My personal Chaos Monkey

This is a repost of my Inspire9 blog post. It’s been over a year since my last post and I decided it was about bloody time for a new one.

About a year ago, I decided that life was too simple so I introduced the Chaos Monkey into my life.

The Chaos Monkey is a creation of Netflix which attacks it own systems by randomly shutting down services. As insane as it sounds, it is designed to ensure and prove their systems can gracefully tolerate any failure the AWS cloud can throw at them and build resilience in the process.

This time last year I didn’t have anything exciting happening. I had crawled away from my startup after a falling out with my partners. My other companies were earning a basic income for me but didn’t require much of my time and consulting generally sucks the life out of me. But the bills kept coming in and sitting around doing nothing wasn’t going to be practical for long.

When I first decided I wanted to move the family to the USA I had no clue I was releasing my Chaos Monkey. It seemed like a simple idea – follow my career-long dream of working in Silicon Valley by finding someone stupid enough to send me and my family overseas. Little did I know that I would spend the next 12 months consumed with this plan and that I would increase the family stress level to Def Con 4 by hopping on a roller coaster of success and failure that still hasn’t concluded its loops.

My first attempt was to acquire a job with a Melbourne company that wanted to open an office somewhere in the USA. I haven’t been an employee for 12 years so this was part distressing and part de-stressing. Within three weeks of starting I worked out how unlikely they were to ever be able to open an office in the USA and how even less likely I was to risk my family in their incapable hands.

My second attempt was to follow the (seemingly) sagely advice of Geoff McQueen who codified the process of setting up a US legal entity (in my case an LLC), offering oneself a job and then applying for an E-3 visa to accept that job. The E-3 visa application is a pretty simple process once it’s broken down into clear steps and really doesn’t require an immigration lawyer. Within about 3-4 weeks I had a company, a virtual mailroom, the authorisation to hire overseas workers and a visa application all prepared and ready to submit in person to the US consulate.

The interview at the consulate was going pretty well. They asked a few easy questions about me, my work and my company. I didn’t hide the fact that I was hiring myself and they didn’t make a major issue of it either. But they sent me away a 221(g) request for more information, specifically my Australian company’s “financial details”. I sent them P&L statements for the last 5 years. They asked for bank records. I sent them the last 60 days worth. Then a few more days later, without notice, my passport arrived without a visa in it and an accompanying 214(b) rejection.

It seems that the E-3 visa is not to be used for transferring yourself to the USA, rather for filling a role in a US company. The problem is this process is exactly what Geoff’s post suggests worked for him and many others. So, what went wrong? After speaking to a few people who also got rejected (where were they beforehand!?!?) the common thread is the Melbourne consulate rejects applications like this, the Sydney consulate accepts them. A few small changes might have made a difference but I will never know. I certainly should not have signed the paperwork (the letter of offer in particular) myself. That’s what highlighted to them that I was hiring myself.

The really nasty side-effect of this rejection is that from now on, whenever I am asked “Have you ever had a visa application rejected?” I have to answer yes.

I am now nearing the 12 month mark since I employed my first Chaos Monkey and I am still in Melbourne. I am working on attempt three by trying to lock down a job offer from a “real” US company so I can get an E-3 visa the standard way. My deadline is the end of this month. If I haven’t put the Chaos Monkey to bed by then, my wife will euthanise it. We are still married and we have learned a lot about patience, planning and stress management. A good example, is tell nobody about your plans until they are real.


For more information about the ins-and-outs of moving to the USA, have a look at our Wiki here.


One response to “My personal Chaos Monkey

  1. Update: After a running battle with the consulate (including them losing track of my passport for nearly a week) I finally received my E3 on Wednesday and I fly out tomorrow! Farewell Melbourne.

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