Moneywise, today I can afford almost anything I want. By Ukrainian standards, you would consider me rich. Immigration to America changed my life! Today I can have the funds to travel, own multiple houses and cars, and have plenty of financial resources in general. I am very grateful for all God Blessed me in America: my husband, three incredible kids, and a remarkable career.
However, at times I feel shame and guilt about not being able to share this great life with those I love the most. I suffer from “survival guilt.” It seems unfair that other people do not have what I do and there is a lot of need and suffering in the world. So I want to fix this inequality by dragging more people to America.
Do you miss your family and wish they would be here, with you? Maybe you even consider helping them to immigrate so they can join you in this bliss? Do you? Hold on!
This post will share my reasons why helping your family and friends to immigrate to America is a terrible idea.
1. Your family and friends are not ready to do the work
Perhaps your daughter, brother, sister or mom, have been watching your immigration journey from the sidelines. Maybe there were there for you and supported your transition. Perhaps now, when you are getting on your two feet, have a stable job, got your place to live and generally seems happy, they considering immigrating too to join you in paradise.
The harsh reality is, your friends and family may not be ready to do what it takes to make in America.
For example, when my best friend Olga in 2004 immigrated to Connecticut, she was shocked. She, like me, married an American guy and her first couple of years in the U.S. were very rough. Olga was shocked by culture, mindset differences, immigration paperwork challenges and in general, the amount of effort it took to re-create her life in America.
Somehow, when I was selling her on the idea of immigrating, I failed to mention and make it crystal clear: immigration is a life-altering event. The only other thing I could compare it to is birth. It is a dramatic, long-lasting, traumatic and at times excruciating process. It takes years, and It is harder than it looks.
For example, very few people want to hear that I started attending school when my daughter was 2.5 months old and I continue studying for almost ten years while completing my second Bachelor in Finance and my MBA degrees. Nobody wants to hear about depression, sleepless nights, being fired, not knowing how to speak, years of struggling and uncertainty. People see amazing results, but they seem to fail to notice years of hard work, blood, and tears that led to success.
I am here, to be honest with you. It can take years to become anybody in America. Most folks who immigrate are not ready for what it will take to become successful in America.
2. You are not ready to support them
In your relatives’ eyes, you are doing pretty well now. So your family may believe, you can afford to support them, mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally. The reality is, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.
Your assumption might be that your relative or a friend will follow the path you successfully paved and become successful as quickly as you did or faster.
It is a common mistake. I helped to immigrate half-dozen of people, and not even one of them followed my path. Why should they? They all had their own lives and frankly, at one point supporting them became a lot more than I banked for. Supporting a new-comer will take hours away from your own life, your own family and your resources.
At times you will get frustrated, defeated, and confused. You may feel like you are doing everything possible to help them to achieve success. The truth is, your model, your experience and your advice are not always welcome or even helpful. Your relatives may find you “parent-like” and intrusive.
I have a personal experience of hosting six exchange students for six years. The program assumed that our family for ten months out of 12 hosted another person in our house. The experience was not smooth, but we wanted to help the girls to experience the United States. The reality was, I was not ready to do what it took to help them to adapt and experience the program. It was harder than I thought.
The girls missed home, cried a lot, hated our routines, hated us and hated American school. They struggled with English and could not seems to relate to American culture. It was a hot mess. Really. Looking back we should have quit earlier.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to leave your family and friends alone, and not drag them all way across the ocean to live in the same country as you.
3. Immigration will get expensive
Helping someone to immigrate will also be more expensive than you think.
For example, when I hosted exchange students things did get expensive. I did not mind to provide support, but at one point, when I stopped working our family realized that we could no longer afford to feed, bath, drive, take care of and financially support another person. We stopped hosting exchange students, partially due to the high mental and financial burden.
Keep in mind; immigration is expensive; when you promise to support and lure your friend or relatives to America, you will be financially responsible for their well-being. Yes, of course legally, you may not be responsible, but if you are a decent person, inside you always will feel the burden on responsibility for how they are doing, since you are the one who convinced them to immigrate.
4. Your relationships may suffer
Because of the differences in expectations, your relationships may suffer. If you continue challenging your friends and family to get on their own two feet, at one point, the conflict will come to its head, and it will blow.
When you will reset the boundaries and communicate expectations about their independence, there can be some hurt feelings. For example, I had to have one of those “come to Jesus” conversations with my exchange student Helen, who kept insisting that we drive her to every single place where she wanted to visit with her friends.
The conflict arises after e asked Helen to make a more concerted effort to make arrangements with other kids, parents and leverage public transportation since both my spouse and me were working and we physically could not bus four kids around at the same time.
Helen got very upset, and our relationships became very tense. Keep in mind, regardless of how kind and understanding you are, drawing lines in the sand and setting rules and expectations will inevitably impact relationships with your family and friends.
5. Immigration is not for everyone
Last reason not to insist and push your friends and family to immigrate is that your path is unique. Your journey and your decisions are only yours. What worked for you, may as well not work for them at all. Accept that the fact that you decided to immigrate does not obligate your friends or family to accommodate and migrate with you.
Your sister, mom, father, daughter, brother or a cousin are nothing like you. Yes, you are a family, and you love them, but I promise you, immigration will change everything for you and for them. The best thing to do is to hold an open space for them to connect with you, without trying to “fix” their life and drag them to America.
If you love your family and friends, leave them alonе. Do not insist on joining you in America. Immigration is a massive, and a very personal decision, with life-long consequences.
If you miss your family offer to open a visitor visa. The visa will provide two of you an excellent opportunity to see each other, connect, spend some time together and see the beautiful country.
In my experience, over-selling on immigration to America and pushing your family and friend to at least consider immigrating as a solution to all their issues will lead to family-wide conflicts.
Please leave your family alone and allow them to live their life. Remember, nobody can walk in your shoes or re-live your experience, your life, and your choices are only yours.
I helped a few friends and two family members to immigrate. They all stayed in the U.S., but our relationships are impaired for good, mostly I think because what they expected from immigration, and what it turned out to be is like night and day. My personal conclusion: yes, I am very grateful for the fact that my sister and my cousin are with me, in the same state, and the same country!
I love our times together, and I love them more than anything. I could not help but wonder, what our relationships would look like if they would remain back in Ukraine and lived their lives, without my intrusion? Would we be closer? Would they be struggling less? Would they and as a consequence, we be happier as a family? Would their family worry less about them?
I guess I will never know…
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