Immigrating to a new country brings a lot of excitement. It is an adventure. People often put all their expectations in a suitcase, take a flight, and “voilà”, the dream comes true. Easy enough? However, this is not always the case and the reality in most cases is that people struggle in many ways when leaving their home country to seek new opportunities abroad. They often do not foresee challenges that come with a new life in a completely different culture, language, and social organization. This can be a shock in many aspects, especially if you did not research enough or do not understand the cultural nuances. The simplest task can become extremely challenging in a new country.
This should not discourage you from pursuing the ‘American Dream’. Our mission at McGuire Law is to help you navigate through this transition and provide you with support and tips to help you succeed. The key is to be prepared.
How do you envision your experience? That is an important question that will guide your research, preparation, and logistics. Below are some questions and useful tips:
Who is immigrating?
Are you coming by yourself or with family? If you are a free bird it can be less complicated. You have to make sure you have the right visa and figure out how to support yourself financially.
If you have a family, you need to put some real energy into researching about school systems, language supports, and resources in the town or city you will be moving to. Do your children speak the local language? Will they be able to make friends and engage in school activities? Moving abroad is a major change for everyone, especially children. If you have your kiddos coming with you, make sure they all have the support and understanding they need to get through their new life successfully. This can include joining local support groups on Facebook to find out what resources are available in the area.
What is your financial situation?
You need to consider that you may spend a few months or longer without a job or employment. This may be because of the different culture and the professional network that you have yet to build, but also because most of the time you do not have your work authorization issued for many months.
You need to have your savings in place and plan to use them for 6-12 months of financial support. Think about where you are planning on staying, the cost of living in the area, and always have a plan B.
What kind of work can you do in the United States?
Do you want a fresh start? Maybe now is a good time to change your career or make a living from your favorite hobby? In any of those cases, you need to research what the requirements are to start a business on your own, including what state and local licenses you may need and how much money and the time investment is necessary. And, of course, have your savings ready to get you to a point where your enterprise becomes profitable.
Do you want to practice your profession in the United States? No matter what your profession is or where you are from, you need to research and have necessary documents with you. That means diplomas, courses, and licenses. Consider if recommendation letters would be useful for you to find a job and have them ready to go before you move.
Do you just want to make money and it does not matter how? Think about your abilities and what kind of work you are good at. There is need for foreign services, especially if you stick with the community from your home country. People thrive on having their hair done the way they used to at their neighborhood salon, or tasting a recipe that is only made right back home, for example.
Have your documents ready
When we say that, we mean absolutely everything you discovered you need after researching all topics above… And what you may not need, bring it just in case!
You should have your documents sorted out before getting into an airplane OR you will realize very soon how it is extremely difficult to get them from overseas.
Make sure you have the document AND you have done your homework on the subject: do I need stamps on my documents? Do I need a current version of an old birth certificate? Do I need my signature notarized anywhere? Do the documents need any official or formal translation?
How can I get a support system?
You will probably need some support to get things done in the beginning or you will need some emotional support later once you land into your new life. Or both! In any case, make sure to reach out to people because the journey will be much smoother and more joyful when you connect with good human beings.
A good start is looking if there are any groups from your home country around. It can be Facebook, a meetup app, community churches or religious centers, whatever can help you make that link with your country. Many of these people have experienced all the same challenges you have; they relate with your feelings and usually have great tips for you. Of course, they are also a wonderful companion when things get hard.
Connect with people in your own neighborhood. Research what they do for fun, how you could be useful volunteering, or where to find a group fitness class. Those are great ways to meet new people where you are living and begin to feel like part of your community.
Last, but not least: both of these two connections above are important to you. If you do not connect with people from your home country, you may not feel completely understood when it comes to your feelings and actions. Sometimes people can be empathetic, but when they did not experience the same struggle, they cannot truly relate to you. On the other hand, if you only reach out to groups from your same culture or nationality, you will never adapt or really understand the culture where you currently live. You need to experience your new environment as your new reality until you make that place a home.
We believe that does not matter what your nationality, background, or family situation is: information is the power you must have to win any battles you may face living abroad, and it is the key to helping you experience all the joy you were looking for when started your journey as an immigrant.