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Our experience of living in California: a business in an American village on an E2 visa

Oleg Skuibida worked all his life in the field of telecommunications, from time to time developing programs: together with the development of the industry he moved from one technology to another. He started programming in 80, he found BK-0010 and BESM-6, and this became his lifelong passion. About how he decided to go to America, how he left and what he saw, Oleg told in his blog on the portal Dou.ua.

Photos from the personal archive for dou.ua

At the end of my career in Ukraine, I was one of the leaders of an Internet provider company. Doing business in Ukraine is, unfortunately, only stressful, - it has a negative effect on health. In 2015, my wife and I decided that we want to live by the warm sea. My daughter just finished school and entered the university, so you could find yourself a place to retire somewhere by the sea. One of the prerequisites for us was the opportunity to start our own business.

Once we were surprised to find out that in the homeland of the Internet, its price in dollars outside of large cities often exceeds the price in hryvnias in Ukraine, and satellite and mobile Internet has limits on the amount of traffic. In order to clarify the situation, they took a tourist visa and in February 2015 passed through the USA. Since the goal was to settle closer to the sea, they chose California. We also had a comrade in San Francisco, who really helped us on arrival and introduced me to the Ukrainian community.

See America by car

The best way to see America is by car. Renting a car in the USA is simple and fairly cheap. I advise you to look for a car via the Internet. We rented a car for a week for $ 200. Not far from each airport there are many different rental services where you can choose a car for every taste. After visiting the stand at the box office, you are taken to a platform where groups of cars of different classes stand and you can choose the one you like. Refund also does not cause problems, do not pay attention to scratches, so do not worry much about it.

The roads in the USA are in excellent condition, and driving along them at a speed of 70 miles per hour is perceived as standing still.

There is a danger in this, since speeding is quickly fixed and punishable by a fine of $ 300-800, depending on location and speeding. We have repeatedly witnessed the guys rushing past us, and after a few miles we saw them on the sidelines in the company of the police. Police, by the way, are not visible on the road. We didn’t have to meet her on the way for all the time in the USA.

The peculiarities of driving in the USA include the presence of toll lanes and road traffic, as well as the difficulty in finding parking places in large cities. Outside mega-cities driving is a pleasure. There is still a nuance of travel intersections with signs "Stop" from all sides. The first to pass is the one who first stopped at such an intersection, and not the one who first arrived. At first it was difficult to understand the difference in this rule. Another important point - refueling cars. Often, European bank cards do not accept ATMs in columns. In this case, you can visit the store at a gas station, where any cards are accepted.

Opening a business

Having traveled around the USA, we were convinced that there you could open your telecom services business. They chose the region with the worst Internet - the neighborhood of the small town of Fresno in the heart of California.

We opened a new company in the USA for $ 1000. Used the services of BizFiling. Anyone can open a company - there are no restrictions. All you need is a passport scan. The procedure took two months, and in the fall of 2015 of the year, on our arrival, we received the documents by mail.

We arrived on a tourist visa. A visa officer, when crossing the border on a tourist visa, usually sets the length of stay in the US for 3 or 6 months, but not more than 6 for months. We asked, and we put 6. Upon arrival, the local authorities visited, where they showed documents on the company and filled out a form for starting a business. After that, we received a referral for publishing information about the opening of the company in the local press. Went to the editor and ordered the publication. After publication, we visited the department again and showed a newspaper with information about us. That's all.

California state taxes are $ 800 per year for incomes up to $ 200 thousand per year, federal taxes are a more complicated story.

The scale of the federal tax is progressive, that is, you do not pay anything from the first 9 thousand, you pay 20% from the next $ 15 thousand, etc. A part of the income is not taxed if the costs for certain needs have been made. In general, this is not very simple, but any accountant prepares all reports for $ 700- $ 1500, and this should be done once a year.

Upon arrival, we agreed with the owner of the radio tower and the local authorities to start work. In the US, there are many frequency bands for which no permits are required. In general, to get started, we only needed permission from the mayor's office to install equipment on the radio tower and permission to conduct business. I suspect that we could not get permission to install the equipment, but, according to Ukrainian habit, we really wanted to have more documents. The permit cost $ 140, and the business license is $ 70. Now we pay $ 70 every year for renewing the license. The cost of the license depends on the place of business and, possibly, its type. The highest cost in our town is $ 350 per year. Most of all we were worried, waiting for some checks on business, as in Ukraine, but this was not possible to try.

After the equipment on the radio tower was installed and connected to the Internet, they ordered and sent advertising by mail, and began to connect subscribers to wireless Internet.

About advertising should be told separately. Americans are afraid of people who sell. If you are tired of someone and you want to part with them politely, then say that you are selling something and start talking about your product - the person will disappear right away. For us, the most effective were two options for advertising: mailing booklets and word of mouth. There is a special section on the website of the post where you can select a specific area for advertising distribution and immediately see how many homes in the area and how much mailing will cost. Then you give flyers to the mail, and they deliver them for a couple of days. The second option is word of mouth, that is, our clients advise us to their friends. Naturally, this requires maintaining friendly relations with customers.

Business is working fine. A couple of times a month we go to our clients in case of problems, and there are no particular troubles. You can still do other things: now I am doing two projects with local partners - on virtual reality and on the video surveillance system.

In January 2016, we connected the first ten subscribers. After the expiration of their stay on a tourist visa, they returned to Ukraine to file for an E2 visa.

Registration of the visa E2

Getting advice in any government agency is a very difficult task, as you are immediately told that you must contact a lawyer. It is impossible to squeeze information about what needs to be entered in one form or another. It is good that with the advent of the Internet almost everything you need can be found there. The cost of lawyers in the US for helping to fill out any form on the 1-2 page costs at least $ 1-2 thousand. Assistance in preparing documents for an E2 visa will cost $ 5-10 thousand.

In the end, after talking with several lawyers, it seemed to us that it was easier to do everything ourselves. Read the requirements for the documents for the visa, looked at the information on the forums, prepared and submitted the documents independently. We were assigned an interview at the embassy, ​​which we, after a month of waiting, successfully passed and immediately received a notification of a positive decision of our case. The visa was ready within 1 week.

Supgura is testing the Internet. Photos from the personal archive for dou.ua

Life in California

In the US, it is very important to navigate the location of bad and good settlements or areas. By the way, when looking for a job you should know that employers pay attention to this too. When you give your address, Americans think that you declare about your ambitions and worldview. We live between two towns on the 20 thousand population, located at a distance of kilometers 10 from each other. In one of them, some kind of criminal event happens every week, and in the other something similar was 20 years ago.

We rented a lovely two bedroom house with an orange garden. It turned out far from the ocean, but cheap. Worth $ 750 per month and a communal average $ 50 on average. Now, by the way, the season is the sweetest oranges at this particular time.

In the US, unusual rules for renting a house. You can rent only apartments, but in order to rent a house, you need your rental history of real estate in the United States. We had to ask the owner of the tower to act as our guarantor, and only on such conditions were we allowed to rent a house. The lease is a very important document. During visits to the bank or DMV (local traffic police), you must show it, so it makes sense to make a copy. The house is rented with a fridge and a washing machine, but without beds and furniture. At first we were rescued by the fact that for any store you can buy an inflatable bed for $ 80-100, which is not much different from the real one.

In California, surprised features of the connection to mobile communications. A prepaid package worth $ 40-50 per month can be purchased at any store, but to get started, you need to call the operator, and he will issue a mobile number and a pin code. Mobile coverage of operators is not perfect. It turned out that in our area the coverage of our operator is insufficient, we had to visit the office of the second operator and connect to it with the same number. This can be done without any problems.

It is easy to buy a car and register it. There are places where cars are on the street with special standard signs under the glass. Choosing a car, call the owner and make an appointment. When he arrives, you check the car and, if you are ready to take it, you pay him, and he gives you a piece of paper for the DMV. With this piece of paper you have to visit any DMV department, fill out a form, pay the fee, and send you the documents to the car via mail in 10 days. In California, car insurance is required. Done via the website is quick and easy, although it costs from $ 800 per year. We use Geico, it seems like the most adequate insurance company.

Getting rights in California costs $ 33 and takes a week. To do this, you need to sign up for an exam at the DMV, come and take a written test, you can in Russian. After that, you can take a driving test. For those who pass on the rights in the USA for the first time, this is a must. Requirements for driving style are different from the Ukrainian. Here you need to turn your head while riding, a cursory glance in the mirror is not enough. This knowledge cost me $ 17 for a retake.

Another adventure was with opening a bank account for business. A person without a banking history and social security number cannot do this in a small bank.

At first, for some reason, we decided that it would be easier to serve a local small bank, but all local banks refused, because we had no history. As a result, we opened an account with Bank of America. By the way, everywhere, when opening an account, they asked to show the lease agreement for the house.

Lack of communication

Domestic problems in the United States are so simply solved that there is no point in discussing them, as is customary in our country. One of the major discomforts of living in the United States is the lack of communication. You can talk with local people about the prices of goods, visits to events, travel, work or a hobby (usually sports and TV), but because of the different cultural context, communication is superficial, there is no complete understanding. Trump's election added a bit of familiar politics to Ukraine, but not for long.

Political life in the United States is more tied to local events and depends on local authorities. With that the authorities even at the level of the settlement on 10 houses. All questions, ranging from how to paint the facades, use water and scavenge, and ending with the presence of a police station and a fire brigade, are decided by the local community.

In general, life outside megacities is built around religious communities, of which there is a great variety and diversity.

Perhaps it is worth noting that one of the easiest ways to join the village life and find support is to start attending some church. We, however, as non-religious people, at first it seemed out of place, but if we take it as an element of leisure and establishing closer contacts with local people, then probably this option is worth trying.

In general, it is very important to choose the right place for living and spending leisure time, and also to form a comfortable social circle.

The visits of compatriots allow us to fill in a little communication vacuum. But, unfortunately, even taking into account the fact that plane tickets are cheap, those who are familiar with the visits are not often. For example, tickets from Stockholm to San Francisco and back can be purchased for $ 350.

It's funny that after the news about the fires or earthquakes in California, the acquaintances remember us and start to worry. California, although inferior to the area of ​​Ukraine, is insignificant, and fires do not spread to such large areas, especially in populated areas. In our area, we have not seen a fire even once. As for earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude up to 4 points are very difficult to notice, so maybe they are, but we did not notice them.

Conclusions

From our own experience and conversations with those who also moved here, we found that somewhere after 1,5 - 2 years in the country you feel that you have adapted and can draw some conclusions.

Positive moments:

  • Е2 visa is a simple and relatively cheap way to get experience not just living, but living in the USA, that is, with problems, contacts with local residents and government agencies.
  • Life in California is safe and comfortable, the roads are good, the prices of goods are quite low.
  • Standard questions - buy a car, get rights, send children to school - are solved without difficulties.
  • Doing business in the USA is easy. Regulation at the very minimum. Any licenses and permits, even if necessary, are easy to obtain. Reporting is submitted once a year. In any case, you can hire an accountant who, for $ 700-1500, will fill out and submit reports. Taxes are also paid once a year. And although their calculation looks difficult, in fact, everything is quite simple and the amount of income up to $ 300 thousand per year - very little.
  • The local population is very welcoming and simple. Maybe it's because California or because it is a village, but for us it was a pleasure.
  • The climate is much better than in Ukraine. In March we have + 22-24 ° C during the day, at night the temperature is about + 8-10 ° C.
  • On the Е2 visa, both applicants receive a social security number (an opportunity to get a credit card and a credit rating), and the spouse of the main applicant, if desired, may receive a work permit that is not limited to the established company.
  • Having a business makes it easier to adapt, as constant involvement in the business expands the circle of acquaintances and leaves no time for depression and longing for the Motherland.

Negative moments:

  • The main drawback for us is that the ocean in California is cold throughout the year everywhere except in San Diego. But there is quite expensive, and the border with Mexico brings a lot of trouble.
  • The time difference in 10 hours leaves only a few hours in the morning for contacts with relatives and acquaintances.
  • Two cold months are December and January. Although the temperature is around + 20 ° C during the day, there are frosts at night, and because of this, a lot of people have colds and flu. In July and August, daytime temperatures exceed + 40 ° C, which is also uncomfortable. The climate on the coast is very different. For example, in San Francisco, it's almost cool all year round - around + 20 ° C, it's windy, and the ocean is cold again.
  • Medicine is expensive and medicines are hard to reach. We brought medicines from Ukraine, and did not use the services of local doctors. They also did not buy medical insurance, as they considered it cheaper to fly to Ukraine, if necessary.
  • Food and convenience foods tasteless.

In general, it was very useful and interesting. This experience made it possible to look at life in the United States from the inside at the expense of income received in the United States, but it did not solve our task of living by the warm sea. So next year we plan to move to Mexico (though they are afraid of mosquitoes) or to Hawaii. Hawaii has already checked, now we are going to go to Mexico to see.

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