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11 Survival Strategies for Professionals Migrating to the U.S.

Wednesday | January 9, 2019 | by Nadine C. Atkinson-Flowers

help for immigrants in usa

A move to a new home is typically disruptive and stressful, so imagine all that is involved in relocating to another country! For professionals moving to the United States, planning, organizing, and making checklists are all in order. Invariably, however, a successful transnational relocation will also require a few survival tips. Some are useful before the move and others, after you arrive.

Here are 11 to help you get started:

1. Make sure you complete all immigration paperwork correctly.

As the time comes closer for you to emigrate, there are many, many documents you will need to complete, sign, and return. Make sure you read all the questions carefully. Some questions may seem frivolous, but consider each carefully and pay attention to the details.

2. Adhere to all deadlines.

Immigration to the U.S. is a time-sensitive process. Once you have obtained approval for your initial petition, you will receive correspondence indicating the timeframe for the receipt of funds and additional documents. Read the documents carefully. Look to see if they say, for example, that failure to respond within a particular time from the date of the letter will result in the benefit lapsing. If the timeframe for your approval lapses, in most cases, you would need to begin the process again and certainly pay new fees.

3. Delays can be costly.

Each step of the immigration process requires fees of some kind. Some may go to the U.S. government. Others are charges to obtain documents such as passports, police clearances from your country of origin, original birth certificates, and any marriage and or divorce documents. Make sure that these documents are obtained as soon as possible after the approval of your first petition. Waiting will result in increased costs—for express service, for example. Indeed, from time to time the U.S. government increases its immigration fees. If you wait too long, you may have to pay the increased fees.

4. Keep a copy of all the documents you submit.

Because this is the age of technology, your petitioner can scan and email you a set of the documents submitted even if he or she is already in the U.S. At your final interview, you will need copies of specific documents as well as your current passport. You may need to refer to these documents long after you have established yourself in the U.S., so be sure to keep a copy.

5. Get qualified legal advice.

This is very important. If you have outstanding issues with your country’s court system, it is always useful to seek advice from a qualified lawyer so you can understand your options.

6. A medical examination is required.

As a matter of public policy, the U.S. requires that immigrants complete a medical examination by a U.S.-approved doctor in their country who then fills out the approved U.S. immigration medical forms.  If you need immunization shots at the time of the exam you will be advised. Be sure that you have a complete record of your immunizations to date.

At the end of the examination, you should receive a sealed envelope with the results as well as a copy for yourself. Do not open the sealed envelope. You will need to hand it, sealed, directly to the interviewing immigration officer when you go for your interview.

7. Prepare for the immigration interview.

The immigration interview is held at the U.S. consulate in your country. There are no other authorized facilities. You are required to bring the documents previously specified in writing, originals of documents such as your passport and birth certificate, as well as the sealed envelope containing the results of your medical examination.

If everything is in order, you will be advised to expect communication regarding your immigrant visa shortly. If there are outstanding issues, the interviewing immigration officer will give you a written notice explaining what they are. It is now your responsibility to quickly resolve these issues or obtain the necessary documents and advise the immigration authority.

8. When you arrive, there will be culture shock, even if you have previously visited the U.S.

Now you will be making the U.S. your home. You have to get used to the way everything is done here—whether it is driving on the right-hand side of the road, football played with hands, omitting the letter u in words like “color” and “honor,” or the informality in some places of employment—in dress, speech, and even greetings. Local colloquial terms must be learned and understood too!

You will most likely get a little homesick—for your country’s food, drinks, accents, dance, sunsets, beaches, and so on. To ease the transition, seek out family and communities that celebrate your culture.

9. Be careful about accessing social services.

Remember that you entered the U.S. on the premise that you would not be a public charge. Currently “public charge” is being interpreted to mean the protracted access to free or low-cost human services (health, housing, or food).

Therefore, you may be well advised to consider how and if you access welfare services, including free healthcare, public housing, or food stamps. Examine if you can access these for only a brief time and only because of a genuine need. There is now a proposal to make accessing such services a negative factor in bids for citizenship.

10. Seek employment.

Some professionals come to the U.S. with a job lined up, but many face a double-edged sword. On one hand, they have overseas qualifications and experience. On the other, those qualifications may not be readily recognized or even understood in the U.S.

Obtaining a credential evaluation early on can make a huge difference. You can share it with prospective employers and educational institutions. In the meantime, seek to leverage your overseas experience. Seek out employment services, staffing agencies, job boards, government services that suggest employment opportunities, and non-profit entities such as the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians that seek to assist newly arrived migrants. Also, join professional associations and attend networking events to meet new people who may direct you toward opportunities.

Be prepared, however, to take a survival job, even if it is beneath your qualifications or experience. Or consider taking a job in another field.

11. You may experience depression, anxiety, and buyer’s remorse.

You left all that is familiar behind. You may have left your family. You left friends behind. You now have to establish yourself all over again. You need to get a job, possibly juggle school, family, and employment, obtain housing, healthcare, transportation, and learn routes to and from places. Even mundane tasks become difficult.

Give yourself time to adjust, and even grieve for the life you left behind. But also think of all the possibilities and new experiences that will expand your horizons. Such hopeful, optimistic thinking will help you to emerge stronger than you ever were before.

Related Reading

Seven Ways to Make the WES Credential Evaluation Process Work for You

How to Market Your International Education to Employers

Nadine C. Atkinson-Flowers, Esq. is a WES Ambassador and U.S. immigration attorney.