Comparing Sydney to Silicon Valley

I was recently asked by a reader this question..

“How do you compare Sydney to SV, in terms of  work-life balance, housing costs and traffic?”

So here goes. The following is based on my 3 years of experience working in the valley with over 8 years from Sydney. Some things may have changed in the last 3 years but I’m certain most still hold true till today. If I messed up anything let me know and I will correct it. Happy reading!

Silicon Valley, California
Silicon Valley, California - yap. It's in the valley

Work-life balance

Sydney Silicon Valley
Mainly corporate companies dominated land scape and thus a very corporate lifestyle. Wage is mainly just salary and the manager rules in the workplace. There are few exceptions like Atlassian but overall startups are rare. Like in London, most Aussies head to the pub after a 8 hr work day (especially Friday) for a drink and chat with their mates leaving weekends for the beach. Very startup orientated landscape and thus a very casual work lifestyle. Great Software Engineers are like gold and always hunted & looked after with great compensation (wage & stock options), tools (Mac) and free food. If you are at a startup it is common to be working 11 hr days 6 days a week or hanging out at a hackerspace building a new online or mobile product. Not much pubs or beach going on here unless you live in San Diego.
Australia has a “public” health system and also the option for private health. Your health is not tied to your company like in the USA. Taxation is different and higher but also wage dependent – see your tax agent for details. Most people are encouraged to buy an investment property to reduce it via the many benefits available for investors. Thus most Aussies are financially savvy. Check out my previous post on employment & contracts in the valley. It has many things to watch out for. Especially the dreaded health system being tied to your work. No job no health cover unless its via your partner’s employer. With tax you pay the federal & state taxes but it will still work out for the better by 3-5% for software engineers working here vs Australia.
Software Engineers do not exist. They call them IT or programmers whom are treated (at corporate firms) like reusable hanky. Managers & big titles rule the floor here. Good Software Engineers are what makes companies great. Always the last to go when head count is being reduced. Without good software engineers there is no business.

Conclusion: If you’re a good software engineer then you belong in silicon valley. Here’s a guide how to get to silicon valley. Otherwise Australia is better for lifestyle.

Super Happy Dev House
Super Happy Dev House - the hacking culture in Silicon Valley

Housing costs

Sydney Silicon Valley
Buy: Real estate prices in Australia are (currently) valued at more than they are worth. Median house price is around $500K. This of course fluctuates based on popular cities like Sydney & Melbourne. Check out the property update for latest data. Buy: Varies based on county & sub zip code. San Mateo is around $500K & Santa Clara around $460. Let’s take Mountain View. 3 different zip codes 3 different prices: 94040 – $950K, 94041 – $699K & 94043 – $545K. Los Altos (next door to Mountain View) is $1.5m.
Rent: The closer you are to the city the more you will pay. In Wollstonecraft (10 mins from city) average 1 bedroom will set you back around $430 per week. The newer and closer to transport the higher that figure will go up. Rent: City (San Francisco) is still expensive to live in but so is living 1 hour down into the valley (San Mateo county) where all the tech companies (and jobs) are located. In Mountain View(home of Google et al) expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $500 per week for a 1 bedroom apartment.Moutain view benefits – lifestyle
Good sites to check out on property pricing are http://www.realestate.com.au/ and http://www.domain.com.au/ Good sites to check out on property pricing are http://www.zillow.com/ and http://www.trulia.com/

Conclusion: Expect similar buy & rent prices between the 2 locations. In Sydney you will live inner city and pay the same as you would in the valley away from the city.

Sydney, Australia
Sydney, Australia - beautiful isn't it!!

Traffic

Sydney Silicon Valley
Not all roads are free. Sydney is cursed with british influence of 2 lane (each way) freeways. Most major public roads have been cut back to 1 lane forcing people to use the mostly private 110 km Sydney Orbital Network to get around. Sections of this have different owners and different prices via electronic means. Expect to pay around $20+ to do a full loop. Disaster! Traffic gets bad as LA near the city. All roads are free except the Golden Gate Bridge ($6 south bound). Freeways can span up to 6 lanes each way. Huge arteries run thru the valley like 101 & 280 – see here. Also a good chance you will run into many bad drivers. More people on the road = more bad drivers. The one pet hate I have is the lack of use of indicators. Such a common event it angers me cops aren’t doing anything about it.
People are angry & fearful to drive faster due to cash safety cameras (speed & red light cameras) all around Sydney. It’s madness. So traffic is going to be slow on roads (mentioned above) which are already crammed up. Please bring electric self driving cars to Sydney and stop this camera madness as a way to save lifes. No safety cameras anywhere except for few in San Francisco. Most motorists drive fast on the freeway averaging 80 miles/hr. I’ve seen a cop car zoom in front of a batch of cars and slow everyone down with lights blinking and moving between lanes. That’s manners!
Public transport is very good & reasonably priced in Sydney with bus lanes in most busy suburbs & throughout the city. Highly recommend using the bus if you have access to it else you will be left with City Rail. City Rail has been a disaster (delays & service cancellations) but it’s getting better. Most people drive their cars to work. The HOV is there to encourage American’s to carpool & use electric vehicles to get around even faster. During business hours even the freeways clog up but traffic still moves. More on public transport options & commuting here.

Conclusion: In Sydney use public transport. Sydney is congested due to bad & expensive road infrastructure. You will also save more money that way. If you prefer to drive than USA is the king of the road.

few more of my own additions…

Misc

Sydney Silicon Valley
During summer it is hot, sticky and humid around 40°C (104 °F). Winters are dry and cold dropping to 2°C (35.6°F). Australia is very brown. Not as green as USA. During summer it is farken amazing! Excuse the F word but this is the BEST place in the world for weather. Dry and sunny sometimes peeking at 40°C (104 °F). Winters are rainy and cold dropping to 2°C (35.6°F).
Go to USA to shop for clothes for choice & price. 2 major grocery retailers (ColesWoolworths) play a game of monopoly with consumers keeping prices high and pushing the smaller players out. Clothes & cars are half price of Australia. Competition is high here with many many retailers. Competition is healthy to bring prices down & increase consumer service. If you buy organic free range food here it is as much as in Australia for standard supermarket food.
A large island in the middle of the South Pacific with a population of 20m. Most of Australia is dry/red, population lives in isolated centers on the edges of the island with nothing in the middle but deserts and deadly animals. Flights to Sydney from USA average around 14 hrs. Few places like Great Barrier Reef exist but not the diversity you get in the USA. Massive population of 300m spread across most of USA. Opportunities galore. Urszula has met and attended events ran by gurus in her industry. All those books she read the authors are based in the USA. Same goes for travelling for holidays. Every state is different and has something to show and see. Plenty to do and explore all under few hours of flight or drive.

Have questions you want answers to? Contact me.

~ Ernest

Aussie Occupational Therapy Accreditation in the USA

Urszula Semerda (Bakonska)
Urszula Semerda (Bakonska)
The following is a guest post by Urszula Semerda (Bakonska).
About Urszula: By profession I am an Occupational Therapist (OT) currently working in the beautiful California (Silicon Valley) as a Occupational Therapist. Prior to this I spent 8 years working as a Occupational Therapy in Sydney, Australia.My skills & experience are primarily around working with children. I have achieved wonderful and rewarding results by working & helping children with physical disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders (Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Syndrome), ADHD, learning disabilities and sensory processing disorder.

Connect with me on LinkedIn here.

By the American Occupational Therapy Association executive board (1976) as: “The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and to enhance the quality of life.”

As an occupational therapist organizing a move to the US (California) from Australia (Sydney) I was confronted by a number of challenges. My Australian degree did not allow me to automatically work in the US and thus I was required to 1st become certified by the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) and then obtain a state licence to work in California. This was a time-consuming and rather pricey process which should be started immediately to speed up the accreditation.

So to all of the readers who are or have partners in similar situation here is my road to the silicon valley 🙂

7 steps to Occupational Therapy accreditation

Note: The costs mentioned in this post are what I paid in 2009. They may have changed today so please check with the appropriate institutes mentioned here.

1. Check if your Occupational Therapy (OT) school is WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) accredited.

Only graduates in OT with a Baccalaureate Degree or a Post-Baccalaureate Degree from a WFOT accredited program are eligible to apply to the Occupational Therapist Eligibility Determination (OTED) program. To check if your school is WFOT accredited visit their website at http://www.wfot.org

2. Complete the Occupational Therapist Eligibility Determination (OTED) Application.

The application process includes 8 steps. These are as follows:

  1. Determine if you are CATEGORY A or CATEGORY B applicant
  2. Category B applicants ONLY – Complete and submit a Determination of Masters Equivalence Content Evaluation Form
  3. Complete the OTED Application
  4. Take and pass English Language Proficiency Exams (Exemptions: Graduates of occupational therapy programs in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland,
    New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States.)
  5. Request transcript(s) from your OT school
  6. Request completion of the Program Director Form.
  7. Request completion of the Verification of Academic Credential Form.
  8. Request completion of the Verification of OT License, Registration, Certification, or Other form of Official Government Recognition Form, and temporary permit history

The application and detailed process can be found on the NBCOT website: http://www.nbcot.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82&Itemid=98

What you need to know:

  • Application processing time: 2-5 months
  • Investment:
    • OTED Application: $500.00 USD
    • OT Transcript: $150.00 AUD (This fee may vary depending on your University)

3. Complete Application for the OTR Certification Exam and the Authorization To Test Letter (ATT).

What you need to know:

 

4. Schedule and complete the NBCOT Certification Exam at your nearest Prometric Centre.

Note: You cannot schedule your exam untill you receive your ATT letter from NBCOT.

What you need to know:

Urszula Semerda study notes
My study notes

Urszula Semerda study notes
My study notes

Urszula Semerda study notes
My study notes

5. Apply for a Visa Credential Verification Certificate.

What you need to know:

  • Purpose: This application is required for immigration purposes.
  • Investment: $300.00 USD
  • Time: Approximately 1 month
  • Website: http://www.nbcot.org/

6. Get your State Registration. I was applying for California.

What you need to know:

  • Each Application includes a Live Scan (obtaining your finger prints). It is the equivalent of the criminal record check in Australia.
  • Investment: Approximately $150.oo USD
  • Time: Approximately 2 weeks

7. Additional Investment (costs):

  • Score Transfer – $35 USD
  • Examination Registration & Eligibility Notice – $40 USD
  • Exam Check Fee – $35 USD

That’s it! there you have it. If you have any further questions please post them below or contact me via LinkedIn here – http://www.linkedin.com/in/urszulasemerda

In Summary, the total figures to obtaining Occupational Therapy Accreditation

  • Investment: Approximately $1,710 USD
  • Time: Approximately 7 months
  • Learnings: Start early! study hard, and don’t think / believe anyone that this is a fast process.

Oh, there is an additional 8th step.

8. Connect with me on LinkedIn. The world is truly a small place and we are here to help each other get further in life.

/ Urszula


Rent: Apartment Hunting in Silicon Valley

Looking for an apartment in the valley proved to be the most fun and nerve wrecking experience (at the same time) for me thus far. It is also the time when I learnt about the major roads in the valley, purchased my 1st ever iPhone app and the ropes of renting in America. In those initial 2 months I ended up living in 4 places. 4th being the one I finally settled in for good. Here is how it all went down.

1st – Friend’s place (2 weeks)

When I arrived in the valley a friend (who at the time only knew me by name and my voice on the phone) was kind enough to offer me a place in his large house while I hunted for an apartment. This friend is also the hiring manager for the company I work at now hence how I met him during the USA planning phase of my trip back in Australia.

My wife arrived in the valley with me for 3 days in March 2009. She needed to be here to sort out legal paperwork and kick start her process of getting a labor card sorted. So we took this opportunity to hunt together for a place for me to live long-term.

We had no idea where to go or what to do. We hired a car with a GPS and set out to explore the valley. There was alot to see – everything from scrappy paper walled looking apartments to nice fresh cement apartments. Prices varied between USD 1,200 to 1,900. At that time this translated to AUD 1680 to 2660 – a lot of money to live in the burbs (40 mins away from San Francisco).

We finally found something reasonable with 2 months free rent and a 30 day change-your-mind option.

2nd – Renting at Avalon – Mountain View (45 days)

Renting at Avalon - Mountain View (45 days)
Renting at Avalon – Mountain View (45 days)

The place was 10 minutes walk from downtown Mountain View area, a place called Avalon Community. We visited this place on a Saturday. This place looked beautiful, it was quiet and my apartment was on the 2nd floor out of the 3 stories in the back away from the main street facing the back gardens. This should be good, or so I thought.

I had nothing when I moved in here. Just a sleeping bag, my suitcase full of clothes, some books and my laptop. To get to work I needed to walk for 15 minutes to VTA local train and then train it from Mountain View downtown to Middlefield Station – a 5 minute ride and $2 each way.

Upon moving in I learnt the most about these communities and houses in California:

  • Houses & apartments are made out of wood, paper and more wood. So the walls and floors are thin and noise travels easily through them. This is to make the dwelling “quake proof”. California being on the San Andreas Fault is prone to regular earthquakes inc. one that leveled San Francisco in 1906. During an earth quake the dwelling is made to move side to side and all is good for the occupants inside. If it was made of brick (like most houses in Australia) then the walls and floors would crack (and collapse) and all wouldn’t be good for the occupants inside. So without sound proofing I could hear my neighbors above me. It sounded like they were moving furniture till midnight and as if they had hoofs for feet. That taught me a lesson, no more renting in lower floors ever again, ever.
  • My unit faced that lovely backyard garden with lovely trees and a large wall. That should have been enough sign to question it. Behind those walls was the Caltrain line. So a diesel locomotive passes by every 30 minutes. Sometimes it was such a violent pass that the floor in my apartment would shake.
  • I also took the opportunity to buy my 1st ever iPhone app called WideNoise to find out what the noise levels were when the train passed by. At 11pm I registered 80db in my bedroom with my bedroom window open – that’s the sound of a vacuum cleaner next to your head for around 30 seconds. Caltrain kept going till 1am and started again at 6am. Next lesson, make sure no major transport lines are present. If in doubt spend an afternoon there – at least 2 hours.. measuring noise levels with WideNoise.
    WideNoise - iPhone Application
    WideNoise

    WideNoise - WideTag, Inc. or check out other 99 cent iPhone Apps here which can help you.

  • Most rental contracts are 1 year. Lucky for me there was a 30 day cooling period on this move in. This is still the only community I know which has this cool off period. This proved to be a life saver. However to move out I still had to give them a 30 day notice.
  • I visited this community on a Saturday. On the weekend Caltrain’s run every 1 hour and my inspection time slipped within the quiet window when no trains were running. The person showing us the property did not mention any Caltrain when I asked about noise levels. All he said was there is a highway in the distance and you hardly ever heard it. Wasn’t that a joke.

After exercising my cooling off period I had to wait 30 days before I could move out. So I spent around 45 days here in total. I don’t know how I survived with all that noise.

3rd – Renting Oakwood Corporate Apartments (30 days)

After moving out of Avalon Community I decided to move into Oakwood Corporate Apartments for 30 days while I exercised my new-found knowledge into finding the “right apartment” to live in with my wife.

Oakwood was great. It was all made out of concrete so it was super quiet and hidden away from all major roads. I finally found peace and could sleep well at night… with my window open! The apartment was fully furnished so it felt more homey and livable. It was also a 20 minute walk to work so this proved to be a big bonus since I didn’t need to catch public transport.

I had peace, I had a good location, I felt relaxed and now I had 30 days to find the right apartment to live in with my wife once she arrives in the USA. I used Google to narrow down to the following apartment finder sites:

Craigslist proved to be the true winner here. It had the most comprehensive list of apartments with pictures. Apartment Ratings being a people driven apartment rating website also helped me identify what people thought of the apartments I narrowed down to.

I searched Craigslist and used every day as an opportunity to inspect local communities to gain a perspective where I want to live. I found a few and even hanged out there for an hour or two with my trusty WideNoise iPhone decibel reader during different times of the day measuring noise levels.

The end of my stay came quick and in the last week I managed to secure an apartment.

4th – Renting at Central Park @ Whisman Station (now)

Renting at Central Park @ Whisman Station (now)
Renting at Central Park @ Whisman Station (now)

Central Park at Whisman Station was the winner. I moved into the top floor unit which was just renovated. This place rocked. It recorded 30db at night in my bedroom with the window open. 30db is crystal quiet. Like no sound at all. The complex is also made up of wood like the previous communities but is super quiet because it’s away from all the major roads, surrounded by plenty of trees and I am now on the top floor deep inside the massive complex. Best of all:

Other great things on site include:

  • Super friendly & resourceful staff,
  • Fitness center,
  • Two resort-style pools (and spa),
  • Covered parking (+ plenty of parking outside your unit),
  • Walk-in closets – the wife loves that one and
  • A very clean neighborhood!

What more could I have asked for. Click here if you want more information about this beautiful place.

The rent journey

I found out that persistence pays off and that the journey is most important here because without it I would not have been in a position to share with you what I have learnt. Of course it wasn’t easy and stressful not knowing where I will live the next month or whether I will find the right place for me and my wife to live in but in the end things worked out well.

AirBnB – find a place to stay

If you need a short-term stay there is nothing like the service AirBnB provides. My wife and I have used their service a number of times in New York & Los Angeles and loved the experience. Their online service is “wife proof” meaning that it’s so friendly and easy to use that I didn’t have to get involved when my wife used their service. Check them out by clicking here to visit Air Bed and Breakfast (AirBnB).

priceonomics on rent in 2013 – with graphs!

~ Ernest

Airbnb

E3 visa: e3 visa for australians

By far the easiest way for an Australian Citizen to work in the USA is on an E3 Visa.

The E3 visa is a United States visa for which only citizens of Australia are eligible. It was created by an Act of the United States Congress as a result of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) for Australians going to the U.S. to work temporarily in a “specialty occupation”. A specialty occupation covers anyone with a Bachelor’s degree with a body of specialized knowledge. In my case this was a Bachelors in Computer Science, MBA and the specialty knowledge I held within the company which would ultimately help the International arm of the USA firm expand.

“The E3 visa allows for the temporary entry into the United States of individuals who are to perform services in a specialty occupation for a U.S. employer. It currently applies only to nationals of Australia, their spouses and children under the age of 21.”

How the E3 Visa looks in your passport
How the E3 Visa looks in your passport

A bit about the E3

  • Takes around 1-2 months to organise.
  • Costs you a non-refundable application fee of US$131 and your employer (sponsor) around $4,000.
  • E-3 visa is renewable indefinitely (in 2 increments) as long as your employer is willing to sponsor you.
  • Spouses may work in the United States without restrictions on what is called E3D (D is for Dependent) once they have successfully filed and received a work permit (form I-765).
  • Your intention is to depart the United States upon expiration your authorized E3 stay.
  • Not a path to a Green Card.
  • You can only apply for th E3 within Australia. Not U.S. This creates some headache when wanting to switch to an E-3 offboard from a student scholarship or Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
  • You need to have a job offer from the U.S. before you can apply for the E-3 visa.

Why not H-1B (at first)

  • Takes longer to acquire.
  • Spouse cannot work and needs to be on a H4 dependent visa. Unless your spouse gets sponsored by a USA company for a H1B Visa.
  • Subject to the 65,000 annual world-wide visa limit. E-3 annual quota is 10,500 E3 visas to Australian’s only.

What your sponsor (the employer / their immigration attorney) may ask you for

  • Your & your partners history in the USA and where you stayed,
  • Prior USA visa details (Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is not counted),
  • Any prior refusals / cancellations to the USA,
  • Any immediate family that is a U.S. permanent resident or U.S. citizen,
  • Past 10 year history of travel around the world – for security purposes,
  • Countries which have issued you passports,
  • Your Bachelor’s degree for an “education evaluation”. Australian degrees are typically 3 years while USA 4 years. Uncle Bill needs values education highly, wants to see are a not cheap labor and are professional – nothing to worry about,
  • Your resume to show work history which may also be used to obtain the equivalent 4 year degree pass for Uncle Bill,
  • Military service details (if applicable).

What you need to do in Australia to organise the E3

Once your employer (your sponsor) has successfully lodged a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the US dept of Labor they advise you to organise an appointment with the US consulate. During this time while you wait for the LCA (green light), you should be doing your part to apply for the E3 visa.

Step 1: Get a head shot Photo from any Fuji shop. This will be a USA Visa photo and thus requirements are different then an Australian passport photo of 5×5cm. See here for a guide: http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/guide_3877.html

Step 2: Complete the online DS-160 application form and print the confirmation page. See here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

Step 3: Book an appointment online to your closest U.S. Consulate General. See here: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/ The wait time is around 2-4 weeks.

Step 4: Pay the application fee of US$131. This can only be done at the Australian Post, you walk in and tell them what you want to pay for. No need for any special document. They act like a holding bank for the US consulate.

Step 5: Gather additional required documents – your employer / attorney will provide these to you in the 1 bundle. These will be the documents the employer would have asked you (see above). You will need these for Step 6.

Step 6: Personally appear at the U.S. Consulate with:

  • Job offer letter,
  • DS-160 confirmation page,
  • Appointment confirmation,
  • Original Australia Post receipt confirming the payment of the Visa application fee,
  • Pre-paid self-addressed envelope (registered post) – make sure it’s those tough plastic envelopes since your passports will be coming back in this,
  • 2 passport sized photos for each required Visa
  • the bundle of documents your employer provided you.
  • and most importantly to get accepted in the interview, make sure you bring documents (evidence) which indicate you intend to return to Australia once employment ceases. This is done through documents like real estate investments, proof of a return airfare or financial ties. A statement is typically adequate. Don’t forget the intend of the E3 and your stay of 2 years.

It’s a bit of work from both sides but in the end it always pays off. Just don’t forget to communicate with your employer (sponsor) to speed up the process of organizing documents.

FAQ

    Can I apply for a Green Card on the E3?

  • There are risks. Since E3 is not a dual intent like the H visa’s, i.e. the intention to be here temporarily or to file for a green card. The way around this is to consular process for your green card. As a practical matter, when you have filed the second step of the green card process, you must disclose that on any immigration petition. An officer could decide not to renew the E3 even if you are going to consular process.

    What other safer ways can I apply for a Green Card?

  • Ask your employer nicely if they can sponsor you on a H1B. You at maximum 5 months before the E3 expires. This is going to cost them a lot more than the E-3 but is definitely worth it if you and they value each others business.

    What is the process of renewing the E-3

  • Start this process with your employer 5 months before your visa expires. You WILL have to leave USA to do this. You can either go back to Australia for a holiday or to Canada and apply at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate which processes non-immigrant petition-based visas. Read this PDF on more detail about extending your E3 visa: http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/E3_010606PR.pdf

    How long can I stay in the U.S. after I finish my job?

  • You can stay 10 days after you finish your job. This is NOT enough time to transfer your visa to a new employer (unless you started earlier) or apply for a different type of visa. You and your spouse (if under E3D) will be forced to leave the country. This is why you should carefully think about your intent in the USA before committing to anything long-term financially (house) or personally (starting a family).

Finally

Not many employers know what a E3, only H1B visa. If your company sponsored you then they know but if your spouse needs to find work on a E3D,  make sure you can educate them on the whole E3 visa, how it works and it’s similarity to the H1B visa.

If you are interested in the journey my wife had with getting the paperwork and job organized under a E3D visa as an Occupational Therapist then click here to read her story.

Online Resources

E3 Visa Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-3_visa

U.S. Consulate Genera in Australia: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/

Visa Passport requirements: http://travel.state.gov/visa/guide/guide_3877.html

Consulate General of the United States – E3 Visa: http://sydney.usconsulate.gov/consular/visas/niv/e3.html
GROWUSA – International Recruitment agency that specialises in the placement of Australians and New Zealanders to work and live in the USA.
http://www.growusa.com.au/

More Startups. More Jobs. – Support Innovation & Job Creation in America: http://startupvisa.com/

~ Ernest

Stuff to do before you leave Australia for Silicon Valley

To guarantee a safe and relaxed atmosphere while abroad, here is a bunch of things you should sort out before leaving Australia. This list is based on stuff I had to do. Note, the following is only after you have decided that you are going to become a non-resident for Australian taxation purposes. This you become automatically if you consider yourself “living” overseas and are not going on a limited short term contract or transitory fly in.

For me, I am a non-resident for Australian taxation purposes.

Note: The following is NOT advise. It is what I did and I'm sharing
this with you. I highly recomment you seek expert advise from a
financial / tax specialist like http://smats.net who I use to take care
of all financial needs. Yes I searched long and hard to find these
guys since most financial / tax specialists I spoke to in America
were unsure how to best manage my international investments in
light of also being a full time tax resident in America.

Stuff to do before you leave Australia

  • Notify your banks and inform them that you are leaving Australia and thus are a non-resident for tax purposes. This will allow your banks to automatically deduct 10% from your interest when it is credited to your account.
  • I left my Superannuation where it is. You now have the right to pull it out should you be in a financial hardship but it’s safer to leave it there in case you return. Also it’s not worth making any superannuation contributions whilst you are abroad since no tax deducation is available to make this a worthwhile excercise.
  • If you have a family home in Australia it is best to rent it out. I did. However it becomes a taxable income in Australia and must be reported to the ATO. However all costs related to the ownership are claimable and offset any tax. Basically your family home becomes an investment property and you will start accumulating tax credits should you return back to Australia. Tax credits can be used later to offset your taxable income once you start working in Australia potentially providing years of tax free income. Of course pending on the amount of investment property you have to do this.
  • If you have property investments and are they receiving an income you will need to file an Australian Tax return every year. Find a good accountant who you can relay on to look after your investments in Australia and have the ability to communicate via email with them. You want to make sure your assets are well protected and you have a team of specialists who will look after your best interest.
  • HECS (if you still own it) will continue to be due should your taxable income in Australia be over the $36K mark. Else there is no requirement to repay the loan unless you wish to make voluntary payment. I’m lucky to have repaid mine a few years back. Before you leave, try to repay it if you can so you don’t have this cloud over your head while abroad.
  • Your Australian credit cards are worth keeping. If you have credit cards with annual payment just keep them running. There is nothing more damaging then to shut down your credit card and have your credit history erased. Also should you visit Australia (and you will) you will want to use one of those credit cards to make payments. Just make sure you have repaid your credit card dept before leaving Australia.
  • Finally, nominate someone you can trust to be your mail handler. You will still receive mail and will want to make sure that this person you trust can either scan the mail and email it to you. You can also check out http://www.earthclassmail.com/ which scan your postal mail and emails it to you automatically for a very reasonable fee.

Now your set to go and explore the new land of opportunity.

Ernest

The Road to Silicon Valley Begins

During one lazy Sunday afternoon I decided to make a change in our life. It had to be a large change. Enough to shake the foundation beneath us. Something which could give us amazing experiences and a wealth of education as we journeyed through it. And so it began.

The day it happened
The day it happened

I created an opportunity of a lifetime to leave the comfort of my home country, Sydney (Australia) and head out to Silicon Valley, California.

Sydney, Australia - ernestsemerda.com
Sydney, Australia - Photo by: ernestsemerda.com

Silicon Valley is the region is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, HP, Intel, Cisco, eBay, Adobe, Agilent, Oracle, Yahoo, Netflix, and EA… and soon to be also my new home. More here if you want to read about Silicon Valley.

I do not have a set time-frame for how long I intend to stay in the USA. My main goal is to have the time of my life, an experience like no other. Only time will tell whether I return to Sydney or build on a new exciting life in a country where no Semerda has ever ventured before!

Why Silicon Valley?

So a few years back in Sydney (Australia) while doing my undergraduate Computer Science degree I always dreamed of working in Silicon Valley (California). Silicon Valley was seen as the Makkah in the world of science & technology. The place to be if you are into computers. Place where dreams are made. I wanted to experience this. Experience working in a leading edge tech company. Experience the culture, lifestyle, people and everything else it has to offer.

Global business in America is on a far greater scale than in Australia. I know that the knowledge gained will be invaluable to Australian employers should I return, earning power will be more aboard than in Australia, new friendships I make abroad will last and grow into business opportunities and the possibility of new trade of goods or services are endless if I keep my ears open to the sound of opportunity.

There is no other place like Silicon Valley anywhere in the world. Silicon Valley here I come!

Farewell dinner with friends

Before leaving Sydney, my wife & brother organized a farewell dinner for me with my close friends. Times like this make you realize who your true friends are. Those that care, want to spend the last few hours with you and send their best wishes before I venture into an unknown land with just a suitcase and a job. It gets harder because my wife of 4 years, unfortunately wont be joining me until we sort out her documents to work in California. So I will be alone, initially, in a country thousands of kilometers away starting a new life for the next few years.

Anyway, back to the dinner. It was a fun time! We ate plenty of good food, drank a lot of red vino (my favorite Bogan Shiraz) and partied till late in the back terrace of the restaurant.

Here’s a few snaps we took at our last supper:

Left: Urszula Semerda (my wife), Zane Hussein, Artur Semerda (my bro), Pembe & Shev Fahri (Liverpoolexhaust.com.au)
Left: Urszula Semerda (my wife), Zane Hussein, Artur Semerda (my bro), Pembe & Shev Fahri (liverpoolexhaust.com.au)
Left: Steve Ong (CEO of ING Malaysia), Ramsin Jajoo, Ernest Semerda (me) & Gerry Gerasimos Kolaitis (Autostyle.com.au)
Left: Steve Ong (CEO of ING Malaysia), Ramsin Jajoo, Ernest Semerda (me) & Gerry Gerasimos Kolaitis (autostyle.com.au)

My brother put together this (below) awesome last supper invite. Soooo nice of him to do that. How the heck did he get those old pics of me lol… definitely made my day. Thanks bro!

Invite to close friends for my last Supper in Sydney

The restaurant we had my last supper at was Elio at Leichhardt (Sydney). Beautifully presented mouth-watering meals! If you want to go there speak to Tommy who runs the restaurant. He is a good friend and will look after you. Elio is online here: http://www.elio.com.au/

Ok, Bon voyage! wish me luck!!

Ernest