After I had described the way that I can do on-site, real-time, training in trouble-shooting for a group of DBAs I got a few email messages from American companies asking if I could do something of that sort for them.
The two commonest questions were: did I set a minimum number of days for a contract before I would fly to America, and was I allowed to work when I got there.
In the UK or Western Europe, of course, it’s easy for me to travel somewhere for just one or two days – I’ve done day trips to France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and several other countries before now when the client has been based close to an airport (or Eurostar train station).
Getting to America takes a bit longer though, so I like to book in for a full week – but I’m prepared to drop that to three days if it’s on the East Coast and four if it’s on the West Coast or if it’s in one of those awkward places that need me to spend several hours waiting in an airport. (Someone recently pointed out to me that I could probably get from London to New York faster than an Oracle consultant could get from Redwood Shores to New York and, to my surprise, they were right - the round-trip flight-time is about 2 hours 30 minutes shorter !)
I have managed to arrange all sorts of variations on this minimum time, though: on one occasion I did a “tour” of the East Coast stopping off for one day at three different places; on another I spent Monday and Tuesday on one site, then flew halfway across America to spend Thursday and Friday at another site before flying home. +++
If I’m working somewhere in the USA, by the way, I always try to get hold of the local Oracle user group to see if they would like to set up an evening event for their members – so I’ve been to quite a lot of pizza-fueled user group sessions in the USA.
As far as being allowed to work is concerned, I have a visa that specifically allows me to do training and consultancy work in the USA. It’s an O-1 visa for “Aliens with Extraordinary Ability”. Ideally you’re supposed to be a Nobel prize winner to get one of these but I didn’t have one of those so I had to use plan B which was to supply documentation in three of eight given categories – and by the time my immigration attorney had finished grilling me for information I think she had collected enough information to allow me to score on all eight.
If you check the list of requirements on the linked page, you’ll see that Numbers 5 (Evidence of original contributions of significance in the field) and 6 (Authorship of scholarly articles) was particularly easy.
When it came to number 7 (Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations with a distinguished reputation) I had plenty of choice since I’ve done trouble-shooting for something like 20 companies from the FTSE 100*** – but in the end I went for something even more distinguished (I can’t say who because of the confidentiality requirements).
Number 8 (Evidence that the alien has or will command a high salary) was pretty easy as well – but please remember, if you ask me how much I charge for coming out to America and think the rates sound a bit high, it’s not my fault, I’m just making sure I meet the requirements of the visa. ;)
*** FTSE 100 – roughly the equivalent of the Fortune 100 in the US. (And I’ve done work for quite a few of those as well – but there’s lot of overlap between the two groups)
+++ I have taken some fairly mad flights in my time – possibly the most extreme was about 20 years ago when I got on a plane in Singapore on Friday evening, landed in London for a job interview on Saturday morning, and got back on a plane on Saturday evening to land in Singapore on Sunday night. (I did get the job – but I don’t think I’d ever want to do that flight again).