From the application to the move: the Kazakhstani who won the green card told how to start life in the USA
Zhanat Aitkhozhin, a Kazakhstan photographer, traveler and expedition participant, won the green card in 2018 year - on his second try. He now lives in Seattle. For all those interested, he shared in his Twitter useful tips and details of the process - from filling out an application and ending with moving and settling in the States.
“For those who do not know, although there probably are practically none, the green card lottery is held by the US government annually. 50 of thousands of visas for the whole world are being drawn. Not all countries can participate, there are restrictions, but Kazakhstan, fortunately, is participating.
What does a green card give? In our opinion this is a residence permit. You have the right to live and work in the United States. Differences from US citizenship: you can’t vote, work in the civil service, and your US passport allows you to travel to more than 170 countries without a visa. I won the green card the second time. In 2018 year. If you think so, in total about 18 million applications were submitted that year. About 80 thousand people have won, including me. There are more winnings than 50 thousands: the fact that you won does not mean that you will receive a visa. Also, some of the winners are eliminated because they change their minds. Many apply just like that, and when they learn about the winnings, they are not ready for such a serious step as immigration. Moreover, participation is free.
Acceptance of applications begins in the fall, usually in October, and lasts about a month. And the results of the draw are announced in May next year. The application form is very simple, literally your full name, place of birth, place of residence, family composition, education, plus photos of all family members are attached.
By the way, Kazakhstan has a good chance of winning, when compared with the same Russia. The number of winners in relation to the number of applicants is many times higher. In addition, if you have a family, then you need to file 2 applications, on behalf of the wife and on behalf of the husband. 2 times more chances.
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The criteria for being able to participate in the lottery: the presence of a certificate of secondary education, or 2 years of work experience with the main applicant. Everything. Even knowledge of the language is not required. It is important to take photos of family members as required, otherwise the application may be rejected. The requirements are on the lottery website. I took photographs myself, at home, someone goes to the salon. The main thing is no photoshop.
As you apply, you will be assigned a number. It needs to be saved. You can screech the page with the acceptance of the application. Then this number will be needed when the results of the draw are announced. Even if you win, you will not be notified. You will need to log into the same site again and log in using the code assigned during registration. There will be a result. But, as I said, even if you won, this does not mean that you received a visa. You need to go through additional steps. If you win, then you are assigned the so-called case number. Roughly speaking, this is your serial number, according to which they will subsequently be invited to an interview.
The next stage - the winner must fill out the ds260 form. This is a very detailed document, which lists all the educational institutions where you studied, with addresses, all places of work with duties and responsibilities, all places of residence, starting from 16 years, all family members, parents. There are no specific deadlines for filling out this questionnaire, but it’s faster to fill out in your interests. Here again, it depends on your case number. If the number is large, say, more than 20 thousand, then there is plenty of time. As I filled out and submitted the form, if everything is in order, after some time confirmation comes that your forms have been processed, wait for further instructions.
After that, a request for scans of documents should come. They are asked to send scans of passports, birth certificates of all family members, certificates of no criminal record, military ID, if served. After a couple of days, confirmation usually comes that the scans are processed. Now it remains to wait for the next stage - an invitation to an interview at the consulate. The interview takes place only at the US Consulate General in Almaty. An invitation to an interview comes one and a half to two months before the interview itself.
But before the interview you need to undergo a physical examination. A physical examination can only be done at consulate-accredited medical centers. There are only two of them, and both in Almaty - SOS and IMC. A physical examination is advisable to go closer to the interview itself, now I will explain why. Upon successful completion of the interview, you will be issued a visa for six months, during which you must enter the United States, and the counting of these same six months begins from the date of the medical examination, not the interview.
Now about the appointment of the interview. If the results of the draw are announced in May, then the interviews begin in October and end in September next year. That is, the first invitations begin to arrive in August. They are invited by serial numbers, which are the case number. Visa bulletin is published every month, indicating which case numbers will be invited to next month. Moreover, the step may be different. Thousands of people can invite 2 in one month, and thousands in another 3,5. If you have a small case number, then theoretically you can go through an interview in October and leave immediately. My case number was large, 23 more than a thousand, and I was interviewed only in June 2019.
If the application for participation in the lottery is free, then you need to pay for a physical examination and interview at the consulate. A physical examination cost 45 thousand tenge per adult (115 dollars), 30 thousand per child (77 dollars). Plus, if you are given the missing vaccinations, then for each you still pay 10-15 thousand (25-38 dollars). Children from 2 to 14 years old need to pass a test for tuberculosis, it is quite expensive, it costs more than 40 thousand, I don’t remember the exact number. The physical examination itself is simple: one doctor examines, asks questions about well-being and past illnesses, donates blood for syphilis and an x-ray of the chest. All.
You pay for a visa at the consulate when passing an 330 interview per person. And you pay before the start, and if they refuse a visa, they will not return the money. Interviews take place on Tuesdays. For the interview you bring a package of documents for the whole family: passports, birth certificates, education documents, the main applicant’s work book, medical examination results, military ID, marriage certificates, divorce, criminal records for adults. By the way, I remembered, now they introduced that when filling out the 260 form, now you need to specify the accounts of social networks. When I filled, there wasn’t one. So keep in mind that now social networks are checking too. Documents for the interview should be with translations. The translation is not necessarily notarized, just the stamp of the translation agency. Also, photos for a visa need 5 × 5. Quantity - 3 pieces if the memory does not change.
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The interview itself is quick, you wait more in line. First, you hand over the entire package of documents through the window, pay the consular fee and wait until you are called for an interview. We waited an hour and a half. The consulate has a children's table with toys, a toilet, a water dispenser. And so, they called my last name, we approach the whole family to the window, take fingerprints from adults, we swear that we are only telling the truth. The consul asks in what language we want to be interviewed, you can choose Russian. The questions are simple: where did you study, where do you work, whether your first marriage, whether you were in the States, whether there are acquaintances or relatives, where you are going to fly. Just a couple of questions, I don’t remember which, and that’s all - your visas are approved, you can come pick up your passports with visas the day after tomorrow.
By the way, in the list of documents for the interview there are financial documents. This is usually a bank statement. They did not ask me. Someone is being asked. And there is no specific figure, how much money needs to be shown. Someone brings documents for real estate, cars. Until recently, some new rules were introduced that it will be necessary to prove that you can pay medical insurance for yourself and your family for a year after entry. So far, however, I have not heard how it will actually be. After the approval of visas, you will still need to pay for the issuance of green cards - 220 dollars per person. That is, if you count, 330 is a consular fee, 220 for a green card, 150-200 for a physical examination, in general, it costs about 700-750 dollars per person. Plus the cost of travel and accommodation, if not from Almaty.
The next stage is the settlement of all affairs at home. Within six months, you must leave. During this time, you need to check out for permanent residence in our migration. Someone leaves without this, but it is better to apply if you want to get your pension savings later when you get US citizenship. And you can apply for citizenship after 5 years of residence in the United States. Provided that you have not left the country for more than 6 months in each year. Entering the United States is optional for everyone at once. You can enter the main applicant, calmly find housing, work there and then bring your family. But taking into account not to exceed the validity of the visa in 6 months.
If you have everything in order with the documents and wrote the truth in the questionnaire, did not make mistakes with the dates, did not forget to indicate children from past marriages, then you will not be denied a visa. Interviews are more a formality, they just want to make sure that you are a real, adequate person. Departure for permanent residence is issued a month and a half, this also needs to be taken into account. He will need a notarized permission to leave his parents. If they are alive. No matter how old you are. As well as the consent of the children, issued by the guardianship authorities. Well, there are no debts to the state.
Another point - when filling out the 260 form, you need to specify the address in the USA, where the green cards themselves will have to come by mail. So, you need to take care and find some friend there to indicate his address. In principle, this address can then be changed at the interview itself. Or already at the entrance to the United States, you can also change this address. By the way, Portnov’s school allows you to give their address, and then they send an envelope with green cards to your address. Who is Portnov, probably, all immigrants know. He has a school of software testers.
Now about the choice of where to fly. Many fly to where there are friends, relatives. In principle, this is correct, since for the first time, when you know nothing, the support and help of loved ones is important. We live in Seattle, Washington. In our states there was nobody, they were chosen based on climate, nature, and job availability. Here the climate is mild, in winter there are no frosts, in summer there is no heat. Around forests, national parks, close mountains and the ocean. There are no hurricanes, like in Florida, or permanent fires, like in California. It's a bit rainy, but it suits us.
One of the main questions: how much money is needed for the first time? Here's an estimate: renting a house a month starts from 1,2 thousand dollars a month and up to 2,5 thousand dollars, there are more expensive, of course. Plus communal 150 dollars. Powered by 500 dollars and above. The apartments are empty, so you still need to furnish. Kitchens and bathrooms are usually already fully equipped, so minimally need beds, table chairs, upholstered furniture. You can buy in the same Ikea, or cheaper used on the Craigslist or OfferUp sites. You can find good options cheaply or even for free.
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A car must be bought. There is no way without it. Public transport, at least in our country, is underdeveloped. Taxis are expensive. You can buy for the first time a good thousand car for 3. So lay another 3 thousands of dollars in the budget. Or more if the opportunity allows.
What to take with you? My advice is a minimum of things. Everything can be bought here, inexpensively and of good quality. My family of 5 people and I took 2 suitcases with us. Take only your favorite things. And do not forget that the sockets here are of a different type and the voltage in them is 110 volts, and not 220, as we have.
So you need to look at what electrical appliances will work here, as well as purchase adapters. To order on the same aliexpress, it’s worth a penny, but you won’t run around and look for it. And to find here such an adapter will be problematic.
Schools. Schools here are free and are divided into 3 types: primary (0-5 classes), secondary (6-8 classes) and higher (9-12 classes). Schools have ratings, so many, including us, are looking for housing based on the rating of schools. Rating from 1 to 10 points. For example, on the Zillow website, when searching for housing, you can immediately see the rating of schools that belong to the desired area, as well as the criminal situation. We chose a rating not lower than 8. But, they say that rating is not an indicator; there are good schools with a small rating. But we did not have time to figure it out. Children go to school from 5 years. First to class zero. The school bus system is well developed, so you don’t have to worry about how the children get to school. There is no school uniform - everyone goes what they want. It's comfortable. If the child does not know English, this is not a problem. He is arranged in a class in which they conduct additional lessons in English. Children quickly learn the language in a language environment. For admission to school, you need a confirmation of the address of residence and a vaccination card.
A vaccination card will be issued to you during a medical examination, do not lose it. Confirmation of the address here is an electricity bill, for example. If schools are free, then kindergartens are paid and cost about 1 thousands of dollars a month.
Let's continue. Upon arrival in the United States, an officer at the airport will be given an envelope with documents that will be given to you along with your visa at the consulate. By the way, this envelope cannot be opened by yourself. He looks through the documents and puts a stamp in the passport. All this goes quickly if there is no queue. Temporary housing should be taken care of in advance if you or friends or relatives do not shelter you upon arrival. For us, the most convenient option was to book apartments through airbnb. By the way, in the port we were met by friends whom I met on the forum. Searches for permanent housing can also be done in advance. Make a list and upon arrival, go around and look at the place. If there is no one to carry you, then you can rent a car. Per day from 40 dollars. It is much cheaper than a taxi. With the removal of permanent housing is not so simple. Since you just arrived, you have no credit or rental history. Without them, you can easily be refused a rental, even if you have money on hand. Or they may ask for an additional deposit.
About money. You can export 10 thousand dollars per person without declaration in cash, but you can import 10 thousand dollars into the United States without declaration, but this is for the whole family. However, if you carry more, just declare this money and that's it. No consequences or taxes. The most convenient option is: open a foreign currency account in Kazakhstan in Altyn Bank, put dollars on it, upon arrival in the USA open an account in a local bank and transfer money to the American account via Swift via the Altyn Bank mobile application. Commission 6 thousand tenge (15 dollars), regardless of the amount. An account at Bank of America can be opened immediately, according to a Kazakhstan passport. I also recommend immediately ordering a secured credit card. This is when you deposit your money, for example 300 dollars, and use it like a credit card. And your credit history begins to be created. It is important. Since everyone lives on credit here, a good credit history is very important. With the same rental housing look at it. And upon arrival, you won’t be given an ordinary credit card right away, so a secured card is an option so that a credit history immediately begins to form.
Somewhere a week and a half after arrival, your ssn - social security number should come to the mail. This is like our IIN, it is also needed here everywhere. Without him, you won’t be hired. Somewhere in a month the green cards themselves, plastic ones will come. To the address indicated in the 260 form. With a green card, by the way, you can visa-free travel to Canada, Mexico. Something else seems to be possible, it is necessary to clarify. "
As a reminder, if you are participating in the DV-2024 Green Card Lottery, the results of the draw will be available to check as early as May 6.
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