For five years, our former The American Dream employee Enrico had hoped to win a Green Card when it suddenly happened shortly before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's how he managed to move to the USA with his wife despite the chaos, lockdowns, and canceled flights.
Enrico, you moved to the USA in the middle of the crisis. How did you do that?
Immigrating to the USA in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis was certainly a very challenging situation. There were additional obstacles that we would not have had to overcome under normal circumstances. For example, it was difficult to even find a flight to the USA because most airlines had stopped flying. Through our own online research, we eventually found something suitable.
Once we were in the United States, the authorities were closed. For example, the local driver's license office was only partially open for certain requests on an appointment basis. So we had to wait a long time before we could apply for our driver's license. Then, it took another couple of weeks before we could finally take the driving test.
Overall, we needed more patience for everything, and things were more inconvenient. We had to take a few detours because of that, but everything worked out in the end. So basically, you can emigrate to the USA even during the COVID-19 crisis.
As a former employee of The American Dream, you're obviously an expert. But were you - in the midst of this chaos - on the verge of giving up?
I'd be lying if I said that hadn't briefly crossed my mind at least once. And I think it's also human to have a few doubts here and there when a problem arises with such a big project as emigration.
But I was never really on the verge of giving up. There was no obstacle where we had to say: now we'll go back to Germany and wait until the whole situation settles down. The American dream is too fascinating, and life is too exciting to throw it all away and just fly home. That was never an option for me.
I just saw it as a challenge and tried to solve each problem little by little. I think that emigration is a challenge in itself. Things will never go completely smoothly. You just have to keep your spirits up and be sporting about it. In the end, everything is possible!
I can only advise everyone to see it as a challenge. You can still emigrate to the USA during the pandemic, and if you have this dream, you shouldn't be discouraged.
What steps did you take to make your American dream come true before you won your Green Card?
To be prepared for immigration, I took some steps. It started with very simple things like setting aside a little money every month.
I also finished my studies in Germany - for the simple reason that it's much easier to find a good job over here with a degree or even vocational training.
Apart from that, I did a lot of research. For example, you can also go to the USA with an investor or work visa. I considered all the possibilities, of course. But in retrospect, the main step was to participate in the Green Card Lottery every year because that's how it worked out in the end.
How did it feel when you got your winning notification?
It was life-changing news that I had to process first, of course. It sounds like a cliché, but I didn't expect it at the time and was very surprised. My heart was racing. I couldn't sleep for a few nights because so much was going through my head.
But it was a very joyful feeling. I slowly became aware that it had all worked out! Now things can happen! I can finally realize all those plans I've had in my head for such a long time!
This consistency of participating in the lottery for five years has paid off. Not losing heart was fairly important in the process. In the end, it all paid off, and I felt vindicated for holding on to my American dream for all these years.
What came after the winning notification?
The time between the winning notification and the relocation to the United States went super fast, although it was delayed a bit due to the COVID-19 crisis and because I still wanted to finish my studies.
It was exciting! We first had to choose: Where are we moving to now? Which region in the USA do we like best? Where do we want to rebuild our lives? So there were a lot of decisions to make during that time. I was consciously working towards a goal, and that's why it was such a powerful experience!
I had so much to do! But I could also enjoy it. I talked to my family a lot and also got support from my friends. So it was a nice time where I really had a goal in mind that I could realize.
What was the moment of your first US entry with the Green Card like?
The first entry as an official Green Card holder was super exciting! It is the very last step on this long journey to becoming a Permanent Resident. Of course, your blood pressure is a bit high then.
You're excited because you want everything to work out. I arrived in Chicago with my wife, and our excitement was prolonged because we had to wait a little longer.
We had to prepare ourselves for the questions that would come. In the end, however, we were only fingerprinted, a photo was taken, and I think we were asked for our date of birth to verify our identity.
Everything went smoothly. All the worries that we had - because something can always go wrong - in the end, it was not so bad. Then we realized that we are now allowed to live here and that American life is open to us.
What was the first thing you did as a "Permanent Resident" in the USA?
The first thing I did in the USA was to go to Walmart to buy some clothes and other things because my suitcase was delayed. After that, I opened a bank account. This is quite important so that you can transfer some money.
Next up was the Social Security Number. Fortunately, I could use the address of The American Dream for the mailing of the Social Security card. You already have to provide an American address for this, and since I was still staying at an Airbnb at the time, I didn't have my own address.
This service of The American Dream can also be used for sending the Green Card and is very convenient. But it already starts with the fact that you can participate in the Green Card Lottery so easily via The American Dream and don't have to worry about the participation deadline in the fall.
I know people who have tried on their own and regularly let this huge opportunity pass by missing the deadline. They ended up getting very upset. It's important to really take advantage of this chance every year and not let it go to waste. And then, when you win the Green Card, it's super helpful to have the experts behind you to help you with tips and advice.
By the way, my suitcase arrived two days later.
How is your new life in the USA?
I chose North Carolina, where I now live near Charlotte. Before I made that decision, however, I had actually never been here. I simply decided based on research.
Of course, the vacation spots in the USA that one knows are beautiful. But for living, sometimes a completely different US state and city come into question.
I am very happy with my decision. Life is different than in Germany. If I were to describe it - and this probably sounds more like a cliché now - life here is just slower.
Of course, people here also have to work, but you don't really encounter stressed and grumpy people like in Germany. There's a lot of friendliness, and people manage their everyday lives together. It's a very relaxed life.
What is the best thing about living in the USA for you?
I would have to mention at least two points. The first is the people, who are incredibly friendly and open to newcomers. When you are a newcomer here, you feel like a guest in a foreign country, but that quickly subsides.
We met people right at the beginning who were incredibly hospitable and really helped us to make this start into our new life easier. We are absolutely grateful for that.
I can only say good things about the way people here deal with immigrants. Nobody puts any obstacles in our way. Everyone was incredibly cordial. You don't have to worry about not being accepted.
The second best thing about living in the US is the opportunities. No matter what kind of life you want to live - on the beach in Florida, on a mountain cabin in the Rockies, or in the middle of New York City - you will find your place somewhere. You can create your life here just the way you want it.
I don't think you can say that about too many countries in the world. The diversity and all the opportunities that are open to you as a Green Card holder - it's just overwhelming. It's a very exciting quest to find your place in this huge country.
How has living in the United States changed you as a person?
That's a difficult question because you have to do a bit of self-reflection for that. I would say that you not only get to know this country better but above all you get to know yourself.
That changes you. You become part of this culture, and not just briefly as a tourist, but in the long term. At some point, you realize that people here value things other than German punctuality or German accuracy. These are clichés, of course, but perhaps they are a bit true.
You go through everyday life a bit more relaxed here. If you're five minutes late, that's no problem. People don't take things so seriously. This relaxed attitude makes life easier. Sooner or later, you become part of this American culture, and that's a process you can really enjoy.
What advice would you give to USA fans who dream of emigrating?
The most important advice I would give to everyone is to enter the Green Card Lottery every year. I think that's the easiest thing to do no matter what. Other than that, it's important to hold on to your dream. Whether it works out the first time you participate or later - it's definitely achievable!
You might have to ignore all the voices that say, "Why do you want to emigrate to the USA? That's crazy, and you won't make it anyway!" That's nonsense. You can do it, and it's worth it!
You just have to keep it up, you have to stay consistent, you have to believe in this dream, and then you'll make it. You can build a great life over here
It's an incredible experience that I really value. I can only recommend everyone to believe in the American Dream!