Admit it… you’re excited.
Your American visa was approved? Check.
Plane ticket bought? Check.
Bags packed? Check.
Now you wait.
If you’re a foreign national, everybody gets excited at the thought of moving to America. Even for a short period of time.
Yes, there are moments of anxiety and fear. But for the most part, moving abroad to start a new chapter in your life – or try to start a completely new life – is a very exciting experience.
If you’re planning to move to America as a non-immigrant, you likely have list of goals you want to accomplish, things you want to do, or places to visit. And while it’s good to focus on positive aspects to make your move a success, it’s also a good idea to know pitfalls to avoid that can ruin your experience.
Here are three critical mistakes to avoid so you can make the best of your experience after you move to America, whether you are on an immigrant or non-immigrant visa.
Mistake #1: Not Understanding American Culture
And then there’s the Midwest.
Having lived in America for more than 10 years as a non-immigrant, I’m still learning about each part of the country, either from friends or by visiting different states in the US. Each part of America has an identity, customs, and culture.
It’s a lot to understand as a foreigner.
But while most people who move to America come from countries with a culture that is quite different, that’s normal. There’s no “mistake” in a difference between cultures.
The mistake I see most foreign nationals make when they move to America? They don’t make the effort to understand the culture.
They don’t make an effort to understand their adopted home (for however long they are visiting).
In short, they don’t make an effort to fit in.
Trying to fit in doesn’t mean that you’re trying to be someone else; far from it. Fitting in means being open to new experiences, especially experiences that are different from what you’re used to seeing.
If you fail to understand American culture when you move abroad, it could ruin your experience.
Mistake #2: Not keeping in touch
When moving to America from another country, the jetlag sets in for the first few days depending on how far you are from your home country. Even in America, there are at least seven time zones.
When you first move to the US, the time difference might make it difficult to call home to talk to friends and family in your home country. Jetlag makes it even harder. But there are tons of remedies to overcome jetlag and adjust to a regular schedule when you move to America. There aren’t a lot of remedies for the time difference because that exists for as long as you live in America, far away from your home country.
The mistake I see foreign nationals making is failing to keep in touch with family and friends. It’s really hard to keep in touch when you’re wide awake, but your family and friends are asleep because of the time difference.
To give you an idea of time differences:
- Paris, France is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) in America.
- Mumbai, India is 9.5 hours ahead of EST.
- Shanghai, China is 12 hours ahead of EST.
- Sydney, Australia is 14 hours ahead of EST.
So depending on your home country, time zone differences can be a huge challenge for any plans you make to keep in touch with your friends and family.
Mistake #3: Ignoring immigration laws
American Immigration laws are complicated.
There are many types of American visas, both for immigrants and non-immigrants.
And depending on your home country, you might have more steps to follow to obtain your visa and remain in compliance once you’ve landed in America.
A big mistake that foreign nationals make when they move to America is that they ignore immigration laws. While the laws are complex, you will always have resources available to help you understand what you are allowed and not allowed to do depending on your visa.
If you’re an international student, you have access to international affairs officers at your college/university who work almost exclusively with international students and scholars. Knowing the law is important. For example, as a student, you’re required to maintain full-time enrollment. Being a full-time student is determined usually by the number of course credits you take when in college/university. If you don’t have enough course credits, you may fall out of compliance with the terms of your visa.
If you’re an employee on a non-immigrant visa, your HR department will work with you to provide all forms you need as long as you remain an employee. But you can’t use your work visa for one company to work for another company.
Ignoring U.S. immigration laws is a big mistake that foreign nationals make but it can be easily fixed.
Avoid these three mistakes when you move to America and you’ll have a much easier time adjusting to your new life.
Thanks for reading.