Seeing as my move to the U.S. is now only four and a half months away, I thought I'd give an update on how this was going.
One promise I'm going to make is that if I ever succeed in moving to the States and finding work as a screenwriter (when I succeed?), I'm going to write a how-to book for all the other non-U.S. writers who like me, want to move over but have no idea where to start. Because there is no book like that. I know, I've searched Amazon. And some solid advice would be really welcome right now.
Here is what I've gleaned so far:
The motherload in terms of moving to the States. No visa, no In-N-Out burger. I did a consultation with visa lawyer and she has concluded that I am eligible for a fancy O1 artists visa, especially with my Moondance win. However - you can ONLY work as a writer. No day job to make ends meet and if you run out of money, tough buns. It's back to Ireland on the first flight you can afford to stick on your soon to be maxed-out credit card.
Also, you must have a manager/agent in place. While they're not going to be your "employer" per se, they act as a facilitator between you and the actual employer (i.e. the film company that will be hiring and paying you.) So if you can't get an agent, you can't get an O1 visa. (That said, I'm going to Moondance AND Austin this year so you never know!)
Oh and there's the lawyer's fees - $6,000 for the case. There's also a government filing fee of $325 and a union letter fee that ranges from $200-350. Gulp.
However, there is a Plan B, in the form of the humble three-month tourist visa. My back-up plan is to head over on one of these at the end of January, spend three months networking like a mother and hopefully end up with some decent contacts/offers of work/representation at the end of it. Being on the ground as opposed to 5,000 miles away might be what does the trick.
As in, money to live on while I'm on a tourist visa and unable to work a day job. I'm aiming to save 10 grand and this is going okay - although going to Boulder and Austin has taken a bite out of this fund. I'm justifying it by claiming that the contacts and potential leads outweigh the costs - only time will tell.
I have, however, sold a lot of extraneous possessions and am now down to things like college books (if you know anyone studying English, Philosophy or History of Art, let me know) and an inflatable exercise ball (ditto). Of course, I still have a lot of crap - it's just crap I'm not willing/able to get rid of yet.
One thing we haven't managed to shift as yet is our house. It's lovely, it's just not for me or my sister anymore. Again, that needs to go before I do...
You can extend VHI by paying through the nose for an overseas premium. U.S. insurance might be cheaper, but you can't avail of it without a proper visa.
I'd love to buy a beater to get around L.A. but I'm still not clear, despite extensive research, about whether you can get insurance if you haven't got a long-term visa. Any U.S.-based people know anything about this? You'll also need to apply for an international driving licence - see here.
I've only started to enter the maze that seems to be choosing a neighborhood in L.A. to live in. However, many of the Irish and U.K. ex-pats seem to live around Venice Beach, simply because the temperatures there don't reach the sizzling heights that they do in West Hollywood. And I am Irish, after all. Any thoughts on this will be gratefully accepted!
I'll continue to update on the moving saga as it gets nearer to D Day - meanwhile, I'm off to pack for Boulder....