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The long and somewhat inconvenient story of why I’m in Barbados

The story of why I'm in Barbados

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.

Staten Island Ferry

Exploring New York City only a few days ago

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.

Southern Cross Station

Exploring Melbourne while getting our visas in May

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.

Manhattan skyline

Our NYC dreams were crushed in an instant

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.

Barbados

Our chosen destination for visa processing, Barbados

so why barbados?

The US gives you a generous 10 days (note sarcasm) before you have to get the f*ck out of the country after your job falls through 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 and Etsy to carry us through.

Barbados

The porch of our cottage in Barbados, home for the next 2-3 weeks

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, and 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.


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

53 Responses to “The long and somewhat inconvenient story of why I’m in Barbados”

  1. Erica

    Wow! I hope things work out for you in NYC soon, so all the stressful times will be worth it in the end.

    Reply
  2. Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    Oh my gosh, that is an incredibly intense story! I can’t imagine how stressful this must have been for both of you, but how incredibly fortunate that you can hunker down in Barbados while you wait for the visas to clear!

    Tessa at Bramble & Thorn

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s certainly been a test to our resolve! Lucky we’re both pretty tough, and after this I don’t think anything could shoot us down 😛

      Reply
  3. Jem

    Totally understand the feeling. I too attempted to get a work visa in the USA only to be denied, and ended up using a working holidays visa which I extended, so all up I was in the US for 1 year, but this was only made possible by the fact that the company I work for had an office in LA. The time delay and stress of not knowing if it will be approved is awful so I feel for ya! BUT it will be worth it if it works! Living in the US for me was amazing, it’s a beautiful country and they love Aussies over there. Best of luck!!

    You would think they could make some exceptions for us Aussies because of all the support we give the American government but apparently not! 🙁

    FYI The visa process for the UK is SUPER DUPER EASY! When you do plan to visit, you can do most of it online (except the embassy part, but even that was easy when we got there) and it’s fairly quick! Plus once you have a UK visa you can travel to all EU country for 90 days without having to get a visa.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, so interesting to know you’ve had a similar experience, Jem! I’ve heard from many people who’ve had unsuccessful attempts at US working visas. It’s really not the easiest of things to get!

      The UK was definitely on the cards for us. Not only is it super easy for Australians to get a 2 year working visa, but Robert actually has a British passport so that adds to how easy it would be for us! We also considered Germany or Switzerland, but we really had our hearts set on USA (at least for the moment). Europe is our next option!

      Reply
  4. Ola

    That sounds very stressful! I hope everything will work out so you can return to NY! 🙂

    Reply
  5. LisaLDN

    Oh my! This was, eeh, interesting! It is clear that you’ve had a tough time, but you seem to be looking forward and that’s great! Try your best to enjoy Barbados and look on the bright side 🙂 Good luck!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re right – there’s no point dwelling on what’s gone wrong, we’re definitely trying to look forward and make the best of the sticky situation! We’ll definitely be trying to make the most of Barbados while we’re here 🙂 Thanks Lisa!

      Reply
  6. Lisa

    Good luck guys! I had a similar problem last year with a huge visa mess up albeit in a slightly different situation. I’m an Aussie working for the past 3 years in NYC on an H1B visa and found a new job – to my horror discovered that the process of transferring a visa from one employer to the next can be as complicated a process as applying for the visa in the first place. After 5 months of waiting for the lawyers of my to-be new employers to get the process done, the transfer application was denied and my new job offer rescinded immediately. While I was lucky that my old employer didn’t fire me, forcing me to go back to Australia, I was stuck working at a firm that was seemingly on the brink of imploding. After frantically looking for jobs a second time around, which we all know is absolutely draining, I finally landed a second offer with an employer who pushed the visa transfer through successfully. When you guys finally make it here, it will 100% be worth it- there’s absolutely no comparison to any other experience with living in NYC!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, that totally sucks! I’d heard that transferring the visa is a lot more time consuming than reapplying. 5 months is unbelievable, you’d be lucky to find an employer willing to wait that long for a new employee’s visa to process. So glad it worked out for you in the end Lisa, it gives me hope!

      Reply
  7. Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine

    Oh my gosh, what a story! I do hope everything works out well for you both. I can’t imagine job searching from another country. I’m thinking of working abroad and I am just so overwhelmed at the prospect of it all! I hope you get to enjoy Barbados a bit and aren’t too overly stressed. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Job searching from another country is so much harder than it seems, especially when the time zone difference is so significant! It’s not impossible though, and it does depend on the type of job you’re looking for. I’m hoping the experience of working abroad (even if it cost us all this time and money) is worth it 😛 Thanks Amanda, best of luck on your own mission to work abroad!

      Reply
  8. Tim

    Sounds a stressful experience! Am about to go to the same process and looking at where to go (including Barbados). What has the turnaround process been like on the E3 once you have had the interview?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      We haven’t had the interview yet as we’re still waiting on the LCA to come back, but once we get it, it should take about a week to secure the interview and get the visa back – you can get an estimate of waiting times here 🙂

      Reply
  9. Marc @ The Migrant Expats

    Oh my, this sounds like a huge hassle! The US really isn’t the easiest country to deal with visa issues to begin with. Good luck for you two!

    Until then: Try to enjoy Barbados as much as you can in the meantime!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Haha you bet, they really don’t make it easy for foreigners. I have friends who are having just as much trouble as we are. Thanks Marc! I’ll be sure to make the most of it 😉

      Reply
  10. Rachel

    I love that you just rolled with the punches. I am from the US and I can imagine how difficult that must have been. But, you are working on getting there and that is what matters!! I wish you luck and enjoy the NYC! Love The Big Apple 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ahh getting into the US is definitely a challenge, but in a way we always expected that it wouldn’t be easy. In this situation, all you can do is keep trying. Thanks Rachel!

      Reply
  11. Hannah

    Oh what a faff for you both! I hope that the worst is now over and you get your VISAs very soon. I know it’s easier said than done but I do hope you enjoy your time in Barbados too. All the best luck xx

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Hannah! We will absolutely enjoy our time in Barbados, as I traveller I can never say no to the opportunity to explore somewhere new, even if it is a forced trip 😛

      Reply
  12. Madi

    I definitely know how stressful, annoying, angering and inconvenient visas can be so I could definitely relate to this post.

    I’m also speaking biasedly but have you ever considered Canada? It’s fairly easy for Australians to get a two year working visa here if you’re under 30 – most of the common wealth countries share this process. Anyways all the Aussies that I know (and one certain Brit) love it here!

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Glad you can relate, Madi! I have considered Canada and I have friends who have travelled there on the 2 year working visa, but it’s a bit too much like Australia for me. Of course this is not a bad thing at all – it’s just we were looking for somewhere completely different from where we’ve already lived!

      Reply
  13. Jessica C. (A Wanderlust For Life)

    You have so much patience! We are Americans and my husband was applying for his Italian citizenship based on his family’s heritage, so we’ve been through different bureaucracies but I can understand a least a little how you felt.

    The US is not friendly to visitors who want to live/work there so good for you for toughing it out! I think Europe (in general) is easier to work in than the US, so maybe it can be your next job abroad 😉

    Best of luck to you both!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh I totally understand, any sort of immigration department is always a hassle to deal with. My husband did something similar when he applied for his UK passport through heritage, and nobody could tell him if he’d actually be eligible or not – he had to just pay the fee and hope that he was!

      I think we always knew that it would be easier for us in Europe, but we decided to give the US a go anyway 😛 Europe will definitely be next on our list! Thanks Jessica!

      Reply
  14. Annemarie

    Wow, that is a terrible thing to happen to you. I can’t believe you have had such bad luck in the last two months. I hope that finally it turns around and you’ll have an awesome time in NYC! And can enjiy Barbados, too! Is it a great place to visit?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Tell me about it, we never saw it coming! I hope our luck turns around too 🙂 So far, Barbados is fantastic. I think I’d go as far as saying it’s my favourite tropical destination yet!

      Reply
  15. Kirstie

    Wow, what an adventure! That’s great he was able to find another job so quickly, though, and it’s not a bad place to wait in the meanwhile. Hope it all goes well!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It was honestly SO much easier job searching from New York rather than Australia, and as the software/web development industry is booming in New York, it meant Robert was in-demand! We were certainly lucky in that regard. Thanks Kirstie!

      Reply
  16. Duke Stewart

    Ashlea,

    I know you have no time for sympathy but I’m really sorry that this has happened to you. My country is pretty good at not getting things done in a timely manner and it really annoys me that good people like you felt the effects of our ineptitude. Did the Startup seem misleading to Robert or was it something they couldn’t avoid?

    I really hope for the best with you two and that you can either get back to the U.S. or somewhere else more fruitful. Take care and enjoy your time in Barbados.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thank you so much Duke! Yes, the US is a bit slow and uncooperative on the visa front, but I hope the experience of living there will make it worth it. The startup was genuinely hiring someone for Robert’s job when we went through the job search process, it was just bad luck that their funding ran out and they couldn’t secure more. Apparently it’s quite common for this to happen with startups, it was just really bad timing on our part!

      Reply
  17. Kate

    So sorry to hear about this whole ordeal. We recently went through the process of applying for visas, and I don’t know what I would do if I had to do it all over again. Congratulations and good on you guys for taking it all in stride and making the best of this situation. Wishing you both the best of luck!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m glad you can relate! The visa application process for most countries is a pain in the ass. It sucks, but there’s no way around it. Thanks for your comment, Kate!

      Reply
  18. Diana Southern

    What a bummer! I guess the hefty rent in NYC would be rough on any startup company. But that’s awesome that Robert found another job so quickly! So sorry to have missed you guys in New York (we’re spending the week here in the city). Good luck with your second visa application process. I hope it goes much better this time around!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ahh thanks Diana! I think the startups there get a lot of funding, but it’s only ever enough to last a year or two before they need to source more, and it’s not always guaranteed that they’ll get it.

      Can’t believe you’re there while I’m here in Barbados! Such unlucky timing. Enjoy the city anyway, I’m sure we’ll eventually manage to catch up!

      Reply
  19. Jennifer

    Ah – the joy of visa troubles! I understand your pain oh so well, I spent 10 months in NZ in visa limbo, living in a van which sounds fun but like you mentioned – when you’re ‘stuck’ somewhere it’s not quite the same as when you’re travelling. Although now you’ve got me really curious about Barbados.

    Btw, I had to comment on this because our stories are so similar, except mine is in reverse. I’m from the States, but now I live in Australia, and I used to be a travel agent! And I lived in Tassie for 7 years. Small, strange world! Cheers Jen

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Wow, 10 months! That’s a crazy amount of time! Sadly it’s something that so many people go through just for the experience of living abroad. Being in limbo really sucks, even if you are in a nice country. And that it so weird that our stories are completely in reverse – I guess there’s always a curiosity about what’s on the other side of the fence! So glad you can relate, Jen!

      Reply
  20. Laura

    I read your follow up to this post as well…
    So glad you enjoyed your time waiting for your visas in Barbados! I lived there for 7 years! (After 4 months in Oz).
    And I do understand the waiting for your paperwork to be processed!!
    I waited 8 months for my first work permit. My husband waited a year. My 2nd one took 6 months. My husbands took 10 months. My third I cancelled after 8 months of waiting. And my husbands again took almost a full year.
    On the upside, the US embassy there is fantastic and prompt! (There’s not an abundance of Americans there!)
    I always enjoy reading about people’s experiences in Barbados, and am glad you found my favorite beach (Miami beach/Enterprise beach) to wait it out on… Hope you had plenty of fish cakes and Mr.Delicious rum punch!!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, that’s such a long time to be in visa limbo! Aren’t visas just the craziest thing to deal with. Most of the time, you have no idea how much longer the process will take until you eventually receive the visa!

      We were staying right near Miami Beach, it was such a great spot! Such a local area with a lot of charm. No fish cakes for me as I’m vegetarian, but definitely hit up the Mr Delicious rum punch 😀

      Reply
  21. beulah888

    I read your Barbados piece first (through a friend’s share) so definitely had to read this too…wanted to find out what “fortuitous” inconvenience brought you to my island home. 🙂

    I am sure you are better off for your visit and will remember it fondly for the inspiring “atmosphere”.

    Yep. I love Barbados.

    Reply

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