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Working in Boston
Find out how to get a job and work in Boston
Compared to other major US cities such as Los Angeles and New York, many people do not have as clear an impression of what Boston’s business atmosphere is like. You might be surprised! Working in Boston is your key to one of the biggest urban economies in the US. Our guide to Boston has all the vital facts.
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Employment in Boston
- Boston’s economy has been growing steadily since the economic crisis and the unemployment rate is below the national average.
- There are many different working opportunities for expats in Boston; the high-tech sector or healthcare services belong to the larger sectors of the city.
- Finding a job in Boston is not going to be easy since there is highly skilled competition in the area. Unsolicited applications might be a good idea, especially because there is a large hidden job market in the US.
- To find out whether you are going to be taxed like a US citizen or not, you need to take the IRS’ Substantial Presence Test.
Boston’s Economy in a Nutshell
The combined manpower of some 2.5 million people working in Boston and its metro area makes the region the ninth-largest economy in the United States. Unemployment in the area, around 3.9% in June 2016, is significantly below the national average. Following a sharp decline in the wake of the economic crisis at the end of the last decade, people working in Boston quickly turned the ship around, as the economy returned to a generally positive performance, and has been growing steadily ever since.
There’s Something for Everyone: Boston’s Working Sectors
If you have already read our other articles on the city, the fact that Boston is home to schools of international renown will come as no surprise. Education is also a key factor in the city’s economy, attracting companies and specialized industries to the region, which provide plentiful career opportunities in Boston. Furthermore, the schools themselves are major employers.
Boston is a coastal town of high significance, and its seaport and related operations have traditionally been dependable sources of employment opportunities. Unsurprisingly, the city’s port is the oldest in the country — New England’s metropolis was the first in many things — and secured the livelihoods of countless people employed in Boston’s trade and maritime sectors.
Today, most people working in Boston have found employment in one of the major industries of the city’s economy: the high-tech sector (the fastest growing in Boston, with companies such as the multinational microchip producers Intel or AMD located around 30 miles outside the city), education and health, and the business services sector. Obviously, some sectors suffered crippling consequences in the 2008 crisis, but even today, working in Boston is a wise move for many people looking to further their careers.
One factor that should not be overlooked, even if its significance for expats is minor, is the number of people employed in Boston’s administrative and governmental sector. As a state capital and regional political center, the government has a steady demand for new employees in Boston’s administrative services.
If you are interested in sneakers, or if shaving is part of your daily bathroom ritual, there’s a decent chance you own products courtesy of the people working in Boston’s spearheading companies in those respective areas, New Balance and Gillette.
Expats in Boston: How to Find a Job
Expats interested in working in Boston face a notable obstacle in the job market, as the competition is stiff and highly qualified. Of course, not all graduates of the many educational institutions in the area are looking to start working in Boston, but the potential number of direct competitors is very high. Furthermore, many of the nonimmigrant visas offered by the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) require your future employer to prove that there were no suitable American applicants for the job. Thus, your dream of working in Boston will have to come true by virtue of your credentials. You will simply have to outpace the rest!
Of course, applying for jobs is not the only way to start working in Boston. As mentioned, many multinationals have offices or headquarters there. If you are employed with one of them in your home country, it could prove worthwhile to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities for working in Boston subsidiaries.
Be Prepared: The Cost of Living in Boston
As an expat working in Boston, chances are that your compensation will be fairly high. At the same time, Boston is among the most expensive cities in the entire US. For an outline of the housing market situation and the oftentimes outrageous rents for quality apartments, see our article on moving to Boston.
While you will probably be able to make a nice living working in Boston, the figures on your paycheck shouldn’t fool you. The cost of living in Boston is 39.6% higher than the national average. Groceries and healthcare in particular are expensive in the City on a Hill.
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Expat Business Info Boston
Are You a Resident or Non-Resident Alien? Find Out Now
When it comes to taxes, the US government distinguishes between two different categories of foreign nationals living in the country: resident and non-resident aliens. You are considered a resident alien under US tax law if you meet either the Green Card test — i.e. if you are a Green Card holder — or the substantial presence test.
In simplified terms, to meet the substantial presence test you must have been in the USA for at least 31 days during the current year and a total of 183 days in the past three years (including the current year). The homepage of the IRS has further information on this subject, including exemption rules. Generally speaking, if you are living and working in the US on a permanent basis, you are taxed like a US citizen.
If you do not pass either of the two tests, you are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes. As a non-resident alien, only your income from sources within the USA is subject to taxation.
As is the case virtually everywhere in the world, the tax regulations of the IRS are fairly complicated, for foreign residents and nationals alike. We highly recommend reading about taxation of aliens on the IRS website. These links might be of special interest to you:
- Tax Treaties
- Taxation of Nonresident Aliens
- Tax Info for Resident Aliens
- International Taxpayers Overview Page
When to Get Your Social Security Number
A social security card shows your individual social security number and is of utmost importance in the USA, almost every bit as important as your ID. It is a prerequisite to getting any kind of work in the country, and every citizen and resident is required to acquire one. The Social Security Administration has compiled lots of useful information on their social security number overview page. We highly recommend reading it in detail.
If you plan on entering the US on an immigrant visa, you can apply for a social security card with your visa application. Nonimmigrants should file for their card online ten days after their arrival in the US. The standard social security contribution is 6.2% of your monthly salary.
Why Networking Is Important: The Hidden Job Market
In the US, not all job openings are advertised in the classifieds of the local newspapers, on online job portals, or even on company websites. In fact, it is estimated that less than half of all jobs are openly advertised. The rest are part of what is commonly referred to as the hidden job market.
This basically means that knowledge of current or upcoming openings tends to first be passed on between colleagues, friends, or business contacts. Unfortunately, it is very likely that many of the best and most lucrative jobs are only available to those with “access” to this hidden market. As such, networking and maintaining good contacts throughout the business world are vital to career-driven individuals.
What to Keep in Mind When Looking for a Job
As it is illegal to enter the US on a tourist visa with the intent to look for jobs, your job search will have to start from abroad. Assuming you do not have an existing business network, your first stop will most likely be internet resources as well as the classified sections of the large print publications in Boston. If you are lucky enough to work for a company with offices in Boston, just inquire about the possibility of being assigned there.
One way of getting a handle on the hidden job market, even as an expat without much of a network, can be unsolicited applications. Look for companies you’d be interested in working for, and give it a try. These kinds of applications are not at all rare, and if your CV and application make enough of an impression to justify the considerable cost of hiring a foreigner, your chances might actually be alright. Best of luck!
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