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Finding Work in the US as a Non-US Resident? 110

Posted by Cliff
from the anyone-with-a-spare-green-card dept.
America-bound asks: "I'm a senior Java developer living in Europe with the wish to move to the US eventually and live with my significant other. Over here, I have a diverse set of experience working on in-house development and freelance/project work. I don't intend for this to look like a resume or request for work, so I won't go into specifics. Europe, or at least my country, has very healthy prospects for those working freelance, but I'm not sure how things are in the USA (California to be more specific). My timespan for achieving this is realistic; I'm looking at making the move within 2-3 years, giving me time to work on my skills, experience and do more networking, as well as get used to life in the USA. I would like to know if my plans for working freelance, or as my own company, are very realistic in the US. Perhaps there are other good alternatives that I haven't explored yet. Hence, I turn to Slashdot hoping for some clues by others who have either made the switch to living in the US or are working there successfully, as freelancers."
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Finding Work in the US as a Non-US Resident?

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  • Are you sure? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by ka9dgx (72702)
    We're rapidly sliding towards a totalitarian dictatorship in this country... are you sure you want to move here?
    --Mike--
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "We're rapidly sliding towards a totalitarian dictatorship in this country... are you sure you want to move here?"*

      As opposed to say Britian?

      *Pet peeve of mine. Most slashdotters have NEVER lived under a dictatorship, and just know what they've read, or watched on TV or movies. Just as the rest of the world's view of the US comes through entertainment channels. Likewise most slashdotters have never actually encountered "evil", and gratuitiously throw the word around with not a hint of it's true depth.

      Be tha
      • While it's true that I don't have experience living in a dictatorship, I sure the hell was educated as to why they are very bad things. I know what evil is, it's not someone dressed in black, with a black hat... it's men who refuse to stand up and point out things that are wrong. Its the quiet acquiesence(sp?) of the majority to give up liberty in pursuit of security.

        <GODWIN [wikipedia.org]> Hitler was elected, and slowly ratcheted up the level of control over the masses. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does

      • "Just as the rest of the world's view of the US comes through entertainment channels"

        Thats so true.

        Prior to coming to the US as a student, I used to think there are no fat people in USA. I also thought there were only 2 types of people; white people and black people.

        Standing in Manhattan I was so confused.

      • I did... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:44PM (#14314370) Journal
        And in all honesty, people underestimate how things happen. I grew up to my teens under a dictator.

        What we had:
        Better healthcare, better education, near ZERO unemployment, no sweatshops (our particular lord and master HATED dealing with the west because, as Hussein also put it "they lie so much, even they don't know where they stand" this being a VERY accurate assessment of the USA/Western business model, in AD&D terms, we'd call the west Lawful Evil (or soulless bureaucracy for pure material gain)... oh and we had VERY GOOD public transit... there was a bus to ANYWHERE in any town of significant size (pop. wise)... or trolley or metro or any combo of the 3. Cabs too. Most people were taxed at an even level, taxes were drawn out before pay, so what you were paid is what you got. Did I mention that people were allowed to grow their own food and did so admirably? I saw very FEW fat people until I came to the USA. Must be something in the food, air or water cuz I'm rather chubby now too :( (and this is AFTER losing over 30 lbs this past year)

        What we did not have:
        Freedom to freely gather for whatever cause we wished to support. Freedom of religion (churches were watched, people going in or out were harassed and deprived of social boons (grades lowered, etc)). Having a second job or business was considered a crime, as was the act of abortion without a permit (same with marriage and having kids). Kept overpopulation down quite well.

        His major flaws were the stifling of ideas... if the man had been less brutal and less greedy, he'd still be in power, instead of leaving a double to die on TV so he could retire with the missus. Needless to say, I presume the same will happen to Saddam, and to George Bush / Cheney when they are overthrown (I'm still waiting for the idiot in chief to declare martial law, the day he does is the day I'm a Canuck :)

        if you were on the wrong side of our master there, he'd never hear of you... the job was delegated to his version of the NSA (and after a thorough investigation, usually taking a few seconds with a silencer or knife, nobody would hear of you again)... we had a saying "the walls have eyes and ears, say nothing and live long"... the only place people could talk was in the country in homes their grandparents had built in the times of the king before the "modernization" of the big cities.

        ~Daedalus
        • I wish you made it clearer which country you're from. Is it China?
          • How in blazes would I be from China and be THIS articulate?? You mustve had a very SMALL selection of extremely English proficient chinese individuals to sample from.

            Also, in China they practiced brutal mass suppression, we never really had much of that, ours was more individual based. China is a very populous country, ours was relatively small, being that Russia (at the slightest nod of the oh so benevolent US gov't (the people we aided by turning guns on the Nazis)) divided what was ours to all their bo
            • "Wow... US education at work"

              I'm french *beep, bad answer*. Blame France. Hadn't paid attention to the Black Sea thing.

              Why didn't I remember that Black Sea thing? Oh, I know! Maybe because you DID NOT mention it in the post I replied to, but in some other post that i just read that has nothing to do with it. Instead of treating me like a stupid muthafucka, make sure you ain't the stupid muthafucka, check which post I'm replying to

              "you're native to someplace in the US eh?"

              near, about 3,500 miles to t

              • So you just jump into a thread in the middle and work your way down, ignoring the upper part of the thread?
                • upper part? how is it gonna be the upper part as the comment in which he mentions the black sea is a reply to the same comment I was replying to. Do you look for replies to the comment you want to reply to by the same user who made the comment you want to reply to before you make your comment? I just read his comment and replied to it, quit acting like I did something wrong, I didn't, he did when he considered that I was supposed to know that he lived near the black sea.

                  i'm not supposed to read all of the 2

                  • Let's see, he posts for the first time Wednesday night (U.S. Eastern Time Zone), about 4 hours later some AC appoints themselves spokesman for Canada and rudely invites him to stay away from there. He replies to the AC's post about 24 hours after his own post. About 24 hours after that your post, in reply to his first post, shows up, apparently ignoring the entire 2 intervening posts.

                    So I was mistaken, you didn't fail to read up, you didn't read down.

                    At that point he replies to you, about a day and a half

                    • well you see, I really don't care. I replied to his post, period. I was gonna read his other posts cuz I got other shit to do. When you read someone's reply, you don't assume they read all your other posts, you only assume that the person read the post they replied too.

                      You weirdos

      • Sure, some dictatorships are worse than others, but let's take China as an example. The economy has liberalized since the 70s. Trade and business are probably as free as any Western democracy. I would say cronyism is more entrenched than the US, so bribes are a cost of doing business. As far as political speech, speaking against the government is dealt with harshly. Maybe not instant gulag for one message board post, but anyone big enough to get some attention will be arrested. For most average people going
    • One reason American politics is so fucked up: Americans are damned ignorant. Like not knowing the difference between a totalitarian state [reference.com] and a police state [reference.com].
      • "...not knowing the difference between a totalitarian state and a police state."

        Perhaps you could assist those of us who fall short of your measure with one or more real-life examples of countries which have been one or the other but not both.

        • Hey what am I an encyclopedia? You should go look it up. (Preferrably in something more erudite than Wikipedia.) But since there's just a bit of sarcasm in your post, I guess I'm obligated to oblige:

          Examples of totalitarian states: any of the notorious "thought control" states: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, any of the many one-party Marxist countries. They're characterized by their "total" control, not just of people's lives, but even of the way they think.

          Police states, by contrast, don't care what peop

          • It wasn't sarcasm, it was gentle humor. :-)

            Seriously, thank you for a thought provoking reply.

            By the way, about that student who claimed to have been visited by DHS agents wanting a word with him about his interest in the late Chairman's best seller. Turns out he made it up.

            • Sorry, everything on Slashdot seems to have a sarcastic tinge these days...

              By the way, about that student who claimed to have been visited by DHS agents wanting a word with him about his interest in the late Chairman's best seller. Turns out he made it up.

              A possibility that should have occurred to me. Still, it's not pleasant to know that federal agents have the authority to track what we read. The fact that they haven't used it yet is neither here nor there.

              • The lesson I take from the little red book story isn't to do with whether or not it was true, but that we've reached the point that it's so easy to believe a story like that.

                I'm sure there must be some story someone could tell about King George the 43rd and his court that would make me go "No way, even they wouldn't do that", but I can't seem to think of anything at the moment.

  • Freelancing is always hard, my friend. At least, I think it is. However, if you're willing to fight the good fight in a free economy, then I say go for it. You should do well. I'd still rather have a steady job, though. The changes you have to make all depend on the country in which you're currently living. In general, though, moving from a Western country to the US shouldn't be that big a leap.
  • by slashkitty (21637) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @04:22PM (#14311734) Homepage
    Speaking as a freelance java programmer in the US, I think java in particular is on the way out. I hate to think what it'd be like in 3 years when you start. LAMP or MS based apps are more common and growing. Good freelancing jobs can be hard to get into, it's mostly about networking and having the right people trust you for the job. Why not freelance for people now? Why are you moving to the US?
  • by jo42 (227475) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @04:23PM (#14311739) Homepage
    You really need to do your immigration research first. Unless you find a sponsor as far as work visas go, and then go through an extensive process to get a green card, don't even bother trying...

    i.e. Been there, done that, back in Canada.
  • by HRbnjR (12398) <chris@hubick.com> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @04:24PM (#14311743) Homepage
    If you could get hired on by an international consulting firm, and maybe do something for them in Europe first, then ask for an internal posting overseas, that would be easiest. They have the resources to move people around, deal with Visa's, etc.
  • Not so easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by redelm (54142) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @04:26PM (#14311757) Homepage
    You ask about work prospects. There's lots of work in the US, but there are significant hurdles you have to overcome: Legal immigration is not easy; and healthcare insurance is expensive for those who cannot get it through their employer.

    Both of these problems are easiest solved by marrying your significant other. You can get a temporary green card, and if she has health insurance through her employer, it will likely be expandable to cover her spouse (you). These are significant marriage benefits, and one reason GLBT people are requesting legal recognition for their marriages.

    • Both of these problems are easiest solved by marrying your significant other.
      ...provided that the significant other is an American citizen. She/he might not be and the OP didn't say.
    • Provided that the significant other is American, AND has a job that provides the health insurance as a benefit. A growing number of jobs don't- last numbers I saw suggest nearly 1 in 6 working Americans can't get health insurance for various reasons.
    • Re:Not so easy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jefu (53450) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:47PM (#14313722) Homepage Journal
      Marrying your significant other will not work overly well in the US if he/she is the same gender as you are.
    • Marriage is not a guarantee of anything with the US anymore. I know quite a few Europeans married to Americans who have been refused entry because the marriage didn't perfectly meet the requirements. Even couples who have been together for decades can never visit the US together because once the authorities decide the marriage was for a green card the European ends up on the deny list. It takes about 10 to 15 years to get off the list.

      I also know some couples who, all, without exception, sought out advice f
    • and healthcare insurance is expensive for those who cannot get it through their employer

      Not always true. My private health insurance (for myself and three kids) costs $211 per month. The insurance offered through my employer would be closer to $700 per month. (The private plan has a $3000/6000 deductible, so it's close to being a catastrophic plan, but well child care and prescriptions are hella cheap, about the same as the group plan.) Ask your insurance guy, he can probably find something that'll beat wha
  • Most of Europe has a *much* higher standard of living than the United States: nationalized health care, various other supports important to a freelancer. 49/50 US freelancers go bankrupt at least once- is that really the future you want?
    • by Banner (17158) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @04:54PM (#14311984) Journal
      I've been to Europe. They do not have a higher standard of living than the US. It's actually considerably lower. How did you come up with this?

      If Europe was so much better, why isn't everyone going from the US to there? Instead the flow is reversed.
      • I've been to Europe. They do not have a higher standard of living than the US. It's actually considerably lower. How did you come up with this?

        Where I'm from (North Europe), the US actually seems a bit 'old-fashioned' or 'quaint', when it comes to infrastructure and household technology. Electricity, water and air quality especially - as if there were no standards, just random experiences to be had when attempting a long, hot shower. Indivual safety seems to be an issue and sometimes the poverty in some are
        • Where I'm from (North Europe), the US actually seems a bit 'old-fashioned' or 'quaint', when it comes to infrastructure and household technology.

          Which part(s) of the US are you referring to? The electric power infrastructure is quite uniform in the US, actually, especially given its size, and I found during my trip to England/Scotland/Wales ten years ago that constant water pressure and temperature seems to be an issue in other parts of the world, not here. :-)

          Air quality varies tremendously. The US is a
          • Well considering water temperature is generally controlled by the water heater in your basement, that can be changed by each individual. As to pressure, there are definitaly differences between municipalities (different types of pumps/water towers and distance) as well as the fact that most people living in any sort of high rise will have pretty low pressure.
            • as well as the fact that most people living in any sort of high rise will have pretty low pressure.

              There's an easy fix for that one- the rooftop water tower....a single set of incoming pipes brings water up from the mains and dumps it into a tank on the roof. A second set of pipes comes out the bottom and distributes it throughout the high rise- and everybody lower than the roof ends up with good water pressure.
      • Fewer Americans move to Europe than vice versa because most Americans don't speak (continental) European languages and European nations have much stricter immigration requirements.

        Keep dreaming about the standard of living - in Europe, one's not generally forced into choosing between making decent money and having a life outside of work. I'd say that's worth something.

        -Isaac

        • Umm no. America has much stricter immigration standards. Having had several friends from different countries immigrate here and become citizens, I've seen all of what they had to go through.

          And choosing between money and 'having a life outside of work' has nothing to do with a standard of living. It has to do with you. I make a lot of money, and I only work 40 hours a week.
          • You are both right.

            The US has a lot more "red tape" to cut through, but it's pretty much the same for everyone.

            In Europe, if you're white, blonde and blue-eyed, you can do pretty much whaterver you like, e.g. work for years on an expired student visa. No such luck if you're latino or black, you might even have to sue the immigration perople to stay in the country.
      • I've been to Europe. They do not have a higher standard of living than the US. It's actually considerably lower.

        You see, that's the problem with USians. They seem to think of Europe as some place. But in reality, if someone is saying "I've been to Europe", the only thing possible to conclude from that is that the speaker is ignorant, and most likely from US, because if (s)he were from anywhere else in the world, (s)he would say, "I've been to France/Iceland/Ukraine/Albania", or something like that.

        I r

        • Ok, it's probably correct, but I don't think it has anything to do with living standard. The most important factors are probably (1) "The American Dream" --- if you dream about being succesfull, you go to USA, (2) Language --- most people already know English, thus it's easier than to move to e.g. Sweden, and (3) Size --- more people have heard of USA than any given european country (and this goes especially for USians)

          On your three: 1. The dream stays a dream- very few people percentagewise actually ac
        • I'm a Canadian. I have to say that the idea that "Europe is just someplace on a map" gets lost in the whole scheme of things. I think our society sees a spot of TV or in a movie and believe to have experienced it, so they don't have to travel there. Or, they can comment about it because they've seen Italy or France hundreds of times on television.

          All told though, I see the Canadian workplace becoming more focused on the money aspect of things. Several colleagues have thought of moving to Europe after finish
      • When it comes to the things important to small businesses, most countries do. Better bankruptcy protection, though that's relatively recent. Better health care coverage by a long shot, in that it's paid for by taxes instead of an unavoidable drain on the profits of a small business. Some even have guaranteed housing, transportation, and help to afford food and fuel. All of which the small businessman in the United States has to either provide out of his meager profits for himself and his employees- or e
        • in that it's paid for by taxes instead of an unavoidable drain on the profits of a small business.

          You speak as though taxes are not themselves an unavoidable drain on the profits of a small business.

          • You speak as though taxes are not themselves an unavoidable drain on the profits of a small business.

            They are. But when you compare private health care's profit margin (15%-20%) to public healthcare's overhead (Medicare is a mere 2%) and combine that with the fact that taxed profits aren't taxed if they don't exist (as opposed to a private healthcare plan, whose costs go on even if profits are zero), the small business comes out WAY ahead contributing to the pay of a government bureaucrat at a mere $40,0
        • A) Forcing taxes on the populace is no better.
          B) The government should not decide how, when , or the quality of how you are treated.

          In the U.S. you can at any moment go to a hospital or doctor for something as little as having a headache or a feeling of frustration. This is possible because people work, if you give people things for free they have no motiviation to better themselves. Regardless, the government has no place in healthcare, once you've been treated under the U.S. system you realize the differ
          • A) At least taxes go down when profits go down.
            B) An elected official appointing a bureaucrat to decide my care according to democratically formed laws vs a greedy rich insurance company trying to limit their costs? Give me the first any day.

            In the U.S. you can at any moment go to a hospital or doctor for something as little as having a headache or a feeling of frustration.

            And spend the next 26 months trying to get the insurance company to pay for it- or worse yet, get charged for it out of pocket at 5
          • In the U.S. you can at any moment go to a hospital or doctor for something as little as having a headache or a feeling of frustration.

            While I was in Germany in April of 2004, they were implementing a 10 copay so that people would stop wasting doctors times for headaches and feeling frustrated. They wanted them to just take OTC medicine, or call up their mom. Hell, it's not so important so as to see a doctor over.

            Quite to the contrary, if healthcare is free, people will exploit it. Unlike America where we
        • Providing freebies to the populace doesn't raise the standard of living. It lowers it. The average house in the US is twice the size of the average house in any european country. More people (percentage wise) own their own houses in the US versus any country in Europe.

          Better health care? Nope, health care is far superior in the USA. Just because the owner of the small business doesn't pay for it directly, don't think he's paying any less. If he has to pay for it all via taxes, (remember SOMEONE has to pay f
          • Providing freebies to the populace doesn't raise the standard of living. It lowers it. The average house in the US is twice the size of the average house in any european country.

            And that affects QUALITY of life how, exactly? More material goods does not success make. In fact, I know plenty of bankrupt people that you'd think were rich- based on their material goods bought on credit.

            More people (percentage wise) own their own houses in the US versus any country in Europe.

            Also not a good thing in toda
            • And that affects QUALITY of life how, exactly? More material goods does not success make. In fact, I know plenty of bankrupt people that you'd think were rich- based on their material goods bought on credit.

              Here, I actually agree with you. When people have mechanisms by which they can get and feel fake success (material gain) without consequences (having to pay for it someday) the quality of life for them (demoralization, no incentive to try) and everyone else (welfare subsidies) goes down the drain. Ente
              • Here, I actually agree with you. When people have mechanisms by which they can get and feel fake success (material gain) without consequences (having to pay for it someday) the quality of life for them (demoralization, no incentive to try) and everyone else (welfare subsidies) goes down the drain. Enter the 'gold collar' class.

                And this is *directly* related to the spiral our whole economy is in- it's been 29 years since the United States of America made a profit in our exports overall. Because of that, i
  • Here is Advice (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Stay away from California. Why? It is expensive. You make a pretty penny there but every penny that comes into your pocket goes right out of the whole created by the state's cost of living. California is saturated with developers. If you are not top notch, well known developer you will be one of the many ants there. Lets face it California is galvanized and glorified throughout the world for being a gift from god but the reality is it isn't as good as advertised.

    • I disagree...that is, *if* you want a challenge and growth opportunities.

      If you want to grow, you must surround yourself with great peers and great companies. At least that's what motivates me.

      Yes, taxes are higher. Houses are unbelieveably high. But after living in the midwest and in California, I can tell you that your chances of making a lot of money are much higher here.

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @05:46PM (#14312407) Homepage
    If you marry your aforementioned "significant other" and formally attain US citizenship, intead of just "living with" him or her. You'll probably wind up on a lot more solid ground as far as employment is concerned.
  • Look North (Score:2, Informative)

    by zer0man (5467)

    Oh boy, where to start. First off, I'm a Canadian, working in the US. In my experience, the US immigration system is very slow, horribly complicated and arbitrary. IANAL but you can't just show up and open up shop. You need a work visa first, and you can't just get that, you need a 'sponsor', and that means that they need to get you the appropriate visa, and that takes time. Something like an H1 is good for a limited time (3 years, extendable once to another 3, IIRC). If you want to become a permanent

    • lower standard of living (aparently Canada fell below Ireland recently.. yikes!)

      Is that the same Ireland that is now one of the best places in Europe to live, looking relatively good on everything from economic stability to crime levels?

      • Is that the same Ireland that is now one of the best places in Europe to live, looking relatively good on everything from economic stability to crime levels?

        Nah, it's that other Ireland, you know, the one that nobody talks about.

    • Something like an H1 is good for a limited time

      I think this is a crucial point a lot of potential "immigrants" overlook. Even if you do get a visa for 3 years, and extend it for another 3, after 6 years you MUST leave the USA. The laws may change in 3 years, but that's how it is right now. Of course if you get one of the coveted green cards you can stay, but those are difficult to get. Of course if you marry an American (of the opposite sex) then things become a little easier.

      • Even if you do get a visa for 3 years, and extend it for another 3, after 6 years you MUST leave the USA.

        IANAL, but I have spoken to an immigration attorney about this subject (and my company has this attorney on retainer as they're sponsoring me). I am an H1 holder currently on the second three years (it expires late next year). As long as you have a valid status, you can extend your H1 (or even a TN, although it's trickier) almost indefinitely. Valid status would include applying for a Green Card and "
    • (aparently Canada fell below Ireland recently.. yikes!)

      Whats with the yikes? From the 2005 human development index [wikipedia.org], Ireland is number 8 in the world in terms of standard of living, and rising, beating out the US at number 10 and the UK at number 15, besides being one of the richest nations on earth. Canadialand is at number 5, so don't worry, you still have a slight edge there. :D

  • Discounting what some of the other alarmist posters are posting, I hope you find a good job that you'll enjoy. There's a good reason that people come to the states, and in spite of some people freaking out about what they think is going on over here, they're not so freaked out they're actually leaving in the numbers they say they represent. In other words, people are staying, other people are coming here, and they're staying too.

    People come here to work every day. A lot of them start their own companies
  • Working freelance legally is probably pretty hard, as you have no legal immigration. No residency permit or work permit. Apply for work with companies, some may be willing to sponsor a H-1B visa.

    After you have H1, you can start looking at getting the "green card", One of my co-workers did this. Several years after getting the H1, getting the green card. Eventually marrying a US girl, I assume now he's in the US for good. :-)

    Beware working with a H1, means the company may have you by the balls. I

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Immigrate to the USA the easy way.

    1: Learn to speak Spanish.
    2: Sneak across the Mexico/US border.
    3: Work for cash.

    You'll do fine.

  • I'm surprised nobody has stated the obvious. Form a company in your home country, and set up US operations. You will be able to travel back and forth at will. You can use your SO's address as the US base of operations--legally in most cases. You also become a more attractive prospect if you are a company that can be cast adrift at will, or hired just as quickly.

    I'm assuming you have the european advantage of being multi-lingual. Language, coding, and business skills are a rare combination. You shou
  • I scanned through some of the suggestions on here. I saw some say that Java is on its way out (I haven't seen that - my wage has steadily increased over the last 6 years and jobs have been coming in faster than before).

    There is two aspects. The first is getting a job right away might require that you find a company willing to work with work visas (H1-B isn't it?). Some will. Basically, some companies have done it and will do it -- while others don't know what is involved in doing it and avoid it.

    The second
  • First, since I've "been there done that", I'll echo other comments and say that the climate here for non-US citizens is getting steadily worse. I'm sure your girlfriend would very much enjoy a few years in Europe - at least until the US goes back to being a democracy.

    But, if you want to move here and work, you'll need a H-1B or similar visa. These are very, very expensive - lots of lawyers and legal fees involved. We're talking a five-figure sum by the time you've got to a green card. Used to be that comp

  • For freelancers, pretty much the only way is the visa lottery. I know people from Europe who did that.
    A couple of caveats:
    - there is a proposal on the table to get rid of the visa lottery.
    - People born in some countries, e.g., the UK, are not eligible for it.

    The usual work visas, H1 and L1, require employment and don't work for freelancing.
    If you are really good, you may be able to self-petition yourself for a Greencard, but you probably would have to have a couple patents, etc.

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