I got an email today from a reader who found my blog through the very useful Immigration Forums, where I did a lot of research and question-asking in the lead-up to my green card interview.
The reader, who shall remain nameless (but thanks for the inspiration!) wanted to know what I thought she should do when asked in her own visa interview for a US address that they’ll send her green card to.
This, for obvious reasons, is a necessary piece of information to provide, but the reader in question was stumped because she doesn’t know anyone in the US whose address she could have it sent to.
The problem compounds itself because you just never know when the green card itself will arrive because, upon entry to the US for the first time as a permanent resident, you’re told that it could take up to six months to receive it, and if you haven’t got it by the 11-month mark (!!), you should get in touch with USCIS. No shit. And at the time of writing, nearly two months after my initial entry, I haven’t got my green card yet.
So, faced with not knowing anyone in a foreign country whose address you can use, what the hell do you do? You could nominate a hotel as your designated address, but one would have to assume that holding mail would be a service reserved for guests only, and hotels get expensive quickly, especially given you might be waiting months.
Obviously a hotel could be a temporary solution until you find a place of your own, but that’s dead money when you’re most likely not working yet. Me finding a job so damn fast is definitely the exception rather than the rule. In any case one can certainly change the address on file with USCIS, but there’s the added worry of “what if it was sent out before I changed my address, and my green card disappears into a pile of hotel mail forever?”
Look, I know I’m a worrywart and an over thinker at the best of times and those scenarios are worst-case. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the green card in the mail isn’t the only scary thing if you haven’t got a support network. What happens if you can’t find work right away? What do the savings that sounded so good on paper are suddenly halved before you know it? If you haven’t got a familiar couch to crash on if shit gets tough, really tough, what do you do?
That brings me to my point. For me, immigrating to the US was a no-brainer. I would go as far as saying I’ve got a more geographically widespread network of support here than I do in Australia. At last count I’ve got friends in 12 states around the country who I’m confident would offer me a spare room or a couch for a week if I got in a real pinch.
And I did take one friend up on that offer when I first returned with my green card. USCIS had her address on Denver CO for the first month I was out here until I found a job and my own digs. She generously unfolded the futon for me, left work to pick me up for lunch every day for a couple of weeks, and did no less than four airport runs in those two weeks. There’s no way I could’ve set myself up so quickly without that assistance.
And the same goes for so many of my other friends out here. I’ve had nothing but encouragement, congratulations and offers of support since I got back, and that’s amazing. If this were England or New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, I’d have felt totally up shit creek in a big way.
So I’m eternally grateful to those friends who eased my transition into living in the US and make me feel that no matter what leap of faith I take out here, there’s a safety net that has my back if things get tough.
Every new immigrant should be so lucky.