It was in last October when I moved to the USA on a K1 visa, we had 90 days to get married and start all the extra paperwork that eventually gives me a state issued proof of residence - also known as a Green Card for immigrants. Despite the predicted 5 months turnover I'm still waiting; along with many other people I'm sure. This isn't a serious issue, we have been waiting a lot while dealing with government offices, crossing all the t's and dotting the i's to please Uncle Sam to the max, some more waiting is not the end of the world. However, it's funny to think back to the guy talking behind me on the plane a couple of years ago, how he would forget to go home from Florida the next time he goes there. Yeah, right… If you are thinking about being an illegal immigrant in the USA, let me give you a handful of advices:
- Don't do it.
- Don't even think about it.
You probably heard about the Social Security Number, without that you practically don't exist, you can be a tourist for maximum 90 days and that's it. You may think that you can spend 90 days here four times a year, but not only would it be stupidly expensive (unless you 'commute' near the border), once I came here five months after an earlier, nearly 90 days visit and the immigration officer was rather cross, advising me to get some sort of visa the next time, or else. Anyway, without a proper visa you can't get an SSN and that's the end of it.
With my K1 visa I was eligible for an SSN, it wasn't hard to apply for it and get it. Several years ago it was enough to deal with a lot of things here, these days it's just one of the many necessary forms of identification required by the USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym they desperately tried to find matching words for and which drives American citizens crazy ever since it has been issued.
These days you need several forms of identification for everything that goes through The System. One is a state issued proof of residence which is the driver's license for most Americans. For me it would be the Green Card, because I couldn't even get a driver's license without that. They may also ask for your birth certificate, a utility bill or tax records to prove your address, anything they want. It's not a bad thing on its own, but it makes doing paperwork harder and in my case it makes living on my own nearly impossible. Not that I would like to, but there are certain limitations that affect my life, too.
- You couldn't rent a home and couldn't deal with the utility providers and bills.
- You can't have a driver's license, not even a learner's permit. If you had a driver's license from another country, that would become unacceptable after 90 days (or just pray you don't get caught driving).
- You couldn't open a bank account on your own.
- You can't get a cell phone with subscription. Prepaid plans work.
- You can't leave the country during the whole Green Card procedure, unless you apply for a special permission.
However, there are some things that you can get without a Green Card, but with having an SSN:
- You can get a work permit which allows you to get a job.
- You can get a joint bank account with an American citizen or resident. (No SSN needed.)
- You can get a prepaid credit card, where you give the bank the credit limit and you can spend and refill that, for a small monthly fee. It's good for building your credit record and credit score which is 0 for you by default. With a bad credit score you can't get any credit card, bank loan, cell phone subscription etc
So... If you think it would be fun to stay in the USA illegally, think again. Doing it through the legal channels (if you are eligible) takes a lot of time and money. Luckily I can cope with it and I'm happy here, even while waiting for my Green Card to arrive.