Moving to a foreign country is one of the strangest experience which only those who have gone through it can truly relate to. For example the USA is one of the countries with the highest immigration rates with up to 15% of the population having been born in a foreign country. America though is not unique in this regard as there are many other immigrant countries such as Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and France to name a few. In fact changing one’s country of residence is a surprisingly common phenomenon and 250 million people across the world are immigrants from one country to another. While immigrating is not unique activity, the experience of each immigrant is something that is completely life changing and not easily comprehended by the non-immigrant.
First of all there is usually a language change. Even a migrant from USA to UK or Australia will have to deal with change in accents and English vocabulary and slang. Imagine someone though moving from an Arabic or Spanish speaking country to an English speaking one. Although they might have a basic grasp of English as it is a worldwide language, this knowledge is not enough to completely interact with native speakers on a casual basis. It usually takes a couple of years for the vocabulary and cultural norms to sink in. The cultural barriers can also be quite massive even from very similar regions such Australia to USA. The culture shock for an African moving to USA might be much less as they will expect America to be a completely different place. However, an Australian may get a massive culture shock when they encounter a strange American cultural practice that they were not expecting at all.
A second major hurdle for many immigrants is legalizing their stay and staying on top of their paperwork. For immigrants to the USA, there are many paperwork and documentation requirements which are required to become a full fledged voting American. For example they have to provide fingerprints, birth certificates, and previous addresses in addition to passing a rigorous background check.
The American immigration system is a strong contender for the most complex in the world. To begin with, there are a dizzying array of different types of visas and routes to becoming an American citizen or green card holder or simply just a worker. For example if a foreigner marries an American they automatically qualify to apply for green card and if they can stay married for at least 2 years and show to authorities that the marriage is real they can become a permanent American resident. The strangeness of the system lies in how it treats immigrants differently if they are married in USA or abroad. If the immigrant is here already in the USA on a work or student visa, they almost immediately get their temporary green card, while someone who meets and marries while abroad may have to wait for years for the paperworks to be processed. Once they get their requisite paperwork in order and approved for a temporary green card the immigrant spouse can quickly get access to many of the same benefits as Americans such as the ability to work, study and move about the USA freely. However, one of the first steps they would have to do begin their stay in America is to apply for a social security number, perhaps through a SS card filing service.
America is a unique country as it does not have a national identity card system. Most countries issue each and every citizen a unique photo identity card immediately upon birth, but in the USA no such system exists. However, each American does qualify to get a social security number issued by the federal government. This number is unique, but not limited to American citizens, anyone is able to work in America can get this number, but they must have the legal right to work before their application is accepted. The social security number is literally used in everything in America from bank accounts and credit cards to driver’s licenses and phone bills. However, it only started as a way to pay taxes to the federal government and access retirement benefits.
Many foreigners such as student visa holders are allowed to work in their universities, but do not qualify for a social security card until they actually land a job. In these cases a SS card filing service can be a big help in clearing through the complex requirements. Other foreigners such as the spouses of H1-B guest workers may also need a social security number or a similar identification number for example to get a driver’s license, but the complex and time consuming paperwork requirements may overwhelm them and they will usually have to make multiple trips to various government offices to accomplish their desired goals.
Another unique aspect of the American immigration system is the family reunification visa. This is a truly unique system where the brother, sister or parents of an American citizen can sponsor their relative to come to the USA. For example someone from Italy marries an American citizen and moves to America and becomes an American citizen. The Italian immigrant can then an application to sponsor their parents, brother, and sisters to also come to America; however, the waiting time of this type of visa is extremely long and varies widely from country to country. For example a country which has not sent a lot of immigrants to America is prioritized over a country which has sent a lot of immigrants. This concept is called immigration balancing.
Another unique American immigration concept is the visa lottery. This “lottery” is another route for foreigners to apply to become Americans. However, here too immigration balancing plays an important role. In fact some countries such as India and China are ineligible for the lottery as due to their large populations they have already sent a lot of immigrants to USA.
The total complexity of the American immigration system is something which an entire profession of lawyers are dedicated to. Immigration law is one of the most popular law professions to get into for fresh law school grads.
The big question is what will be the future of immigration law in the USA? There is a strong desire amongst many lawmakers and lobby groups to simplify the American immigration system and also to reduce the number of allowed immigrants. An especially big target is the family immigration and H1-B immigration as the first is seen as allowing people into USA on a non-meritocracy basis while the latter is seen as stealing jobs from Americans. Certainly it’s true that immigration to USA is quite cyclical, in fact after a period of robust immigration in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there was a severe clampdown of immigration starting in the 1920’s due to xenophobic fears. Whatever happens with immigration to America, one thing is certainly clear that everyone will need a social security number to start their life in the USA.