The Biggest Mistake I’ve Made Living On U.S. Visas

The Biggest Mistake I’ve Made Living On U.S. Visas


Having lived in America on visas for the past 10 years, I’ve learned that this is one “thing” that everybody has.



Yes, everybody.

How do opinions relate to the biggest mistake I’ve made in America?

Let me explain.

When I moved to America, I started out as an international student. For students starting at a college or university for the first time, American colleges and universities organize an orientation period for them. Other colleges and universities around the world also organize orientation for new students. Orientation is a great time for students to learn more about the school, where to go for classes, and lots of other helpful things. There are also events like dinners and board game nights during orientation to help students get to know their peers. When I was a student, I participated in two kinds of orientation – the general orientation for new students, and one designed exclusively for international students.

Many parts of orientation were fun. Volunteers and staff answer tons of questions that students have during orientation.

You name it, they had answer.

Other parts of orientation? Not so much fun.

Some parts of orientation were really boring. Most of the boring sessions focused on helping students fill out forms to comply with visa regulations and student status.

At the time, whenever I went to a session about filling out forms, I would think:

This is so boring.

I’m sure I could find this on the internet.

What a waste of time.

Remember what I started out with: opinions. Everybody has them.

That was my opinion at the time. The thing with opinions, they aren’t really right or wrong. They’re just opinions.

But when I look back on my orientation experience America, I realize I made a big mistake.

Actually, it wasn’t just a big mistake.

It was HUGE.

Biggest Mistake

What was my huge mistake?

I didn’t ask for help.

I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t ask for help even though I needed it. I thought I could do everything by myself. I was too stubborn to ask people who had been in my situation of being an international student for help – lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid, among other things. Instead, I thought I could do everything all on my own.

You see, in America, there are many scenarios where help is expected and given.

Help of some kind is usually offered for major life events. Examples of major life events in America are starting college/university, starting a new job, getting married, buying a new house, and having children. For most of these events, lots of people experience them at the same time.  And since lots of people need help at the same time, it makes it easier for their communities and businesses to help out by organizing classes for everyone who is experiencing these life events.

There are other events, however, where help is needed, but it’s difficult to find it.


Lots of reasons.

These other events aren’t considered as important or major. For these types of events, everyone might be on a different timeline or the relevant details for each person is different which makes it hard to organize one solution for everyone.

A common example of when its hard to find help in the real world is visa compliance. In college/university, I had lots of help to follow the visa rules and laws. It was easy because many other students like me (at the time) needed help.

But as an employee, it gets much harder to find help. There are too many different types of visas. And visa laws can be tricky too.

Recently, my big mistake came back to haunt me. Yet again, I didn’t get the help I needed.

It was right around tax season here in America. For most people, tax season is March/April each year. For me, tax season is May/June because of my visa.

I found an accountant. I had all of my financial documents ready.

And then I thought: It’s less expensive for me to do my own taxes.

I knew I owed taxes. I knew I needed help. But I didn’t want to pay an accountant to tell me that, especially since I wasn’t going to get a refund. So I figured out how to do it myself.

But doing my own taxes was more complicated than I thought. Since it took me a while to figure it out, I missed the tax filing deadline. Since I missed the deadline, I had to pay the taxes I owed and a penalty.

Lesson learned.

Next time you need help, what should you do?


Thanks for reading.


Photo Credit: Stuart Miles at

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