastrous packers! So, before I moved I done a big wardrobe clear out, getting rid of clothes I no longer wore. Once that was done, I decided on the stuff I wanted to take, dividing them into two separate pile; clothes I would be wearing immediately and clothes I would need in the coming months. So for me, I was packing a summer/autumn case and packaging a winter wardrobe, full of heavy coats, scarves and boots. An Post offer a 5-10 day shipping service at roughly €70 for a 20kg box to the US, allowing me to pack what I needed now and have the rest ready to ship over after. Some might think it’s expensive, but trust me, it’s A LOT cheaper than having to buy all that stuff here! Another piece of advice (maybe for those thinking of NYC in particular), the going out scene here is pretty casual, jeans and a nice top all the way! I made the mistake of squeezing in my entire going ‘out-out‘ wardrobe, but quickly learned that it’s just not the done thing here. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve worn a dressy dress and proper heels out over here. Weird, I know, but you get used to it. So moral of the story, if you’re struggling with a few extra kg’s, leave the stilettos behind. Also bear in mind that NYC apartments are often tiny, with limited wardrobe and storage space, so it’s probably unlikely you’ll have anywhere to keep it all anyway!
Finding a Job & Networking
Once you’ve applied and started making headways with your visa, there is nothing stopping you getting started on the job front either. Be sure to update your Linkedin, and upload your resume to Indeed and Monster and any other job portals that might be more specific to your industry, as soon as possible. It’s good to start getting an idea of the companies and industries you might be interested in working in. Don’t be shy to connect and reach out to people within these companies on Linkedin either. It’s the done thing and you have nothing to lose. However, to be perfectly honest you really can’t do all that much from the Emerald Isle until closer the time. I started applying and really trying to set up interviews about 2 weeks out from the move. Don’t get too stressed about finding work while you’re still at home, once you’re here it will all start to fall in to place.
As much as people like to steer away from networking, it really can play a major part in you getting that job you want. There are always lots of different networking events that you should try to get to when you first arrive. Not only will it help in meeting potential employers, you will also meet other graduates and young professionals in the same position as you. Just bear in mind, the visa only allows you 90 days to secure work, so be sure to get the ball rolling before they chase you up. I’ve included some Irish networking events/communities that can be useful when you first arrive –
The Apartment Hunt
The dreaded apartment hunt was probably one of the things I was dreading most before making the move, having heard just how expensive renting can be here. I’m very lucky in that I have family here who were happy to have me stay, which was so nice and definitely made the process of actually moving and settling a whole lot easier. That being said, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I wanted my own place. I took advantage and enjoyed the first few weeks in the city, soaking up the reality that I didn’t have to pack up again anytime soon, and then got stuck into the apartment hunt. Deciding on the neighbourhood/borough you want to live in is something I’d definitely give some thought to. Factors I’d keep in mind are your commute to work, being close to friends/younger demographic, and how safe you feel in that neighbourhood. After looking at some pretty dodgy places in some pretty dodgy areas, I soon learned in order for me to settle and feel at home, I needed somewhere I could feel safe.
Renting over here is very different to Ireland or anywhere else I’ve rented before. Not only are the rental prices pretty insane, anywhere from $850 per month (if you’re lucky!) to $1400+ per month for one room, but to secure an apartment you need credit. ‘Good credit’, a phrase soon to become the bain of your life. Credit is king in NYC, and a pain when you first arrive because it’s not something you have until you have an American credit card and can begin to build credit. Alternatives to this are upfront payments of 12 months rent (LOL, right?!), or a US Guarantor. Most landlords also require first and last months rent as a deposit. On top of this there are broker fees, which is the person you owe for finding you the apartment. But don’t panic, there is also subletting which most people do when they first move over. This is where you just take over someone else’s lease and pay a deposit. Apartments also come unfurnished so bear this in mind if you’re thinking of getting your own place. I’ve included some sites that might help those thinking of NYC –
Facebook pages –
Live Your Best Life!
So now that you’ve got this far and all the boring ‘adult-ing’ is out of the way, it’s just about living your best life! Thanks for reading and I hope it answers at least some of your 101 questions! I’m sure I’ve left so much out so don’t be afraid to shoot me a message if you’ve any questions.