Green Card Experts




Moving to Las Vegas with a Green Card

Ten years ago, Green Card winner Thomas emigrated from Germany to Las Vegas. For the 25th anniversary of The American Dream, he looks back at his early days in the States and gives some important advice to anyone dreaming of a life in the USA.

Thomas from Las Vegas sits in his garden and smiles at the camera

Green Card winner Thomas immigrated from Germany to Las Vegas ten years ago.

At first, Thomas didn't quite want to believe that he had won the Green Card Lottery because it was only his second time participating. Eventually, however, the tourism expert grabbed his wife and set off for the USA. Today, the couple lives in sunny Las Vegas.

Thomas, you started a company after moving to the US. What is it like to launch your own business there?

I already had a company in Germany when I came to the USA, and I started another one here. So I already knew the ropes a little bit. But my experience is that it's quite easy in the US. Of course, you need a tax advisor, but you can just set up a company online and then get started.

What did you do to make your American dream come true from Germany?

I had been to the USA several times before and traveled all over the country on a B visa. I can't say that I had the dream of emigrating at that time because it was just quite normal for me to be in the States again and again due to working in the tourism business. Nevertheless, at some point, I entered the Green Card Lottery and won right on the second draw.

A USA tourist stands on a rocky ledge at a canyon

Before his emigration, Thomas was often in the USA on a B visa (visitor's visa).

How did it feel back then when you got your winning notification?

The winning notification came via email, and to be honest, I thought, "This must be another one of those spam emails. It can’t be." But after I took a closer look and the sender was indeed The American Dream, there seemed to be something to the win.

Then I wrote an email to my wife at work. However, she had already completely forgotten that we had played in the Green Card Lottery and did not understand my hint that we had won "The Card."

(Editor's note: If one spouse wins the Green Card Lottery, the rest of the family automatically gets a Green Card as well).

Two Green Cards on top of a Priority Mail envelope

On his path to the Green Card, Thomas was accompanied by the The American Dream community.

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Why did you decide to go with The American Dream in the first place?

The American Dream makes things pretty easy - here in America, they always say "hassle-free." All you have to do is upload a photo, provide a few basic details, and your application will be submitted to the American authorities.

If it doesn't work out right away the first year, then you can say, "Oh, just do it again next year." You won't have any trouble because someone will always check to make sure everything's okay, so you don't fail.

What was the time like from winning notification to moving to the USA?

That is a long time. You first have to go to the consulate, submit all kinds of papers, provide proof, and go for vaccinations. Of course, you're insanely nervous when you get to the consulate. Who knows if the authorities might not be as strict as they are when you enter the US?

But it wasn't like that at all at the consulate. It was reasonably straightforward. After that, we got our passports with the visa very quickly and then booked a flight to the USA shortly after. At that time, we were traveling in Florida for the first time. Everything was quite smooth, actually.

Thomas standing on the side of the road in front of an American landscape panorama

Thomas is living the dream of many USA fans every day, but he also warns: ''It's something completely different to vacation in a country or to live there."

How has The American Dream supported you along the way?

The support from The American Dream was essential, especially after the winning notification. However, I hadn't booked the complete package, which includes the flight tickets to the USA - you can also book that with The American Dream - but only the basic package.

The most important thing for me was access to the winner’s community. There, you can exchange ideas with all the other winners. What experiences have they had? Have they already been to the consulate, and do they make it difficult for you there? What is it really like to immigrate to the USA? Which things do you have to think about? What did the winners do first?

You can learn from the mistakes of others, but it's also very reassuring to hear: it's all quite easy.

Try to recall this for us: what was your first entry into the USA as an official Green Card holder like?

I entered the United States with my wife, who, of course, also received a Green Card. When we entered the country, we still had our X-rays (editor's note: from the medical examination by a panel physician recognized by the US Embassy) in a roller under our arms. We came to the immigration desk, they saw the visa, and they waved us into a back room.

This is quite strange at first when you go into a room with some officials to be interviewed. But it was not that bad. The officials wanted to know where we wanted to live and whether we were really moving to the USA. There was also a lot of chatting involved. They were very nice and friendly. You had the impression that they were welcoming you. It was all really easy.

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What was the first thing you did as a Permanent Resident in the USA?

The first thing I did was to buy an apartment. As a Green Card holder, you have to move to the USA in order to keep your Green Card. Of course, the best way to prove the move is to have a permanent residence in the United States - with the corresponding bills for electricity, gas, and everything else.

After buying the apartment, I could enjoy seeing a bit more of the US and travel to all the corners I hadn't seen before.

Thomas' garden with apricot tree, Thomas at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

At home and on the road: Thomas has now seen almost every corner of the USA.

After a few years as a Green Card holder, did you also decide to become an American citizen?

Yes, I decided to become an American citizen after holding a Green Card for five years because I liked it here so much. I wanted to be an American.

When you are a citizen, you don't have any difficulties if you want to stay abroad longer. And, of course, you don't run the risk of having your Green Card taken away for some reason. It gives you even more security.

What advice would you give to other people who dream of living in the USA?

Make sure to know your options. On the one hand, you can participate in the Green Card Lottery (which can sometimes take a few years until you are drawn), or you can consider whether you would like to enter the USA with a visa first, for example, to build up a company here.

Be clear about what you want to do in the US and if it is really needed here. Certain professions can earn you good money here in the USA: craftsmen, for example, or IT professions.

A tropical looking lakefront residential neighborhood in Las Vegas

Life among palm trees: Thomas' residential area is a lakeside setting in the middle of the desert city.

And there are other professions that are not so much in demand. You can have a good resume, but life doesn't really start until you've immigrated to the USA and you are writing job applications. And if you decide to build up a business, you have to clarify whether the company is needed. With a bratwurst stand, for example, you are more likely to fail.

There is a difference between a vacation in the USA and life here. People who move to Florida, for example, tell me over and over again that they hardly see the beach anymore, although they used to spend their vacations under palm trees. I live in Las Vegas, but I hardly ever see the Las Vegas Strip. To be honest, I have no interest in it either.

It's clearly different to live in the country or city where you've only vacationed before. And what many people don't realize is that immigrating costs money. No matter if you want to buy something or rent something: at first, you don't have a credit score, and if you want to buy a car, you have to pay cash. Or, if you’re going to rent an apartment, you have to pay a higher deposit without a credit score. It is like in many other places: no pain, no gain.

What do you like most about living in the USA?

It is more relaxed. The people are more laid-back. You still have to work a lot, and it's expensive, but life is different. And so you change as well. You become calmer and see many things more relaxed - except in traffic! I can still get upset about how some people drive. But that's the same all over the world, and it will always be that way.

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