Tips for expats

Upcoming events
About us
Picture gallery
Tips for expats


This section aims to answer questions that are commonly of interest to Australian and New Zealand citizens living in Boston.

All incoming students should read these tips for living, working, eating and going out in the Boston area: "Tidbits from an MIT Aussie". It's a great resource for all people that are new to Boston and are looking for an insider's perspective [thanks to Murray Height for the compilation].


1. What is the best way to ship stuff home when I graduate ?

2. How can I watch Australian Rules in Boston ?

3. Should I be paying Social Security and Medicare taxes ?

4. Where can I buy Australian/New Zealand beer in Boston ?


Q: What is the best way to ship stuff home when I graduate ?

A: Some ANZ members have offered the following tips:

Have a look at UPakWeShip's website. They ship from Boston to Australia with a range of options from a few boxes to a 40' container. We are about to send our stuff back in a 20' container ($4600 - a lot, but I've been in the States for 13 years!). Obviously shipping a few boxes wouldn't be nearly as much. They give quotes by e-mail.

We used a United Van Lines affiliate, and they were reasonably priced and very good. Contact details are below.

Steve Wojtowicz
Internet Sales Representative
Registered International Mover
ISO 2001 Certified
Unigroup Worldwide/UTS
Ph: 636-349-7372
Fax: 636-305-2190

There is a shipping company that orgainises containers. They set up regularly to advertise themselves in the student centre 1st floor at MIT. I can't recall their name at the moment.

I shipped a lot of stuff back at the end of 2001. Admittedly I had no furniture to ship home, but I found
the cheapest alternative to be the post "by sea".

We researched it a lot, and found the best and cheapest way was the good old US post. If your shipping clothes and
the like it's the best deal. We shipped 45 or so boxes and it was less than a carrier.

It is expensive at first glance but you might want to think about FedEx or some other courier for heavy stuff like books as well as most other smaller stuff. It is only when you have a real lot of stuff does shipping make sense - they charge a huge premium for anything less than a full ship container.

Richard and Kate said the Post Office book rate was pretty good - apparently you need to fill several mailing sacks, but I expect you have enough stuff to justify that.

You probably already know about the book shipping with USPS, but it seems pretty reasonable.

I haven't made further contact with these guys yet but they do give you an online quote (the one I got for Ireland seemed pretty good) and at least you could make a comparison with other quotes you might get.



Q: How can I watch Australian Rules in Boston ?

A: For AFL coverage, one game and a highlights package are shown each week on Fox Sports World. FSW is available as part of most digital cable packages in Massachusetts - Comcast definitely features it (Channel 56). The Australian Football Association of North America is an invaluable resource for TV scheduling. To sample live action, you should attend a Boston Demons homegame.



Q: Should I be paying Social Security and Medicare taxes ?

A: [Courtesy of Duncan Galloway]

Basically, if you are in the US on a J or F visa you shouldn't have to pay Social Security or Medicare tax for the first two calendar years.

There are two steps to deciding whether you should pay: the substantial presence test and the exemptions. If you are an alien (not a US citizen) you are considered to be a nonresident alien UNLESS you meet the substantial presence test (or you have a green card). The substantial presence test goes like this:

If you are physically present in the US for at least 31 days of the calendar year for which you are calculating your tax, and at least 183 days over that and two previous years (counting 1/3 of the days in the previous year, and 1/6 of the days in the year before that) then you meet the substantial presence test.

If this seems a little complicated, it is; you can read Publication 519 for more detail and worked examples. But the reason most won't need to worry about it is that for J and F visa holders in the first two years of their stay in the US, you don't have to count any of the days you are actually in the US towards the substantial presence test. (You are termed an "exempt individual" while satisfying this condition; exempt from the substantial presence test that is, NOT tax!)

So you should not be paying Social Security or Medicare tax for the first two years you are in the US on a J or F visa (there are also some other categories of exempt individuals). If tax is being taken out and shouldn't, you are entitled to get it back. If you stay after your second calendar year, you should pay Social Security and Medicare tax.

For more information, see the "US Tax Guide for Aliens" also known as Publication 519.


Q: Where can I buy Australian/New Zealand beer in Boston ?

A: [Courtesy of Belinda Baker]

After looking all over Boston, my husband found Coopers – all brands – at the bottle shop in Davis Square.