THE AMERICAN DREAM? NOT EVERYTHING IS ROSY IN RELOCATION
By Arona Maskil, an Inter-cultural expert specializing in Relocation and Cultural Intelligence (CQ) training for individuals and organizations.
The dream of relocation is possible and can be successful, but there are various pitfalls you should know about and avoid.
It is getting harder to obtain visas, spouses are struggling to find work and the cultural differences often require a difficult adjustment. The dream of relocation is possible and can be successful, but there are various pitfalls you should know about and avoid. Here are some things you should do so that the dream does not become a nightmare.
You have dreamed of living abroad for a while. Breathing a different kind of air, improving your kids’ language skills and perhaps even slightly upgrading your socioeconomic status. When it comes to working overseas, the number one destination is, of course, the United States, which accounts for 35% of the world’s relocations. However, not everything is rosy on the way to realizing this dream, and there are a few stages that you have to go through.
For employees leaving for relocation, obtaining an L1A, L1B, E2 or E1 visa is the best option, as these provide accompanying spouses with work permits. However, getting these visas is not simple, because they are granted mainly to people who will occupy senior management positions in companies operating in the US market.
Why are spouses a deciding factor in relocation? According to Atlas World Group, the employment opportunities of the accompanying spouses affect the success of the relocation, with 27% of the relocations failing due to the lack of adjustment of the accompanying partners, and 31% failing or being refused due to lack of assistance in finding work for the spouses.
Therefore, not only do the accompanying spouses wish to be integrated into the work environment, it is sometimes a vital economic factor. However, they quickly discover that integration into the US employment market involves many challenges, the first of which is getting a work visa and a work permit.
The most common visa for foreigners arriving in the US for work-related relocation is H1B, and the accompanying spouse receives the H4 visa, which does not qualify the holder for a work permit. The exception to the rule is limited only to cases where the spouse has begun a permanent residency process. In addition, the H4 visa quota is limited.
According to data published by the National Visa Center (NVC), the global H4 visa quota for 2017 was only 140,000, and in 2016 only 23,814 H4 employment visas were issued. Moreover, the situation is still worsening – according to various reports in the US, the Trump administration plans to stop granting H4 work permits even in exceptional cases.
In case you are planning to look for work without a visa and receive a “sponsorship” from your future employer, meaning that your employer will arrange for you to get a work visa, you will soon find that American companies are in no rush to hire employees without work permits.
Companies disqualify candidates at the phone interview stage, as well as in the most advanced stages of the hiring process. Even if you are perfectly suited for the position, the preference is for an American employee or an applicant already possessing a work permit.
Nevertheless, if you still decide that you are not giving up on finding a job, and embark on that path equipped with genuine Israeli prowess, the most significant step for you is to internalize quickly the American culture and understand the process of job searches and interviews.
The first thing you have to do is adjust your CV to the American style. While in Israel the resume is based on abilities, in the US it is based on personal achievement. You should refer to the “I” and not the “we” of teamwork. This is not the place to be modest. It’s important to emphasize workplaces with names familiar to Americans, and also mention volunteer work you’ve done.
You must attach a cover letter to your CV, highlighting your strengths, your interests in the job, and the reasons you are suitable for the position for which you are applying. The letter should be customized for the company and for the position. At the same time, improve your LinkedIn profile and adapt it to American style and culture.
Networking opens doors: manage you networking from the very beginning, from the moment of your arrival in the US until you find a job. You can connect with Israeli and Jewish communities, go to meetings, and join social networks and Toastmasters International. This will help you improve your English and provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the local culture.
Volunteer: Americans place great value on volunteering; it will allow you to deepen your familiarity with the American corporate culture and attach an “American recommendation” to your resume. Plan your volunteer work in advance. Volunteering in any field will help. Of course, it’s important to add the volunteer work to your CV along with a recommendation letter.
In addition, look for work in Israeli companies: get in touch with manpower agencies and consider getting a lower-level job just to get into the company, and then start advancing.
There is no “everyone knows everyone” in the US.
You have crossed the first hurdle and have been invited to a job interview – prepare for a formal and structured process. Even at this stage it is imperative to master the English language and adhere to American culture and rules.
The job interview process in the US and Israel is similar at various stages, such as conducting a preliminary phone interview, invitation to a number of personal interviews, and progressing through candidate stages and hiring. However, unlike in Israel, in the US this process is formal and structured, and attention must be paid to details.
At the end of each stage you should send a thank-you letter to the interviewers, repeating your strengths, emphasizing what interests you have in the position and how well you fit the organizational culture and the position. You should do so even after the first interview that is sometimes conducted over the phone.
You have been invited to an interview – excellent! Now note the level of formality required in the dress code. It depends on the industry, the position, and the area where you are interviewed. Remember, your interview begins from the moment you enter the door. Everything you do is examined and weighed. Unlike in Israel, where “everyone knows everyone,” whether from school, the army, or some other group, and a personal connection is established with the interviewer, in the US you do not have this connection.
Therefore, it is very important that you connect your interviewers with your resume by introducing brand-name organizations that are familiar to the US market. It is also very important to get ready for the interviews, to know as much as possible about the job you want and the company you are applying to, as well as to know how to adapt your experience to them.
At the end of the interview (whether face-to-face, phone or Skype), the interviewer asks whether you have any questions. If you think that this is where your interview ends, because you got all the information – you’re wrong.
At this point, your part of the interview begins. The interviewer expects you to ask questions. Prepare a few intelligent questions about the organization and the position. The purpose of these questions is to show that you have done research, and that you are serious and committed.
Despite all the challenges, your goal is to succeed and you have the opportunity to do so. Even if the process is complex, different and sometimes tedious, you can learn about American culture, play by the rules of the game, win and live the American Dream.
The author is a cross-cultural consultant and a leading expert on US, Israeli and global business culture. She facilitates workshops and lectures on cross-cultural understanding of working and living cross-border. She has spearheaded in Israel a “Cultural Intelligence” training model whereby she provides strategically focused training for individuals and organizations to successfully navigate their global business interactions.