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Employment in New York

  • New York is the world’s capital of finance, however, tourism, real estate, media, and the green industries are also major employers in the city.
  • Taxation is relatively low in the USA, but keep in mind that tax is due on the federal as well as the state level.
  • Everybody working in the US has to pay social security. However, if your home country has a Social Security Agreement with the States, you might be exempt from making social security contributions.
  • The job market in New York is hard to crack; make sure to plan enough time for your search and also think about unsolicited applications.
  • Finding housing in NYC is difficult and prices are high. The help of a real estate agent might be an option; otherwise, newspaper and online listing services are the first point of information.

The workforce of New York contributes to one of the largest urban economies worldwide. New York City is a global financial center in every aspect, whose performance has far-reaching effects across the world, for better or worse.

Many people working in New York’s private sector are employed by foreign corporations, and the city is truly a major site for global business. International companies naturally attract an international workforce, and nearly half of all wage earners in New York are indeed foreign born.

For many foreign employees, working in New York undoubtedly has a glamorous element. The buzz of the big city and a competitive business environment make expat assignments in New York an unforgettable experience. For employers, a diverse and innovative workforce allows for recruiting the cream of the crop from a pool of highly skilled and well-qualified people.

The World’s Capital of Finance

As people working in New York will know, the impact and importance of New York’s major industries naturally far exceed what we can cover in this overview. Nevertheless, the financial sector plays a major role in the city’s economy.

NYC provides the financial services sector with both talent and customers, which is why more than a hundred different banks from many different countries — along with their countless employees — are located here. Even though only 8% of the city’s employees work in the financial sector, they contribute 20% of the Gross City Product (“GCP”), which is almost twice as much as the next largest industries, e.g. real estate or science.

The city’s position as the global capital of financial service providers is challenged only by London and Tokyo. However, with the world’s two largest stock exchanges, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, located in Manhattan, the city easily bears comparison to its two competitors.

How about Tourism or Real Estate?

It’s no surprise that tourism is also a major employer in New York. At this point, more than 50 million tourists visit New York every year. After the global economic crisis, the city’s government pledged to focus on tourism as a significant source of income for many people working in New York, with some success.

The metropolis also boasts some of the world’s most expensive real estate, particularly in Manhattan. Employers working in the high-rise office buildings in Manhattan’s business hotspots can pride themselves on sitting at a desk in one of the most desirable office spaces in the world. As a natural consequence, there are plenty of job opportunities for hard-nosed real estate professionals with plans of working in New York.

The Capital of Creative Heads

New York City could also be called the media capital of the United States as far as the sheer number of people working in New York’s creative industries is concerned. As a major center for the publishing industry as well as for music, television, and advertising, New York has a media workforce of several hundreds of thousands.

Design, architecture, and fashion are usually also considered part of the creative industries, and fashion alone provides jobs for over 183,000 people, making up 5.5% of New York’s workforce.

With 110 educational, 164 academic, and 1,400 cultural institutions, New York’s arts, non-profit, and higher education sector is another fixture of the city’s employment market. So is the medical sector, where qualified expats may find opportunities at one of the nearly 250 hospitals and other healthcare providers.

New Working Opportunities: The Green Industries

The high concentration of academic institutions has attracted a host of bioscience companies to New York, allowing the high-tech industry to flourish. “Green” industries have made a relatively recent appearance, but working in New York’s green sector is certainly gaining in popularity.

In line with the increasing global awareness of climate change issues, the NYC government put forward 30 initiatives in 2009 intended to support and attract “green” entrepreneurs and businesses. These initiatives are designed to make living and working in New York a healthier and more attractive proposition and to double the city’s green workforce in the next decade.

New York: Taxation and Social Security

Taxation: Surprisingly Low, but Bear in Mind the State Tax

Resident New Yorkers pay federal income tax to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state income tax to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. In general, the United States pursues a low taxation policy. The amount of federal income tax you have to pay as a foreign worker depends on your residency status and income.

Resident aliens are usually taxed like US citizens, while non-resident aliens only need to declare their income from US sources. On the IRS website, you can find more information on taxpayer regulations, including the method to determine your residency status. People who continue to pay tax in their country of origin can be exempted from paying federal income tax if their country has a double taxation agreement with the US.

However, such agreements only prevent double taxation on a federal level and don’t affect state income tax. New York State tax tables and rates, including the New York City Resident Tax, are available on the website of the Department of Taxation and Finance.

Plan Ahead: Social Security and Pensions

Social security in the US covers old age, survivors, and disability insurance. Employer and employee each contribute 6.2% of the personal income to social security (12.4% in total), as well as 1.45% each to Medicare (2.9% in total). At the age of 67, anyone who has earned 40 social security credits over the years is eligible for retirement benefits. A maximum of four credits can be earned per year of work.

However, the state pension typically amounts to only a small share of an employee’s past income. Usually, it is therefore not sufficient to keep up one’s previous standard of living. Consequently, most people either pay into a company pension fund or make additional Individual Retirement Arrangements.

If you are planning to retire in New York or other parts of the country, it’s a good idea to consult an accountant to learn about such additional arrangements.

All You Need to Know about Social Security for Expats

Expats who will be working in New York for only a limited period of time should check the pay-out or transfer options of the funds mentioned before signing up. Under certain circumstances, it is also possible for temporary residents to be exempt from social security contributions altogether.

Similar to Income Tax Treaties, the United States maintains so-called Social Security Agreements with a number of countries. Citizens of these should refer to their country’s individual social security agreement for more information. These agreements regulate which social security contributions you have to make during your time in New York.

Additionally, all New York residents need a social security number for taxation, social security, and other government purposes. Expats on an immigrant visa can request theirs as they are applying for their visa. Nonimmigrants, meanwhile, should use the online application service of the US Social Security Agency ten days after they arrive in the USA.

New York: Job Search and Accommodation

Job Hunting: Don’t Forget the Hidden Job Market

If you are looking for a job in New York, the New York Times job market, whether in print or online, should be your first source of information. Alternatively, a regular internet search should result in various other search tools and databases for vacancies and employers in New York City. Websites such as Jobsin New York, for example, advertise local jobs for those who speak English.

In the US, it’s generally said that less than half of all job opportunities are openly advertised, so giving unsolicited applications a go can definitely be worth the effort. Check the New York Yellow Pages for contact details of suitable businesses, or ask your nearest US Chamber of Commerce for a list of companies with branches or business associates in New York.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is recommended reading if you’d like to get an overview of the US labor market and find out more about occupations currently in demand.

The Job Market in NYC — Even Harder as an Expat

A general word of warning: unless you are sent to New York on an expat assignment, or you are a renowned specialist in your field, getting a job in NYC can be incredibly difficult for overseas applicants.

This is partly due to the vast pool of talented New Yorkers available to the city’s recruiters. It also has to do with the fact that the process of filing a visa application for a potential foreign employee is rather time consuming and costly for employers. Finally, as tempting as it might seem, coming to New York on a tourist visa to look for work is illegal and certainly not recommended.

Get Your Wallet Ready: Housing in the Big Apple

Finding accommodation in New York can be just as difficult as finding a job. The demand for nice, convenient, yet affordable accommodation far exceeds the supply. Thus, you need to be prepared to invest a lot of time and/or considerable amounts of money in order to find the right place to live.

People who enlist the services of a relocation firm or a real estate agent can save themselves a lot of legwork, but this comfort comes at a price. Aside from information on the property itself, a good real estate agent should be able to provide you with detailed information on neighborhoods, communities, local schools, and public transportation. Some companies assist new employees in finding accommodation, and others publish an employee magazine with useful information on the property market.

Plan Enough Time: Finding Accommodation

Those with a lot of time on their hands can, of course, go apartment-hunting themselves. Check newspapers, online listing services, or notice boards in schools, grocery stores, or at bus stops for apartments available for rent.

Familiarizing yourself with the property and the neighborhood before signing a contract is vital, even if you feel pressured to act by the proprietor or the broker. If you have found an area or a specific building where you would like to live, it might be worth asking the superintendent to put you on the waiting list, even if no vacancies are currently being advertised.

Sometimes, young (and even not-so-young) professionals on average incomes unwilling to compromise on size and location consider flat-sharing as a more affordable alternative.

Buying Your Own Home

For well-to-do expats who bring their families to New York, it could be worth it to buy rather than rent property in some of the more suburban and residential boroughs. Given the high demand for real estate, it should be possible to resell a well-kept house or apartment at a profit after a couple of years. Although buying property in the US is relatively straightforward, even for foreigners, hiring an attorney to guide you through the process is highly recommended.

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  • Javier Vazquez

    Even in a crowded city like the Big Apple you can easily get lost. With InterNations I've made some really good friends and also added to my business contacts.

  • Noemi Roussel

    The top events organized in the New York chapter helped me get to know expat women from France and many other countries all over the world.

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