September 29, 2005
Internet Librarian 2005
So it's official: I'll be attending (and speaking) at Internet Librarian 2005, and I'm betting that my co-presenter is happy about that : ) Having just started a new job and all, I wasn't sure that I would be able to make it.
If you too are heading to Monterey, you might consider blogging the conference. I'm opting out of official blogging duties this time around after finding it a wee bit overwhelming at ALA, but will likely offer some running commentary when I can. After all, there are whales to be watched and penguins to be seen! ; )
Posted by Sherri at 12:04 PM
September 23, 2005
The final installment of the Expat Files: Tips, advice and some lessons learned
Working as a Canadian librarian in the US for the last 14 months has been an incredibly rewarding experience that I won't soon forget. I learned more than I ever could have anticipated not only as a new-ish librarian, but also about living and working in a different country. I did actually experience a bit of an unanticipated cultural transition. For example, I quickly learned to halt my usage of the words 'process' and 'project' (rough Canadian translation: proo-cess and proo-ject) as well as 'about' and the letter 'zed' (I was once asked if 'zed' was a word, as the person had no idea that I was referring to the last letter of the alphabet) to avoid giggles at the desk and in general conversation. All kidding aside, though, I've said goodbye to some wonderful people *snif* and will miss the low taxes as I continue to do battle with horrendous student loans : (
But I'd by lying if I said that working south of the border wasn't also fraught with challenges and frustrations. Given our closeness to one another, I think we all have a tendency to believe that it's easy for a Canadian to live and work in the US, and vice versa. Not so. At least not in my experience. So now that I'm back in Canada, I wanted to end the Expat Files with some practical advice for Canadian librarians considering employment in the U.S. It goes without saying that these observations are based solely on my personal experiences and shouldn't be substituted for anything the least bit more authoritative (like an immigration lawyer, if you can actually afford to talk one!) Much has changed post 9/11, and what I had to go through was to some extent a consequence of that (i.e. Homeland Security).
Making the decision
Ask questions. Ask lots and lots and lots of questions. It's a very good sign if during your interview you are given some time with an 'international faculty' group or equivalent group that deals with bringing people in from other countries (I'm only familiar with academic libraries). If not, you should ask if they have had experience hiring a Canadian before. Some universities will have a long-established record of hiring internationally while others may have next to none. You need to know before you get there what kind of support you can expect from your employer as far as work visas and immigration go. Some will pay to take you through all the steps to get a green card and stay permanently while others will not, and the burden is then upon you to come up with the $10 000 USD to finance your green card application (that price is not a joke).
I've got the job, now what?
I had a about 2 months to prepare before moving to Las Vegas, and trust me, I needed it. I made arrangements for whatever utilities and services as I could and signed a lease for my apartment before getting there. This is advisable not only because it will save you the hassle of living somewhere temporarily on the other end while you look for a place to live, but you will likely need to provide copious amounts of paperwork from Canadian utility companies that prove good standing with them in order to get any kind of service in the US. For example, I had to pay a lawyer to have notarised 'Positive ID Forms" filled out just to get local phone service and fill out an apartment application. You may also have to provide "employment verification" forms completed by your employer that list your position, salary, etc (be prepared to start handing this information freely). Even with all this paperwork, you may still have to pay hefty deposits to most utility companies, and I'd suggest getting credit history letters just in case, even if you think you don't need them.
Getting across the border
Ironically, this was the easiest part of the whole process - both getting there and back again. I initially entered with a TN Visa (cheapest, fastest and most temporary visa available), and all went smoothly when I crossed the sleepy Pembina, North Dakota border crossing. This part isn't too bad if you're prepared and have all of the required documentation, degrees and application fee in US cash at the ready.
You're nobody till you have a social
You quite literally don't exist until you have a SSN card, and you can count on kissing the privacy of your Canadian identity goodbye in the absence of having one. Here's the deal: you cannot apply for a ssn card in advance, but only after you've crossed the border (i.e. you can't show up at a border crossing, get your TN visa processed and then go back to Canada and apply for a ssn before finally moving). The wait time can be long: I waited two months for mine. During that time my employer would not pay me, and I had no benefits or health insurance as long as I didn't have the ssn. So I had to be very careful crossing the street! So either prepare yourself to be very poor for some time, or go down with a stockpile o' cash. Obviously you can't wait two months or so to have your power connected, so the companies that I dealt with demanded all of my Canadian information (i.e. passport number, SIN, etc) before they would even deal with me. I know firsthand that identity theft is rampant, and there are countless companies that now have both my American and Canadian information. Canadians tend to be very guarded about giving out their SIN numbers, but in the US, I found that it was often the primary source of ID used, even if I was calling to check on my subscribed cable package! I never got got used to or comfortable with this.
Credit? What credit?
If you've never lived in the United States before, you will be starting out with no credit history whatsoever. That means no credit cards, no overdraft on your bank accounts, no car loans. It can be very difficult to build up a credit history when you're starting from scratch, so don't ditch the Canadian credit cards if you can hold on to them. Thankfully, I had a Canadian-American Express card and they simply switched it to the American version with the same credit limit. That opened the credit floodgates, and I immediately began to receive more credit card applications than I could count. However I was told by countless banks and credit companies that they can't or won't transfer a Canadian credit rating to the U.S.
What about my family/sig_other?
How your family members are handled will depend entirely on the visa, type of employment, and will vary widely depending upon individual circumstances. However, suffice it to say that this was the most difficult part of the process for me, hands down. I left a sig_other behind in Canada for over year while we tried desperately to use every means available to get him down there, which never did happen. In our case, he would have had to qualify for his own work visa independent of my employment situation. It's possible for 'dependants' to accompany you on your visa, but in this case, they are not authorized to work. It's just a little bit hard to get by on one salary, especially if it means quitting a great job in Canada just to move south and be unemployed. The only way that we could have both been there living and working legally is if I had a green card, which everyone involved advised me would take in excess of 5 years and $10 000 USD for myself, plus a few extra thousand for Steve. Again, some employers will guide you through and pay for this (notably in the private sector), but in my case, it would have been at my own expense.
Other Misc PITAs
Taxes: you will have to file two tax returns, and no matter how much it costs to have a professional do it for you, you should not try and do your taxes on your own. Especially in your first year. It's just too complicated and you may end up paying double tax on your 'worldly income,' or worse, not filling it out properly and have Revenue Canada hunting you down years later for not filing RRSP papers while in non-resident status. Like I said, just too complicated!
Driver's license: this may vary from state to state, but you will likely have to surrender your Canadian license and take the written and road tests in order to get a U.S. license. Though I think this is completely ridiculous (sheesh! it's not like we drive rickshaw carts up here!), I did learn to drive stick the day before my road test (yes, I passed : ). Of course, now I can/do/love to drive the 'family' Mustang GT convertible which, I can tell, Steve is just thrilled about (muuuuhahahahaha!)
Canadian bank accounts: if you have student loans or any other regular payments that you need to make to a Canadian company/bank/etc, you will likely need to find a way to keep your Canadian accounts open in order to continue those payments (unless you want to be mailing drafts every month). There might also be some fancy footwork involved in creating a way for you to link a Canadian account to an American counterpart (read: get nice a friendly with your bank manager). I was able to open a TD Waterhouse account (in US) that could be linked to my TD Canada Trust account (in Canada) and transfer funds electronically across the border at a great exchange rate whenever I needed to.
My intention is not to sound overly grave about all this, but it is really important to know what's involved because this is a big life decision which unfortunately is accompanied with little information (or misinformation). Certainly, there are loads of Canadians working in the US who have been there for a long time sans complication - circumstances will be different for everyone. In my case, though, it was clear that it wasn't going to work out. The most important thing to do is to plan for all eventualities and get all the information you can before accepting a job and moving, and start thinking at least 3-5 years in the future (i.e. will your work visa run out before your tenure evaluation comes up? ). And with that, I'll end this thread : )
Posted by Sherri at 12:26 PM
September 20, 2005
Wireless Broadband coming to Canada
Well well! Looks like Rogers Communications and Bell Canada are working together to build a wireless broadband network across Canada. This is big news: two Canadian telco giants will cooperate to bring Inukshuk to Canadians, a joint project that aims to become Canada�s premier provider of Broadband Wireless Access services. According to the Globe and Mail,
"the network will cover more than 40 cities as well as 50 rural and remote communities, some of which are still waiting for high-speed Internet access. There are two target audiences: underserved rural communities and people who want wireless high-speed Internet access beyond their homes."
It is expected to reach more than two-thirds of Canadians in less than three years. Woohoo! I can't wait to get my hands on a WiFi phone! This will have very exciting implications for educational outreach efforts to remote and underserved populations.
Digital Home Canada: Rogers and Bell to build Wireless Broadband Network
The Globe and Mail: Bell, Rogers team up to build wireless broadband network
Posted by Sherri at 10:18 AM
September 15, 2005
Web based IMing with Meebo
Meebo is an ajax and web-based IM client. It integrates accounts from AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ into a single buddy list. So think of it as Trillian or Adium for the web. It's still in alpha, so be aware that things may change (and hopefully improve!) over time. Kinda like eMessenger, but much better (for one thing, no advertising). Applications like Meebo are a great way for users to connect to IM services at libraries, for examples, when they are in labs or other settings that don't allow access to installed IM clients.
There is a blog if you'd like to keep up on all the latest and greatest developments. I sure will be.
Hello Web 2.0 : )
Posted by Sherri at 1:51 PM
September 14, 2005
Google Blog Search
Posted by Sherri at 3:12 PM
September 12, 2005
Feeling the heat
Okay, granted, it is nice and warm in Toronto this week, but nothing compared to these hilarious (and obviously erroneous) temperatures being reported through the Bloglines weather feed. So to my desert-dwelling friends who took pleasure in teasing me about returning to the frigid north - ha!
I'll get the sun block out, again ; )
Posted by Sherri at 1:59 PM
eBay buys Skype for $1.3 billion
It's been confirmed that eBay is buying Skype for $1.3 billion, with further payouts totalling about 4.1 billion when all is said and done. The move aims ease and strengthen contact between buyers and sellers using eBay services. So there are the obvious benefits on the ecommerce front, but I wonder what will this will bring for those who use Skype for educational and personal use. It's still unclear at this point . . .
I couldn't find announcements either at eBay or Skype, however this article provides the text of a release that supposedly appeared on the eBay site this morning.
Posted by Sherri at 12:09 PM
September 7, 2005
North of the 49th and I'm feelin' fine . . .
After a 4 day driving stint and several moving-related panic attacks, I'm back in Canada! We arrived at the border at Port Hope/Sarnia at about 1 am last Friday night. Canada Customs was busy dealing with the elderly couple who crossed ahead of us at the border. They were traveling in a camper with no plates and a loaded rifle behind the front seat and some sort of James Bond-ish pistol strapped to the husband's ankle. To, uhm, go camping in . . . Canada?! Anyway, that debacle saved us from having to unpack and repack the U-Haul for a customs officer in the wee hours of the morning. Phew.
We were driving during the hurricane coverage, and for the first time in a loooong time, were completely disconnected from the internet and the media (we loaded the iPods with books and music and didn't listen to anything else). It wasn't until we hit the Chicago area and I spotted signs for $3.69/gallon gas that we were stunned enough to pull over and ask what was going on. We had *no* idea that Katrina had hit as fiercely as it did, and consequently spent the weekend watching the news. I'm still in shock after seeing the footage . . .
I started my new job at FIS on Tuesday, and so should be back into full swing of things now that I've plugged in again.
Posted by Sherri at 10:27 PM