I’ve written about our emigration process before. I talked about when we first started thinking about emigrating, how it was officially a goal for this year and even my ambivalence about really making the decision and feeling sad about leaving our wonderful life behind. I’ve bemoaned how long the admin was taking us and made a bit of a list of logistics I needed to put down so that they wouldn’t keep rattling around in my head. But we’ve hit a major milestone – we heard “Congratulations” at the consulate, and so I wanted to take you with me from start to finish.
Getting Dean’s Green Card has not been easy, and we still aren’t totally done. But I’m taking this milestone as an opportunity to reflect back on the process and talk about some of the big things we’ve gone through. If you’re planning to emigrate in general, or get a Green Card in particular, let me tell you that it is not easy, not for the faint of heart, but hopefully totally worth it. I did a Facebook Live about this as well, if you’re keen to watch me talk about this through Facebook or YouTube.
Emigration: The Push/Pull Factors
This is important to talk about when you’re looking at leaving a country. Tons of people pull the “if ____ happens, I’m moving to ____” but the reality behind it is a lot more nuanced. Politics matter, but so does economy, quality of life, family, friends, education… the list goes on and on. Dean was worried about providing a good enough life for me and Harley in this country, and it’s been a concern pretty much from the moment that she was born. However, it was only when I saw issues with education in South Africa that we decided to seriously look at moving. The political issues here, compounded with junk status and other economic worries, really set in stone the push factors.
But there are also some lovely pull factors. I’m excited to live closer to my mom. I’m so glad to move somewhere with excellent education for Harley at a fraction of the cost. Dean is also already shopping for amazing burger joints and we are weirdly amped for the ability to order stuff online and have it actually arrive through the post (something that just doesn’t happen in South Africa).
With all these pros of leaving and cons of staying, it’s also really key to remember that things aren’t perfect in your destination country. Healthcare, for example, is a big worry for me when we move to the US. We’ve also had to pick a state that should work well for us with the weather, ensuring that Dean can still braai most of the year. Whether you’re running away from crime rates, unemployment, or political corruption, remember that no country is 100% safe, employed or transparent. You just have to go somewhere where the drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits for you and your family.
Emigration: Our Green Card procedure
I have a post going in my drafts with all the costs of the Green Card process, and I will hopefully be writing it all up for you this week and linking to it here. But it’s not just about costs of the process, right? It’s been quite a procedure, with many hurdles along the way. Back in January, I filed an I-130 application for Dean. It basically says that I wanted to get him a Green Card on the basis of our marriage, which meant I had to prove that we were really married. While you’d think our marriage certificate and Harley’s birth certificate would work as proof of this, I even had to send pictures of us throughout our relationship. I was so grateful for that silly Facebook function where you can look back on your relationship – made finding old pics of the two of us a million times easier than it would have been otherwise. They interviewed me and Dean together – none of that separate interrogation stuff you see in movies.
Once that was lodged, we were told it would take 3-6 weeks to get a response, but Dean actually was approved just before 3 weeks. Then became the really hard part. You see, the I-130 falls under citizen services, which is generally as easy and straight forward as they can make it. The next part of the process falls under immigrant visa department, and the admin was intense. The checklist alone was daunting and required quite a lot of work. We had to get:
- Proper copies of birth certificate and marriage certificate (thankfully, we already had both, although there was some stress if Dean’s apostilled birth certificate would be acceptable, it was);
- Police clearances from every country Dean’s ever lived in;
- A CDC-approved physician’s report (one of the most expensive parts as there are only two doctors in all of South Africa that are approved);
- Navigating a weird government website to book the actual interview at the consulate;
- Plus passport photos, more and more forms and so much money
I understand why they make it complicated. I saw at the consulate ahead of us that there was a guy trying to get a visa who clearly wasn’t married to the person he claimed he was. It was so obvious that something suspicious was going on, so I can see why they don’t make it super easy to apply. However, it’s really frustrating and daunting. Just filling in some of those forms had me and Dean questioning if it was really worthwhile for us to move, let alone gathering all the documentation and getting doctor’s visits sorted. This is why I say having those push and pull factors clear in your head is paramount – if you don’t REALLY know why you want to do this, it’s just not worth the hassle.
We still owe the consulate some minor documentation, although they’ve said it’s just a formality and told Dean “congratulations”. That’s right, he’s been approved. I am over the moon. It’s real. It’s really happening. We also have a date by which it has to all be over – we must move by October or the visa expires and we have to do the whole process all over again. That’s definitely not something we want to have happen, so we will be moving well before that date. So yes, our emigration is going well. It’s been a long and painful process, but the Green Card part of it is almost complete. Now we get to start working our way through EVERYTHING ELSE that goes into a move.