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Work & Costs

Getting a green card through official channels is tough. They have lotteries from time to time (as though going to live and work in America were everyone’s dearest dream) but it’s not clear how slim your chances are. Temporary work visas are given to youngsters enrolled in the Work in America programs, where teenagers in search of adventure are sent to supervise spoilt American kids in summer camp. You work your ass off, camp out for six weeks and they give you a few hundred bucks ‘pocket money’ so you can get a little of that ‘travel experience’ that all Gap year students crave.

Alternatively, you can go somewhere like San Francisco, head on down to the Mission district and ask any Mexican hanging around conspicously on a street corner about green cards. You’ll be taken along to the green card guy who, for about $150, will make you up a fake green card with your photo on it. Make sure there’s no spelling mistakes and you’re probably better off not using your real last name. Check also that the social security number is credible (ie. not 123456789). The fake green card may not work for getting a job as a lawyer of school teacher but it will mean that your employer is no longer liable for hiring you. The IRS receives around 9 million fake social security numbers each year and is way too busy to check them all out.

The US is big on tipping so jobs like bartending and waitressing are really well paid. The service industry is much more evolved in the US and you will be expected to give the customers a lot of attention. Good eye contact, a few well rehearsed jokes and plenty of attention to the customer’s needs will help your tips pile up. Bartenders in America are expected to know how to make the common cocktails and how to free pour. There exist bartending courses that can give you a start but it’s not clear whether it’s really worth paying the $500 or so that they’ll set you back just so you can make some fancy multilevel cocktail. Jobs aren’t that easy to come by either as bartending is so well paid. You can start out as a ‘bar back’, the person who refills the ice and restocks the shelves and refrigerator, and work your way up.

The economy in California is generally pretty good and you can make decent money with most kinds of work. A driving licence will help a lot as things are more spaced out here and a creative resume won’t hurt either. No employer is going to make international phone calls to check out your references. When asked how you got your green card you can always tell them you won the lottery.

Travelers arriving in California in the autumn should be on the lookout for jobs clipping weed. The medical marijuana laws in California have allowed small ganja farms to spring up everywhere and you get paid around $20 an hour in cash to manicure the buds. This job needs good connections though but you have a fair chance of making some if you head out to the Burning Man festival in Arizona in the last week of August. The work is intensive as each harvest has to be cut before mould sets in so you can earn a lot of money in a short space of time if you have the patience to clip away at marijuana leaves for ten hours a day.