This week we’ve got representatives from an immigration law firm talking about visas and U.S. immigration, a tax accountant chatting to us about economic impacts, and someone who has recently been through the process of visiting Australia and being in the compulsory 2-week quarantine.

A recording, links, and transcript are available below.

What are Regular Checkups?

I’ve created Regular Checkups as a way to keep you informed by relevant industry professionals as well as giving them a platform to share their best advice for you.

Join me every Thursday night at 6pmET for a rotating weekly panel of professionals from different relevant areas giving up-to-date advice for expats living and working in the U.S.

You can submit your own questions for the panel each week before Wednesday at 6pm and we will include it in our discussion.

I’ll include professionals from a wide range of backgrounds including:

  • Government & Consulate;
  • Travel, Movement & Flights;
  • Immigration & Law;
  • Recruitment & Jobs;
  • Tax & Accounting;
  • Health (Physical & Mental);
  • Finance & Markets;
  • HR & Management;
  • House & Accommodation;
  • Insurance; and
  • Community.

Watch Regular Checkup #2

Relevant Links from the Panel

Meet the panel from Regular Checkup #2 (May 7, 2020):

Zjantelle Cammisa Markel, Owner, Cammisa Markel PLLC Immigration Law Firm

Talking about U.S. Immigration, visas, and policy updates.

Born and raised in Australia to Italian born parents and now an Australian-Italian-US Citizen, Zjantelle Cammisa Markel has been practicing US immigration law in New York City for over 20 years. She was one of the first attorneys to process the E-3 visa when it was introduced in 2005 and has assisted thousands of Australians and employers hiring Australians process their E-3 visas since it’s inception.

Zjantelle’s firm, Cammisa Markel PLLC, founded in 2003, has five other Australians among their staff and she always has a bowl of Minties on her desk. Zjantelle specializes in not only the E-3 visa, but many other non-immigrant and immigrant visa types. The firm’s other specialties include the following visa categories: B-1, B-2, H-1B, H-3, J-1, L-1A, L-1B, E-1, E-2, O-1, TN, Family and Employment Based Green Cards and US citizenship applications.

Lisa Baden, Finance Leader, Temporarily back in Australia

Talking about the compulsory quarantine process from a first-person perspective.

Lisa is a problem solver. Balanced and dedicated, she brings over 13 years’ experience in Finance across retail, cosmetics, and big 4 professional services, where she has led finance strategy and transformation for businesses across different stages of the life cycle.

Right now, she’s back in Australia after recently heading back from New York to renew her visa.

Jason Stoch, Certified Public Accountant, UpTrend Advisory

Talking about tax, super, 401ks, and accounting right now.

Jason moved to the United States from Sydney in 2013 and spent over 3 years living in New York City. Having enough of the cabin fever that the cold winters bring, he moved to sunny San Diego where he now resides.

While living in New York City, Jason noticed that the majority of his Australian friends did not understand the US tax system and began to help them traverse the landscape as an American CPA and Australian Chartered Accountant.

Fast-forward to today, Jason established UpTrend Advisory, a boutique accounting, business and tax advisory firm where he specializes in expat taxes for individuals and is passionate about helping Australians navigate the US and Australian tax system for better outcomes.

Transcript from Regular Checkup #2

[00:00:00] Josh Pugh: [00:00:00] Hi everyone! I’m America. Josh, welcome to Regular Checkups, my weekly summary of the news for expats in the United States.

[00:00:07] Every week we’ve got different panelists on who can answer questions about their industries. Tell us what they see day to day, and make recommendations for your future as ex-pats living in the United States.

[00:00:18] These aren’t going to be deep dives, but each and every week we’ll answer as many questions as we can and hopefully give you some comfort knowing that you’ve got all the information you need at your fingertips. So that leads me to introduce our panel for tonight. I want to thank these three for joining me and taking that time out.

[00:00:35] We’ve got Zjantelle Cammisa Markel, owner of Cammisa Markel, immigration law firm, Lisa Baden, finance leader, and who is temporarily back in Australia and has been through the whole quarantine process and Jason Stoch a certified public accountant at UpTrend Advisory. Thanks very much for joining me everyone.

[00:00:53] I’m going to unmute you all now. Because I realized you’re sitting there quietly. We divide every week into [00:01:00] three sections, past, present, and future.

[00:01:02] Past. We’re going to hear about how our panelists have gotten here tonight and how their industries have gone over the last few months.

[00:01:09] Present. We’re going to talk about what our panelists are up to right now and their industries and how they’re changing and what they’re doing right now at the moment, and answering your questions.

[00:01:19] Then future, we’re going to talk about recommendations and ideas that they’ve got for you and how they see things changing in their industries in the future. Before we get to any information, though, we do need to flag that this webinar is strictly for informational purposes only and it is not intended, nor should it be relied upon as a source of legal or financial advice or opinion.

[00:01:41] As always, it’s important to let you know that because everyone’s situation is different and not everything we say tonight will necessarily apply it to you.

[00:01:49] So, formalities, legalities. All out of the way. Zjantelle I’ll start with you. Hello. Thanks for joining me. How are you going?

[00:01:57] Zjantelle Markel: [00:01:57] I’m great, thanks, Josh.

[00:02:03] [00:02:00] Josh Pugh: [00:02:03] Perfect.

[00:02:05] Zjantelle Markel: [00:02:05] Yeah, no, things are great. You know, I think, you know, we were all at a point where, you know, it’s a little bit, we’ve been in quarantine for so long, so I think that you can have days where you start to struggle with that. But what I heard this morning, and I thought it was a good thing to remind ourselves, is that we should come to this with a mind of gratitude, right? Because we are all in a good spot. Especially if we’re on this Zoom, it means we’re healthy and we’re we have a lot of, you know, we’re hopefully working or if we’re not, we’ve got job prospects hopefully coming up. And you know, the thing that we’ve mostly got is our health, which is, which is a big thing.

[00:02:44] Josh Pugh: [00:02:44] So, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Can you tell everyone just a little quick snapshot of your background and how you’ve made it on to this panel tonight?

[00:02:53] Zjantelle Markel: [00:02:53] Absolutely. I mean, it’s a very long story if I went for it, but I’ll give you the quick synopsis. I’m originally from [00:03:00] Adelaide. I moved to the seas in 1998 and thought I was going to be gone for six months with my backpack around Europe.

[00:03:07]While in Europe I ended up meeting a boy from America. So by the time, but that was sort of later closer to 2000. I moved to New York and I’ve been here ever since, and I’ve been doing U S immigration laws since then, so a long time. So I was practicing immigration law firm before they were even was an E3 so I went through a bunch of visas myself that were not E3s, in fact, by the time I got a green card, I don’t think I ever was on an E3. So, given that I’ve been through the process myself and a lot of my staff has been through the process, we have five Aussies in amongst our staff as well. You know, we, we feel quite adept at being able to advise people in, in that as well.

[00:03:50] Josh Pugh: [00:03:50] Awesome. And are you currently coming from your home right now? That’s where you’re beaming from?

[00:03:58] Zjantelle Markel: [00:03:58] Four kids, a husband, a [00:04:00] big dog!

[00:04:02] Josh Pugh: [00:04:02] So the, the office, I know it’s a remote office at the moment, but would you say that’s been sort of busier or quieter or it’s pretty much sort of business as usual for you professionally at the moment?

[00:04:11] Zjantelle Markel: [00:04:11] Yeah. So we’ve all been working at home, which has been, it’s actually been pretty good.

[00:04:15] I’m really proud of my staff. They have, they were able to just roll into it. There was the Monday when the locked down kind of happened on the Thursday. I sort of thought it was going to happen, so I made sure that everyone could log into their computers remotely and that it would work. And that did, and.

[00:04:33] There’ve been some changes with immigration, which has helped as well, in that we allowed to submit filings with scans of signatures rather than wet signatures. So that has been useful. And yeah, so we’ve been working from home. We start with the team meeting in the morning where we all get on a Google hangout and see each other.

[00:04:53] And we plan out the day and then were triaging between busy and less [00:05:00] busy. It has been really busy. I mean, my average break time has been 3:00 AM but it’s been busy in a way that is, more advisory and then having to have repeat calls with a lot of clients because what we thought was going to be the case in March is no longer the case in May.

[00:05:18]So we’ve had to change strategies for people along the way.

[00:05:21] Josh Pugh: [00:05:21] So a bit of an adapting?

[00:05:23] Zjantelle Markel: [00:05:23] With furloughing and people getting laid off. I’ve got unemployment questions so a whole plethora of questions, which…

[00:05:34] Josh Pugh: [00:05:34] I think we’re going to come to a bunch of those very shortly. Jason, same question. Are you currently in your office?

[00:05:40] Hello, thanks for joining us. And, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

[00:05:44] Jason Stoch: [00:05:44] Yeah. Sure. Thanks. Thanks, Josh. Thanks for having me. I am in my home office. I was pretty lucky. I just relocated back to San Diego, California from Sydney. I was in the, I was there for about three years, but before that I was in, America and [00:06:00] just, you know, trialing where we wanted to settle with my wife, who is American.

[00:06:03] But yeah, we got here literally a week before the pandemic started on my green card, so I got super lucky. Yeah. Outside of that, I guess it’s, it’s been very busy for me, as a tax accountant, because, you know, I’m sure people have heard, but the tax deadlines were extended from April 15 to July 15. So normally this time of year I’m on break, but no, I’m still very busy.

[00:06:27] So. It’s, it’s been good. working from home has been great in that I’ve gotten more time to structure my day. I don’t have a commute, so, you know, when the day’s done, I’m already home, so I’m able to, yeah. Yeah. And I’m able to spend more time with loved ones and exercise, and I think it’s been good.

[00:06:48] It’s, it’s, it’s a good proof of concept that, Hey, you don’t always need to be in an office and have face time to get everything done.

[00:06:55] Josh Pugh: [00:06:55] Yeah. Just on that, to recap your, the extension of the tax dates, might as well jump [00:07:00] into a question. So it’s normally, already happened, but that is just personal tax filings.

[00:07:06] You’ve got until, did you say July 15?

[00:07:08] Jason Stoch: [00:07:08] Yeah. Yeah. So at the federal level, it’s been extended from April to July 15. I know California and New York have also extended it to meet the same deadline. There are other States that you would just have to check up if they’ve extended it, but those are the main two.

[00:07:23] Josh Pugh: [00:07:23] Okay. Good to know. So, yeah, federal has and New York and California have, but it’s worth checking to make sure that you might have state filings still, even though those have extended, and the industry in general, you think, you know, it’s been going. Pretty normally. I mean, it’s been busy and extended that time with the extension of those dates.

[00:07:39] Things have been pretty as business as usual.

[00:07:42] Jason Stoch: [00:07:42] Yeah. Yeah. I think things have still been pretty busy because even though, usually it’s a big ramp up to April 15. It’s essentially just kicking the can down the road to July. So it’s resulted in a lot of people taking on more clients because now we’ve got additional time.

[00:07:58]We’re dealing also a [00:08:00] lot with advisory type of questions. Like. 401k withdrawals, super withdrawals. What’s the best thing to do? Yeah, and then also unemployment questions. Similar to Zjantelle. Yeah.

[00:08:11] Josh Pugh: [00:08:11] Okay. Well, we’re definitely going to cover some of those questions, but Lisa, hello. Thank you for joining us.

[00:08:18] You’ve got a little bit of a different background story on how you’ve gotten here tonight, so I believe you’re back in Australia. Do you mind giving us a bit of an intro about what you’ve been up to in the last couple of weeks?

[00:08:28] Lisa Baden: [00:08:28] Sure. I am in my parents’ place and their dining room at the moment, in Sydney.

[00:08:35]I work New York hours, so this is, after this call would be going to bed, but, how I ended up here was. I was changing jobs at a very unfortunate time. and with all the embassy’s closed, there was no way of getting a new visa. I am on an E3, and so how we arranged it with my new employer is I was going to work from Australia as a consultant for them until I can actually get [00:09:00] an appointment and an a visa to come home.

[00:09:03] And, luckily I do actually have an appointment so you can get appointments at the moment in the consular at, in Sydney. In July. I think that’s the earliest appointment at the moment, but it is open and it’s available.

[00:09:16] Josh Pugh: [00:09:16] Okay. So I know we had a number of questions about that process of you getting back, and I think some people just want to hear a firsthand recollection of your, you’d normally go to the airport and you sort of just breezing through going through the, what you’re going to buy and how much candy you can carry them and luggage.

[00:09:34] Do you mind giving us a bit of a, you know, you arrive at the airport just as a bit of a snapshot of how that whole process works from arriving at the airport in the U.S. And then the process and how you felt sort of what changed, what’s different?

[00:09:48]Lisa Baden: [00:09:48] What’s really, the first thing that strikes you is, It’s empty. Everything’s empty. so I flew United that the flight from Sydney to San Fran, San Fran, sorry, New York to San Fran [00:10:00] then San Fran to Sydney, everything was on time. So there was no delays. I was very lucky. I felt, seeing that when I was actually there at the airport, half flights on the screen of the already shortened list.

[00:10:13] [Connection Issues]

[00:10:18] Josh Pugh: [00:10:18] Woop. I think I might have lost…

[00:10:22] Lisa Baden: [00:10:22] Starbucks is open…

[00:10:24] and, but no, the whole process was okay. Everyone had a mask on, so that was fine. getting on the plane, it, I think the only thing that was a little bit different, I was in business class, so naturally it was, I was quite distanced from everyone else.

[00:10:38]The flight attendants didn’t wear masks, but, everything that they were serving their can’t serve hot drinks, they can’t serve alcohol and nothing that can be poured.

[00:10:49] They can’t touch the foods that

[00:10:57] [Connection Issues]

[00:11:00] [00:10:58] Josh Pugh: [00:10:58] Sorry, Lisa.

[00:11:03] I think we might be having some connection issues with Lisa, but. Because I can see her face paused. I’m going to jump back to you Zjantelle if you don’t mind, because Lisa’s scenario is one that we’re hearing from a few people and I’ll, I’ll come back to you, Lisa in one sec. In terms of the process, what is, what are you recommending to people at the moment if they’re coming up to the end of their I-94 dates, or they’re coming up to the end of their visas and they want to renew and stay, what are you, what’s the sort of general advice that you’re telling people at the moment?

[00:11:35] Zjantelle Markel: [00:11:35] Yeah, Josh, that’s a really great question because you know, we started with those conversations in March and in March it was “yeah, look, let’s book your appointment in June, July. You know, they, those should be fine.” We have clients that do have appointments still that have not yet… all the appointments have been canceled for May, for clients that have had appointments in May.

[00:11:57]June appointments have not been canceled [00:12:00] yet, so we’re closely monitoring to see what happens with that. The first appointment we have in June is June 4th. So, you know, it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks if those appointments remain, if those appointments in Australia in June, we have people in London by, by, Bahamas, Paris and Australia with appointments in June and July right now.

[00:12:19] So it’ll be interesting to see if those go ahead. And if they do, then we feel relatively confident that people could continue with booking an appointment and going that way. And if not, then we do have. You know, a backup plan of filing within the U.S. The I-129 and more people are looking towards filing from within the U.S.

[00:12:40] I think what’s important is analyzing whether your case, you know what your case is like, is it a strong case to be filed from within the U.S. as an I-129 and that’s something that people would determine with their attorney. And if not, then look at other options. So. for example, I was on the phone with clients this morning, [00:13:00] who in March, they were waiting for a job offer to come through, which they thought would come through by June .Their I-94s expire June 4th. So that will actually, it’s the, it’s not even their I-94s, it’s the end of their 60 day grace period, so they have to do some sort of action by then. So it’s, whereas before they, Australia wasn’t as attractive to people before, whereas Australia’s becoming more attractive to people because you could leave, go there and start for you and your employer like Lisa did.

[00:13:30] And then now that, the mailing option as re-opened in Australia as well. People that are there, even Lisa, could send their documents into the mail in option and have their visas back in about a week and not even have to wait for the appointment that they’ve got that’s in July or August if they want to come back so sooner.

[00:13:48]And the other attractive thing about Australia right now is that, so you could work remotely, or if you’d been furloughed or if your salary has gone below the prevailing wage, you can work for your [00:14:00] employer or not work for an extended period, if you furloughed from abroad. These particular clients this morning, they are New York strong, they were like, “we are not leaving”, but the job offer, to be able to file the I-129, in the 60 day grace period hasn’t come through.

[00:14:17] So they’re willing to actually file to change to tourist status, to wait, which they can gain them six months, to wait till those that job offer comes through, and then at that point we’ll see where the consulates are at. If they’re open they’ll go abroad, if they’re not, then we will refile from within the U.S. or at that point they’ll fly back to Australia and do the mail in option

[00:14:41] Josh Pugh: [00:14:41] That transferring to that visa, that’s an E3 to a B1/B2. That’s what you’re talking about there?

[00:14:47] Zjantelle Markel: [00:14:47] Yeah.

[00:14:47] And so I think right now it’s really important to have a really good relationship with your attorney that’s advising you so that you can see what’s happening at the consulates too. Then make a decision that works best for you. You [00:15:00] know, we thought that Barbados and Bahamas, you know, Barbados is always a popular one with the audience, was going to reopen because they had no [Coronavirus] cases.

[00:15:08] So we thought, okay, they’re going to probably go reopen really quickly and same with the Bahama. Bahamas, you can book in August right now, but, I think that it’s, it shows, it’s showing now that the countries with the least number of cases are the ones that I think that are going to actually open the slowest, because they’re closing their borders.

[00:15:25] So when you look at, there’s a, there’s a site called iata.org that tells you which countries are letting people in or not. And those, the Caribbean has actually got their borders completely closed, even to residents and so forth. Whereas we can, as Australians and people on E3s can actually get to Australia and can get back in from Australia.

[00:15:42] So that’s why that’s become a more attractive option compared to closer Consulates, which were more attractive options before.

[00:15:50] Josh Pugh: [00:15:50] Okay. And that website, by the way, iata.org. Just for those people. That’s a good summary of where people, where flights are going in and out of, and what countries [00:16:00] have recommendations in border closures at the moment.

[00:16:01] It’s a good one to use as a resource.

[00:16:04]If you are transferring internally, what are we seeing with, like USCIS turn around times at the moment? Is that something, cause it’s, it’s common sort of commonly said that that process is quite laborious and long and, it takes months. Are we saying that same thing or are we saying it sped up a bit at the moment? Or is it longer?

[00:16:22] Zjantelle Markel: [00:16:22] Just before COVID hit, they were processing some a little bit faster, but we filed one in the end of March and it’s still is pending, so I think it’s going back to. A few more since then that are more recent and there they are still pending. So it will be interesting to see how those develop over the next few weeks and months.

[00:16:46]But in other areas, we’ve seen the EADs come through a lot faster. So they’re coming back through. There was a period where they were taking five months. They’re coming through now in 90 days or less. So that’s a great news for E3Ds who are [00:17:00] either renewing the EADs or doing first time EADs is they’re coming through a lot faster.

[00:17:03] Right now.

[00:17:04] Josh Pugh: [00:17:04] Yeah. Right. And that goes back to what you were saying before about Australia being such an enticing place, and this is a good segue. I’ll go back to you, Lisa. You were saying that you’re on the flight and knew that they’re not touching any of the food. They can’t pour anything for you, but you were, you’re getting to the end of that flight.

[00:17:18] I’ll jump back over to you.

[00:17:20] Lisa Baden: [00:17:20] So it gets to the end of that flight. And, once you land in Sydney, they ask you, you have to fill out a form that’s, that is like, saying that you abide with, the quarantine rules as well as, they asked you to stay on board. They do have nurses that come over all dressed in PPE checking the plane to make sure everything’s okay before they let you get off the plane.

[00:17:44] And when once you actually in the airport it’s actually very well organized they lead you to the right places. They hand you a mask to make sure everyone is wearing one. Then they take you to the nurses section, check your temperature, ask you questions about your health. [00:18:00] I, I was fine, I didn’t have any symptoms.

[00:18:02] Then they led you back to the customs.

[00:18:04]So the ePassport portals are not working at the moment, so you do have to go through a manned desk, with your passport check, but obviously there’s no lines at the moment. and I thought the whole process was actually quite simple. It was, it was easy. And it does, it really helps that there’s not many people.

[00:18:23]After you go through the custom check, you know, and you’re okay. They take you to a line and you wait for a bus and they, everyone on that bus goes to the same hotel. So I ended up at the Sofitel, Wentworth. and it was, it was, I feel the whole thing was actually running pretty smoothly. There wasn’t at a point where I didn’t know what I was doing or, At any point. So…

[00:18:47] Josh Pugh: [00:18:47] But just to clarify, when you get, you basically just sort of follow what you’re told to do. There’s no sort of elections to choose. It’s not about picking a hotel or anything, it’s just, you know, you’re on this bus and we’re going to take you to the place.

[00:18:58] Lisa Baden: [00:18:58] Exactly. [00:19:00] And you do have the army and the police there along the way, so.

[00:19:04] Don’t do a runner, basically!

[00:19:08] Josh Pugh: [00:19:08] Not worth it. That’s good advice from everyone on the panel. Yeah. so once you do arrive, and I’ll keep going through because I think it does help just to, for everyone to understand, you get to your hotel room, you sort of, I just assume and sort of scurried through and you get told and given a key and said, you know, this is okay.

[00:19:24] Lisa Baden: [00:19:24] No keys. They take you, an army officer takes you up to your room and then you, and you stay in that room for the next 13 nights. And you leave on the 14th day, before 10:00 AM basically.

[00:19:39] Josh Pugh: [00:19:39] Okay. So in terms of food, I know a lot of people are asking about food, drink, exercise, you know, can you get care packages from friends?

[00:19:46] What’s the sort of feel and yeah, what, what goes on in there?

[00:19:50]Lisa Baden: [00:19:50] I felt, I mean, I am naturally more of an introvert. So for me, staying in a, in a room like for 14 days was okay, but for someone who’s more [00:20:00] of an extrovert, It’s probably going to be a bit more of a struggle.

[00:20:03] You’re not allowed to leave the room.

[00:20:04]And everything that you need is delivered to the rooms with food. There is a selection when you first check-in whether or not you have dietary requirements and, and then they take you to the room and your food gets delivered at a certain point in time. Breakfast is between 7:30AM and 9:30AM, lunch is between, I think it’s like 12:30PM and 2:30PM and dinner  between 5:30PM and 7:30PM so they just knock on the door and then leave food outside for you, and that’s it. They’re not allowed to come inside the room.

[00:20:35]In terms of the portion sizes, the food, it, I mean, for me it was fine, but I am a more of a delicate eater and so I actually thought the quality of the food was pretty good given you’re not paying rack rate for a room, so don’t expect like room service, quality, but it’s like takeout quality and you know for dinner, they also serve you a three course dinner, things like that.

[00:20:57] So it’s actually quite decent.

[00:20:59] In [00:21:00] terms of, care packages. You can have a friend bring you stuff. So I had a friend on the first day bring me, I gave her a shopping list, she brought me what I wanted, delivered to reception.

[00:21:11]And they check it to make sure that firstly, no alcohol, no outside alcohol and, no magazines and books. Apparently paper is, you know, it can be infected and so they don’t want that coming into room. And, you can buy alcohol from the hotel and that is one limited to one bottle per person per day.

[00:21:34] And when I say a bottle, it’s really a half bottle. So it’s a carafe. So there’s a selection that they have in the rooms that you can choose from.

[00:21:42] Josh Pugh: [00:21:42] Okay. And the last thing I think that people really want to know about was exercise. You know, can you, if you’re not allowed to leave the room, is there any sort of shuffled outside for five minutes of sunshine or…?

[00:21:53]Lisa Baden: [00:21:53] It doesn’t, that didn’t seem like an option.

[00:21:55] I don’t, I didn’t hear, I didn’t go out and I didn’t see anyone else go out either. So, [00:22:00] what I do recommend is my room had Chromecast. So usually in a five, four, four or five star hotel, that is, they usually have that. But if, if you’re worried, bring your own Chromecast and have access to some live streaming, like exercises from Peloton or

[00:22:18] Josh Pugh: [00:22:18] Yep. Good call. Yeah. Planning ahead for potentially being locked inside.

[00:22:24] Lisa Baden: [00:22:24] Given that I was working nights, working New York hours, make sure that if you’re doing that or if you have certain times in the day that you want to be not disturbed, make sure you tell them ahead of time. They do. The nurses do call your room once a day to check on, check up on you.

[00:22:40] And I didn’t tell them specifically. and I just, there was one day I didn’t pick up the phone and. And I had the police knocking on my door, so, okay. So made sure that the head of time, if you want to be, don’t not be disturbed at a certain period of time because otherwise it is hard to sleep.

[00:23:00] [00:23:00] Josh Pugh: [00:23:00] Good to know.

[00:23:01]Zjantelle, in terms of people that have gone to Australia and they’re potentially coming back, what, like now I’d point everyone to the last webinar, last Regular Checkup I did with, I had someone from the Australian Consulate General in New York on who was talking about the Australian side. And there are limitations for some people, but if you are a resident, you are allowed to leave a resident of the U S you are allowed to leave.

[00:23:22] I just want to confirm entering the U S if you have a valid visa, are you allowed to enter the U S right now?

[00:23:28] Zjantelle Markel: [00:23:28] Yes. They’re letting people in with visas, yes.

[00:23:31] Josh Pugh: [00:23:31] Okay. So yeah, there’s that, because I know somebody that’s been a bit of a misconception that there’s currently sort of the borders are closed, but as far as you’re concerned, you know, if you have legal status, like any other day, you are allowed to enter.

[00:23:41] Zjantelle Markel: [00:23:41] Yeah. And just like when you leave Australia, you need to show that you’ve got a footprint already in the U.S. You would just present those documents. You need to present those to get, you know, at the airport in Australia would just present the same ones when you’re coming here to show that you regularly reside here.

[00:23:56]Which might be harder for people that are coming as newbies, but people that are coming in with new [00:24:00] visas, aren’t able to get their visas right now, anyway!

[00:24:03] Josh Pugh: [00:24:03] What about the green card process? Is that something that’s all been held up as well with all of this? I mean, I imagine, so…

[00:24:09] Zjantelle Markel: [00:24:09] You know what, actually, we have seen some green card category speed up.

[00:24:14] We’ve seen some of the employment based green cards, which have, in the last two years, there’s been a requirement that those people have an interview and we’ve actually seen some get approved without an interview, which used to be the case, before, the current administration required the interview. So they seem to have gone back and approved some without an interview and the clients have gotten their green card in the mail, which has been awesome.

[00:24:38] Also for some family based cases, if the family is applying for the green card outside the U.S. So there was the, the proclamation that, that, that those green cards are going to be suspended from being issued for the next 60 days on April 22nd. But what we’re seeing is. If they’re still processing all the other documentation on the internal side and much [00:25:00] faster than usual.

[00:25:01] So when you’re applying for a green card from outside the US. There’s first an application that goes to USCIS in the U.S. They process and approve part of it. It then goes to the national visa center that then contact the consulates for the appointment. This part is happening so much faster than ever before.

[00:25:18] So once the consulates reopen, we think that those people might actually get appointments that they’re going faster than pre-COVID.

[00:25:26] Josh Pugh: [00:25:26] Wow. That’s a shocking upside.

[00:25:30] Zjantelle Markel: [00:25:30] Yeah, it’s a good one. It’s like it’s nice to be able to deliver some good news in these times.

[00:25:34] Josh Pugh: [00:25:34] Yeah, for sure. I know a lot of people who are on visas and living in cities, especially like New York, maybe working from home and we’ve got as well people like Lisa who were working sort of from home or from abroad. I just want to clarify, if you are on a visa and you’re in the United States, what are the processes for having to, are there things we have to consider about working from home.

[00:25:57] Zjantelle Markel: [00:25:57] Yeah, absolutely. I just want to finish up one topic for the [00:26:00] last one, which is the people that are processing the green cards from within the us.

[00:26:03] Those have been delayed because green card interviews have been canceled, so we do have clients that we’re expecting to get their green card interviewing green cards. But if you, here in the U.S. You have a work authorization document, have a job offer that are valid, so it doesn’t affect you too agreviously. That you are, it’s just a bit disappointing.

[00:26:17] That’s all. So just finish up that.

[00:26:19] And then with respect to if you are working from home, so if you’re working from home and you’re on an E3, you may have seen going around a memo that talks about this, that the LCA, there are posting requirements, the notice requirements attached to an LCA. So if you are, have been working from one for an amount of time, you, it’s, it’s becoming considered an additional work site.

[00:26:43] And. The employer is required to put a posting notice up that it has a foreign employee on an LCA at that new work site. So even though you’re the only person working at home at your new work site, you’re supposed to [00:27:00] either: post your LCA copy of your LCA on the fridge or somewhere for 10 days. Or what we’re also saying is that if they employer notifies you, sends you your LCA or posting notice to you, that they could use that, by email, they could use that in their public access file, but they’ve notified all the workers at that work site because you were, the only one that that works there.

[00:27:23] Just clarify: that rule is in effect, if you work, within the same MSA, which is around about 50 miles from your usual work location. So if your home is within about 50 miles from, from the address on your LCA, then that’s what you have to do is that posting requirement. If you’re actually working further away from that, like saying you decided I’m going to go work in California right now, then you supposed to file a whole brand new LCA and include that worksite.

[00:27:55] So that’s something you definitely want to bring up with your, attorney [00:28:00] as well.

[00:28:01] Josh Pugh: [00:28:01] Okay. No, that’s a, and for people who, just to sort of wrap all that up, if you’re working outside the U S the immigration, like the legalities of visas and things sort of becomes null en void.

[00:28:13] Zjantelle Markel: [00:28:13] And so yes. Australia or another country is way more than 50 miles away from your work.

[00:28:19]Those people don’t, and that’s a really good question cause we did get that question from a lot of clients that are in Australia, “what do I have to do about this posting notice?” So if you’re in Australia, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s only if you’re in the U.S.

[00:28:30] Josh Pugh: [00:28:30] Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Jason. that is a good pivot to you because working from home, there may be implications for people that are considering working from home, working from home or abroad.

[00:28:41] Do you mind, you know, is it difficult? Is it easy? What’s from a tax or accounting perspective? What do you have to say?

[00:28:48] Jason Stoch: [00:28:48] Yeah, sure. So from a U.S. Perspective, new legislation brought in 2018 removed the home office deductions for individuals, but you can still claim this if you’re self employed and [00:29:00] run your own business.

[00:29:00] So you can put through all of your expenses on Schedule C, which is the income statement of your own business. On the Australia side of things, you can claim working from home deductions, which will be subject to a few tests like the time spent for work was legitimate and things like that. If you keep records and, have all the time sheets and things like that, you can claim the allowable expenses, you know, utilities and things like that, or a flat 80 cents per hour that you work from home due to COVID as long as you know, you have to do it for work, and you’re not charging things like your coffees.

[00:29:36] So I guess the advice on the Aussie side is to just keep time sheets or diary notes in case the ATO asks, but you can definitely claim some deductions on the Aussie side.

[00:29:47] Josh Pugh: [00:29:47] Okay. Fantastic. So is there anything else that people should be considering if they, you know, have gone from the U.S. And they’ve gone back to Australia, is there anything else they should be thinking about sort of more broadly.

[00:29:59] From what they [00:30:00] might’ve had in the U.S. You know, for savings, 401ks, things like that.

[00:30:04] Jason Stoch: [00:30:04] Yeah. So it’s, that’s definitely a great question. it’s kind of hard to say because everyone’s situation is different, but taking the stance that unfortunately you’ve been furloughed, you’re unemployed, you’ve had to go back to Australia, and you’re looking for work, which can be challenging in the current climate.

[00:30:21] It’s probably best to take money from your savings first and shares and your health savings accounts before drawing from your super and 401k. You kind of want to avoid that because in the U.S. On your 401k, if you draw it before you’re 59 and a half years old, you will have a 10% penalty on that drawing.

[00:30:42] You will then be taxed on that in America and then Australia again, and then similar with super, you’ll have early withdrawal penalties.

[00:30:49] But. I know that super now they’re allowing early access due to COVID, so you can draw up to AUD$10,000 dollars now and again, another [00:31:00] AUD$10,000 up til September 24th and the process for drawing super is actually pretty straightforward.

[00:31:06] The only thing I would be cautious of is only do it if you really need it because by taking money out of your super. You’re essentially getting short term gain, but longterm pain because you’re missing out on all of the growth from that income in your super.

[00:31:22] Josh Pugh: [00:31:22] Okay. So yeah, so soimds like, it is  an option, it’s absolutely something that you can consider, but it’s something you kind of want to, it’s a last resort, basically.

[00:31:30] Jason Stoch: [00:31:30] Yeah. Yeah. And just in terms of the application process, if you have a MyGov account, it’ll take you five minutes to just answer the questions and then you’ll be able to draw it very quickly .

[00:31:40] In the U S with your 401k, you can access it. You would have to prove that, you know, this is due to the COVID situation: your work hours have been cut. You’ve been quarantined, you’ve lost your job, things like that. but you can draw up to US$100,000 from the 401k as a loan without the [00:32:00] 10% early withdrawal penalty because of COVID, and you can essentially keep it as a loan and pay the tax of the next three years, or you can actually pay back the loan when things get better and then your 401k’s restored.

[00:32:13] Okay, great, it’s also tax time. So for, if we as like we’re sort of talking about before, are there online tools in general? Just, I know that there’s lots of people now sort of thinking, I’ve got to get my things in order.

[00:32:25] Josh Pugh: [00:32:25] Are there online tools that people as ex-pats should be looking at? Or should they be going, you know, really be going to an accountant to help them with it?

[00:32:33] Jason Stoch: [00:32:33] Yeah. So from an Australia perspective, you can use the MyGov portal that allows you to file your own returns online with the ATO. Personally, I find  the platform pretty easy, but then again, I am an accountant, so if, if this is difficult or challenging, then definitely reach out to an accountant like myself.

[00:32:54] From a U.S. perspective, if you’re a resident for tax purposes, you can go with TurboTax and [00:33:00] if you’re a non resident, you can use SprintTax. If you want to leave your, if you want to leave your returns in the hands of an expert, though, you can use an accountant like myself because a lot of people get tripped up in the complexity of having Aussie assets or Aussie income and how do I state this correctly on my U.S. return?

[00:33:18] Josh Pugh: [00:33:18] Okay. So, yeah, some important considerations to make sure and why you should talk to professionals like all of you three.

[00:33:24] Zjantelle just quickly, we’ve had a couple of questions so just to clarify, the working from home, if you’re in Australia. You don’t require an E3 to work from home for a U.S. Company if you’re in Australia?

[00:33:40] Can you just confirm that please?

[00:33:42] Zjantelle Markel: [00:33:42] Yeah, that’s correct. So you only need a visa, a valid visa when you’re working for a U.S. Employer  (and you are) physically in the U S so if you’re outside the U S you don’t need a U.S. Visa. If you’re not in Australia, you’ve gone to Mexico or somewhere else, you just want to double check, you’re not breaking immigration rules [00:34:00] of that country.

[00:34:02] Josh Pugh: [00:34:02] Yeah. Yep. And that’s a really good point for people, cause I know some people have sort of said I’m going to go to another country and wait for embassies and consulates and things. It’s important to make sure that you’re allowed to be working in those places and actually residing in those places for that temporary amount of time.

[00:34:17] Zjantelle Markel: [00:34:17] Should I just clarify that looks like someone had a question about the LCA. Is it for existing LCAs? That’s exactly the LCAs that it is for. New ones would already go through that process, you have to do the posting those for new ones, and that would be part of it. But, but that whole, you know, posting it from home is also relevant for people that whose, who are halfway through their, they’re E3 and they should be doing, their employer should be sending them a copy of their LCA or the posting notice that was developed at the time, of the LCA, so that they can keep that in the public access file.

[00:34:49] Josh Pugh: [00:34:49] Okay. Yeah. No, it’s a good one.

[00:34:53] Lisa, you’re in that position. You’re in Australia, what’s, just so I understand and people understand, what’s your plan? You’re, headed [00:35:00] to a consulate basically when they open this stage?

[00:35:03] Lisa Baden: [00:35:03] Yes. I have an appointment on July 20th. So, hopefully by the end of July I’ll be in New York. I, I did try to explore the mail in option, but my lawyers have told me not to do that for the time being, they just didn’t think was going to be reliable and, and I didn’t want to take the risks, which is why I’m going to go forward with the, with the interview.

[00:35:25] Josh Pugh: [00:35:25] Yeah. Okay. and do you have any last tips or tricks for people? You know, I know you mentioned making sure you’ve got some workouts planned and some movies, you know, is there anything else that you think people just need to have in their mind before they, they get on a plane?

[00:35:39] Lisa Baden: [00:35:39] Just make sure that you have, you know, like, what, what you need and, in terms of make sure you have someone in Australia, where you’re going to, that’s going to be able to help you out  if you need anything from outside of the hotel, you are not allowed to leave. So, just bear that in mind. And, yeah, exactly. [00:36:00] And that’s for the next 14 days.

[00:36:03]Josh Pugh: [00:36:03] Zjantelle to pull out your crystal ball for, momentarily, I know a lot of people want to know when our embassy’s opening, when are consulates opening.

[00:36:12] And I know we sort of touched on this the whole whole time. do we have any inkling or, you know, what’s, what’s your professional opinion?

[00:36:20] Zjantelle Markel: [00:36:20] You know, it’s, I wish I had a crystal ball! The appointments, when the consulate’s closed in March, on March 18 all the Australian constitutes closed, appointments were still available to book at that point in May.

[00:36:35] Right? So we booked those and then they got canceled, so then we could book in May. Then they got canceled. So it’ll just be telling to see what happens in June, with the Consulates that we have people booked at. And if they go ahead, great. it means they’re reopened. I think it’s a good sign that Australia has resumed the mailing.

[00:36:55] We did do mailing when the Consulates were first closed, we did a couple of [00:37:00] mail-ins and that put people got their passports back in three days. So. we’re gonna try it, so at least we’ll let you know how it goes, but everyone’s case is different. So there are some clients that I  had that I wouldn’t recommend mail-in to, actually. So I think it is definitely don’t just rush to do a mail-in because depending on your own immigration history and the new employer that you’re gonna be working with and what the role is, you know, in person might be better for you.

[00:37:29] So. And I’m sure Lisa’s attorneys made that analysis for her.

[00:37:34] Josh Pugh: [00:37:34] That’s a really good point. It does come down to personal circumstances. It doesn’t, you know, it’s different for everyone and there is no sort of sweeping rule. And while, and the other point you made is that while there are appointments available, there have been appointments available for the last few months, but they kind of keep canceling blocks of them and we don’t know for sure what the outcome’s going to be.

[00:37:53] Zjantelle Markel: [00:37:53] What we’ve been seeing is the cancellation pattern in two week intervals. So the beginning of May… At the end of April, [00:38:00] beginning of May got canceled like around April 15th. The first part, two weeks in May got canceled while the end of May was still available, and then as of last week, then all of May and end of May got canceled.

[00:38:11] So I think after May 15th, like around May 15th we’re going to see what’s what’s installed for June. So. I’m hanging out and hanging out, but I was on the phone with Paris with a couple of businesses in France on Monday, and they reopened. The had a soft re-opening on May 11 and so I asked, you know, what’s happening with that government offices opening and even though they’re reopening, restaurants are not reopening.

[00:38:39] If they do it won’t be until June 15th at half capacity and the travel industry, they’re prepared for it not to gear up until next year. like April next year.

[00:38:51] So we have people booked there. So it will be interesting to see what happens if they can even get in. Because right now you can’t even get into these [00:39:00] places. It’s going to be interesting to see if even if their appointments aren’t canceled, are they going to be able to get into the country and out of the country?  There are more logistics than just the Consulates opening up at play that we have to be aware of…

[00:39:13] Josh Pugh: [00:39:13] For sure. And I think that link you mentioned before iata.org is a good one just to use as a reference because it’s worth at least checking if you get into the country before anything else.

[00:39:21] Is there anything else you want to add, you know, on the future of all these nice people watching and listening for advice, is there anything else you sort of want to add? I know you’ve written some great articles that I’ve got links to on my website. and I’ll make sure that I’ve linked the contact details of all three of our panelists and some great information that they’ve contributed and some links they might’ve mentioned today in an email after this.

[00:39:43]But, sorry. Zjantelle.

[00:39:44] Zjantelle Markel: [00:39:44] Yeah. So I always close with just check if it’s still in the U S just check your I-94 even if you think your visa is valid until May next year, and it’s probably fine. Check it. Cause we had a client two weeks ago that checked his, he had no reason [00:40:00] to check it because he wasn’t getting furloughed, he’s an employer, which means he wasn’t getting furloughed, like he wasn’t getting this, he wasn’t getting that. But he checked, happened to check it and it had expired in February. So we were able to correct it, but if we hadn’t corrected it and he left the U.S. It would have been disastrous. So just everyone check it.

[00:40:19] Even if you think you don’t need to, just check it.

[00:40:23] Josh Pugh: [00:40:23] Yup. Excellent advice. Last thing, Zjantelle, the, in your sort of personal opinion with the executive order that came down and we had, it was a mention of non-immigrant visas, sort of tacked onto the end of the, the big part about the green cards. Is there anything you’d like to add for people?

[00:40:39] I know there are some people that are a little bit concerned about that mention.

[00:40:42] Zjantelle Markel: [00:40:42] Yeah. So what I’ve been sort of saying towards that is we were all really nervous when that executive order, you know, Trump tweeted about it two days before he actually released the order, and so there was a lot of nervousness about what it was going to contain.

[00:40:56] What it did contain pretty much in the iterated what was already [00:41:00] in effect. Right? It said, we’re not going to issue any grant cards for the next 30 days for people outside the U S. Well, most people can’t get green cards anyway because the consulates are closed, and that’s how you get the green cards, right?

[00:41:10] Yeah. It was kind of like reiterating, and I think for the purposes of, you know, people in middle America don’t know what’s going on with visas and the people can’t get green cards. So I think it was almost a statement to the rest of the world, Hey, by the way, we’ve kind of suspended immigration for this.

[00:41:22] Yeah. So I think that if anything, there was a letter and you know, it just says, item six effect did say that he was going to be requesting advice from, his Congress from Congressman. and there was a letter today to Trump advising Trump that they think that, H-1B’s should be suspended that like OBT should be suspended.

[00:41:40] And for the first 60 day, 30 to 60 day period, and the H2B program were particularly the categories that were brought up. So hopefully the E3 remains under the radar. There was a sweeping argument. Yeah, all non-immigrant visas because they’re taking jobs from Americans. and, but it does still seem to be like newbies.

[00:42:00] [00:41:59] Most of it is the new visas. So if you here on an H1B, or here, on an, on a visa already, I think that similarly to the other executive order, those people should not be affected. They even in their letter, talk about protecting the people that are already here. so yeah, hopefully it won’t affect too many of our other clients.

[00:42:22] Josh Pugh: [00:42:22] Yeah. It’s good to know. I mean, and again,

[00:42:24] Zjantelle Markel: [00:42:24] What’s actually already happening, right? The Consulates closed anyway so visas are really not being issued from outside of the U.S.

[00:42:34] Josh Pugh: [00:42:34] No, and again, that’s, you know, we don’t know for sure and where we’re keeping an eye on things and I’ll be sure to share anything that Zjantelle posts, but, yeah…

[00:42:42] Zjantelle Markel: [00:42:42] We’ll keep an eye on it for sure!

[00:42:45] Josh Pugh: [00:42:45] For sure. Jason, is there anything you want to add for people, what they should be thinking about? We’ve got tax time July 15. Make sure you’ve, even if you’re back in Australia, if you were here last year, make sure you’re thinking about taxes or anything else you want to, want to add?

[00:42:57] Jason Stoch: [00:42:57] Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, [00:43:00] everyone’s got more time now.

[00:43:01] It’s July 15. It’s not April, so you can still file everything on time and hopefully get a refund if that’s the return that you’ve earned. If you owe a bill, you only need to actually pay this July 15 even if you’ve already filed now. Any interest or penalties for not paying before July 15, are waved as an as a result of COVID.

[00:43:21] So, just know you’ve got time to get it done. Try get an accountant and we’ll try and get yours done on time. There’s no interest. If you do it today and you owe money.

[00:43:31] Josh Pugh: [00:43:31] Okay. Yeah. Fantastic. Do your taxes! That’s a good take home message and check your I-94. That’s a, yeah. Fantastic. Well, thank you all three of you very much.

[00:43:42] I know I’ve run a bit longer than I had intended to, but I thought it was all very important information for those watching. I hope we’ve answered some of the questions that you had. Next week we’ll be looking into workplaces and workspaces and returning to work and talking about health care and we’ve got some great people [00:44:00] on next week. I’ll be sending out some links, especially links to the three panelists and some information that they’ve shared.

[00:44:06] So everyone knows, I also host Friday night drinks and trivia on Friday nights, 5:30PM Eastern, so you can find that in the links that I send as well.

[00:44:14]And the last thing is that we do send out a feedback form and we’d love it if you could fill it in because it gives us a bit of an idea of what you’re thinking, what you got out of the panel. If you’ve got followup questions for panelists, you can fill that into the, Feedback form. And we love hearing from you cause that way we can grow these Regular Checkups into something that really helps you every single week.

[00:44:32] So thank you, Jason. Zjantelle, Lisa, very much for taking your time out today.

[00:44:37] A nd thank you everyone for watching! As my grandpa always said, hop to it and stay well. So thank you very much.

[00:44:45] Lisa Baden: [00:44:45] Thanks, Josh.

[00:44:46] Jason Stoch: [00:44:46] Thank you,

[00:44:46] Lisa Baden: [00:44:46] Josh.

 

About the Author

America Josh

I had a fantastic life in Adelaide and in Australia but thought in late 2015 that it was time to do something new. I handed over control of my company, sold my house, car, and even gave away my cat (“Aslan”) to start on my journey to New York.

I arrived in New York on January 10, 2017, from Adelaide, South Australia and in March 2017, I started America Josh to help make the transition to the US from wherever you’re from just a little bit easier.

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