I’m currently sitting in a beautiful little cottage on the south coast of Barbados.
We booked it last week when organising our last minute trip to the Caribbean. At this very moment, I’m sitting at the table in the living area with my laptop in front of me and the open window allowing a warm breeze to flow through the room as I work.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, strangely enough, the reason we’re here isn’t all that pleasant.
The purpose of our spontaneous trip to Barbados is not to sip rum punch while relaxing on the beach. No, we’re here on official business.
Many of you who follow my posts on a regular basis probably know that I recently set foot in New York City with the intention of moving there for a while.
Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan. Instead, what happened was this.
The (super important) back story
Robert and I decided long ago that we’d attempt to move to USA in 2015. Working abroad is something that we’d always wanted to do, and why not do it now? It was an opportune time.
Now US working visas are not the easiest of things for foreigners to get their hands on. We’d be applying for the E3 visa; a temporary working visa specifically for Australian citizens who hold a college degree and work in an in-demand industry. Luckily for us, Robert fit the bill.
The visa required Robert to have a job lined up in the US, so back in March he began looking for someone to hire him. Job searching from Australia was a challenge in itself; time zone differences and the inability to attend interviews meant most of it was done over Skype, coordinated to catch the only overlap of working hours we could manage – 7AM our time and 5PM New York time.
A few weeks of solid job searching and interviewing later, we found a New York startup willing to take on Robert as a senior software engineer. Hip-flippin’-hooray! Now all we had to do was get the visas finalised before we departed for our trip to Latin America in 6 weeks time.
The (lengthy) visa application process
What we presumed would be a quick and fairly simple visa application process turned out to be complicated and lengthy. There are lawyers involved, money to be paid, forms to be filled out, and the government likes to take their sweet time when processing things like official documents.
4 weeks later we finally had all our documents ready and we were ready for the next step, which was to attend an interview at an embassy. Easy, you’d think, except that if we attended the interview in the Sydney embassy, the delayed visa processing time meant our passports would probably not be sent back to us before our impending departure date.
So what did we do? Faced with the option of either changing our (very expensive) flights and therefore missing a friend’s wedding, or flying to another embassy, we ended up heading to Melbourne for the interview. Even then, we were left crossing our fingers that our passports would get sent back to us in time.
They arrived just 3 days before we left.
We breathed a huge sigh of relief. The last 6 weeks had been full of stress about the job and the visa, so we were unbelievably thankful that this whole debacle could now be put behind us.
When shit hits the fan
Our 6 weeks of travel through Latin America were over before we knew it. I skipped off to Portland for the World Domination Summit, and Robert beelined straight for New York to start work at his new company…
… only to have the business run out of money right after he started. Robert was laid off, along with most of the company’s other employees.
All that effort we’d gone to, and all that money we’d spent, was now for nothing. On top of that, we were now stranded in New York with no job and not a lot of money. As you can imagine, we started to freak.
This setback was a slap in the face. It meant that if we wanted to stay in New York, we’d have to go through the entire process of looking for jobs and applying for the visa again.
A million questions ran through our heads. Should we stay in New York? Should we try Europe instead (our second choice)? Or should we cut our losses and go back home to Australia? With only limited funds to last us a few weeks, we had to make a decision stat.
In the end, we decided that we didn’t travel all the way to New York just to give up when life dropped a boulder in our path. We’d get by this obstacle, or die trying (ok I’m getting a little dramatic but you know what I mean).
So Robert immediately started the job hunt again. Thankfully, it was much easier for him to job hunt while he was in New York. It didn’t take long before he’d bagged a new job and we were ready to start the visa process a second time.
So why Barbados?
The US gave us a generous 10 days (note sarcasm) before you have to get the f*ck out of the country after losing your job on the E3 visa, so we had to leave ASAP. Reapplying for the visa also required us to leave the country as the application is done in an embassy.
So we needed to be somewhere nearby with a US embassy, preferably one with fast processing times for non-immigrant visas.
After doing some research, we settled on Barbados. The visa processing times there were minimal, the flights were reasonably cheap, and we could live there fairly inexpensively while we were waiting for the visa to process.
And that brings us to here and now. Of course we intend to make the most of the fact that we’re in Barbados by traipsing around the island on our weekends, but most of the time we’ll both be here, in the living area of our little cottage, making any money we can through freelance work to carry us through.
As nice as you think a spontaneous holiday to Barbados might be, the past few weeks have been tough. Having to go through the entire visa application process for the second time in only a few months has been a giant pain in the ass. And as we hadn’t planned to have to pay for flights, accommodation, and yet another visa fee of a few hundred dollars, our finances are taking a hit.
There’s no guarantee that our new visa will be approved, but we have high hopes. Hopefully we’ll be back in New York in only a few short weeks.
And that, my friends, is the long and somewhat inconvenient story of why I’m in Barbados. What have we learnt from this endeavor? You can be as prepared as you want, but some obstacles can never be predicted. All you can do is roll with the punches and try again.
Update: Our new visas were approved and we’re back in NYC! I’ve received a few emails with questions about the visa process, so here are some answers:
Q. How long was the wait time for an appointment at the embassy?
A. I honestly can’t remember exactly how long it was, I think it was around a week.
Q. How long was it until your passports were returned from the embassy?
A. It varies depending on how busy the consulate is – for us it took 2 or 3 business days, but we have a friend that received hers in 2, and another friend that received his the next day.
Q. Where did the passports get delivered to?
A. We had the passports sent to the DHL office (located at the airport) and we caught a taxi there to go pick them up when they came in.
Q. How did you go about booking a return flight?
A. We initially booked a one-way ticket to Barbados as we didn’t know how long the visa process would take, and then we booked our return flight once we knew when our visa appointment would be. Our friend booked a flexible return ticket for her trip, so that she could change the date if she needed to.