On The Cost of Becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident, Part I

@bibimu I would urge caution re: visajourney.com. The information there is generally useful, but it's also essentially a collection of personal anecdotes that don't apply widely - what may happen to one applicant may not happen to another. It's not regulated or confirmed by any official body, and it contains advice that is contradictory and not super reliable. When so much is at stake, better go to the official USCIS sites for instructions. Not that the USCIS pages offer complete guidance. They do not. But visajourney is not a cure-all for the ambiguities and contradictions of the greencard process. Your best bet is to trust your own judgment navigating these forms, or to seek out professionals: advocates, administrators, or lawyers, who have plenty of on-the-ground experience handling these cases. Or better yet, if you're a Columbia student, as you seem to be, is to go to your international students' office and ask the administrators there if they know anything about the greencard forms and can help you fill them out.

Posted on February 19, 2015 at 4:18 pm 0

On Moving for a Relationship and Lessons From My Immigrant Parents

Thank you for this. It's the most fascinating statement on money and filial obligation that I've ever seen on this site. Your 4th-to-last and 3rd-to-last paragraphs are mind-blowing.

Posted on January 27, 2015 at 2:03 pm 0

On Sharing Time: How Much Did You Spend on Presents This Year?

1. 500$ so far (my husband and I together) but we're not done yet. Expecting to spend another 100$-200$. And we're both graduate students, with graduate student salaries/stipends! Talk about extravagance. This year is unusual, though, in that my husband and I are traveling to my home country (my first time in 3 years, his first time period). So we're bringing gifts for about 15 relatives and friends in the home country that I haven't seen for years. On our way back, in the suitcase space that will be made empty after the presents are given, we'll be bringing back another set of *culturally exotic* gifts from the home country for loves ones in the US and Canada. By the way: who knew that something like Ibuprofen was such an expensive and rare commodity in the home country? I have acquaintances who begged me to bring them: ibuprofen. I tend to overdo gifts, and I was adamant to be generous to as many people as I could, but even I didn't expect to spend so much. It's overwhelming, and it's money we should be saving for future expenditures. My parents were right. *sigh* I have the financial wisdom of a three year-old in a candy store. We're already spending about 3200$ on this trip as it is, including flights and accommodations. And my relatives wonder why I don't visit every year. I tell them the flights are well over a 1000$ per person each time, and I get only raised eyebrows in response. 2. 40$ on a turquoise-silver ring for an aunt in the home country. 3. 4.99$ on glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on your child's bedroom ceiling - for a 4 year-old kid of friends in the home country. 4. NO (see above) 5. N/A 6. No. 7. Given that it's a once-in-five-years trip to the home country, and my first chance to see my 97 year-old grandfather in over 3 years, yes. Next year our expeditures will be hopefully be 10% of this year's.

Posted on December 19, 2014 at 7:57 pm 0

On You Can Sue Your Parents To Pay Your College Tuition!

@ThatJenn I agree that the girl simply sounds like a selfish, rebellious teen, not a monster. Also, the mother works hard to present herself as concerned for the well-being of her daughter. But when that Disney college program comes up, the mom doesn't say, "we discussed this together with Caitlyn and all agreed that the best choice would be the Disney college program." Instead, she makes all these choices herself for her 18 year-old daughter, whose own agency and opinions do not even seem to factor into the story. She is assumed to be incompetent to decide anything given her alcohol use and rebelliousness, but that is not a fair way to treat an 18 year-old. It's putting a muzzle on her that is just as unlikely to help her achieve productive independence. Sure, the girl is beyond entitled to sue her parents after cutting them off from her life, but that home sounds like a prison. What teenager, rebellious or obedient, would want to move back home under conditions of holding a full-time job, a list of daily chores, and a curfew?

Posted on December 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm 0

On On Engagement Ultimatums

@annev17 We got married, almost a year ago, and I got a greencard. Things are good. As my partner wanted, marriage is still a non-issue between us. We wear wedding rings but we still tread around each other like boyfriend and girlfriend and very little has changed. It's a bit of an anti-climax compared with the blown-up expectations I see in people all around me, but at least my parents are at ease and I am also somewhat at ease, although aware that I've narrowed down my life options by taking this step. I love him but I worry his job may take us far from where I want to live, and I may have to follow since he's the less flexible one job-wise of us two.

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm 1

On On Engagement Ultimatums

Ultimatums sound so simple and neat as a proposition, but my own "ultimatum" got so very messy. I'm a foreigner living in the US, and my partner and I only had been together for about 7 months when we started talking about marriage. Or more precisely, my parents started pressuring us to think about it. We knew I was a temporary US resident and would need to either leave the country soon or find a way to stay. My partner and I had no interest in marriage at first, but a greencard seemed like the easiest way for me to stay, and so my parents said, "So are you guys serious? If so, then you should get married ASAP and get the greencard app rolling." We loved each other and got along pretty well, and this path sounded much easier than my immediately starting to stress about which companies might sponsor me for a new work visa. But even though we basically agreed that we were committed enough to want to stay together, what then ensued was a 6-month comedy of errors and manipulations. It started around the 10 month mark of our relationship, at which point we had been discussing marriage tentatively together for a couple months. At that point, I popped the question to him for the first time. I casually said "So will you marry me?" while we were driving one Sunday afternoon to the farmer's market. I thought that since we had both agreed that marriage would be more a practical act than a romantic one for us, we didn't need an excessively romantic setting in order to agree to do it. Let's just cut the bullshit and be honest and straight-forward about it, I thought. Bad idea. He looked shocked in the car and then acted offended that I would make the proposal so callous and casual. He said he was holding off on answering and instead would propose to me himself when he was ready, but in a "nice" way that did justice to the whole affair. I was confused. He would "propose to me himself when he was ready?" Did that mean he was committed, or not? I waited several more months, trying not to bring this issue up. During this time, I was getting nervous. My temp visa would soon be running out, my parents were by now asking me what was going on with us every week. I was pulling my hair out with frustration at their phone calls. Meanwhile, I started tentatively bringing up the subject of marriage again, pointing out my dwindling visa status. In response, my partner started singing 3 different tunes alternatingly, sometimes switching from narrative 1 in the morning to narrative 2 in the afternoon to narrative 3 that very night, and back again: 1. Sometimes he said: "Marriage is just a formality and doesn't mean anything to me. It's just a piece of paper. I'm not going to have a state dictate my commitment to someone for me." VS. 2. Other times he said: "If you keep asking me about an official proposal and questioning whether I'll propose, that means you don't trust my love for you. If you don't believe I'll propose to you, then why are we even together?" VS. 3. And yet other times, he'd respond with: "Even though the marriage itself is a formality, if I haven't yet proposed to you, then nothing is certain between us." I was going nuts. I thought I'd given him an ultimatum of sorts. But look where that got me. I was coming across as a nagging, manipulative girlfriend, and his responses suggested both that he was and wasn't ready, and that marriage both was and wasn't just a formality to him. Two months later, we had a huge fight. I told him I needed to figure out my life and my visa and didn't have the time for him to keep giving me mixed signals and to keep accusing me of manipulating him. He needed to make a decision so I could move on with my life if he wasn't ready. He responded that I was being manipulative and that he'd never proposed to anyone before in his life and that besides, he had never imagined being married in his late twenties. He added that all this strife was making him question our compatibility. I said, "fine, then let's break up." But no, he was heartbroken even to hear that. A month later, another sweaty, angry fight, at the end of which he confessed that he still hadn't asked me because he had ordered the engagement ring from a local silversmith, but that it was taking a long time to be made. I breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed in a new air of ambivalence about marriage into my own mind. Now that I was sure he wanted me, I wasn't so sure I wanted this.

Posted on October 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm 2

On The Cost of Bringing a Person Into The World Via C-Section

@gyip I'm actually wondering now roughly how much it would cost in Ontario to have a baby (with and without a C section, no other complications), assuming you have OHIP. Does anyone know where we could find such information? And this would only apply if one had OHIP, I suppose? An American popping over the border to give birth wouldn't get this cheap care too, right? In the 1st world-ish country I'm from, I once found a few American patients wandering the halls of the hospital where my grandfather was hospitalized. They did not speak a word of the local language. When I asked them if they were there seeking treatment instead of back home in the US because they had no insurance, they said, "oh no, we are insured back in the US. But it costs less to have a bone marrow transplant here without insurance than to have it done privately with insurance in the US." My reaction was !!!.

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm 0

On The Year We Saved $10K: It Was Like Shopping For A New Life

I would love to read a piece about how first-year teachers in the Arctic do money. Seriously. Is food extremely expensive because it's shipped in? Do onions cost 6$ apiece like they did in the Netherlands Antilles in 2009?

Posted on August 6, 2014 at 12:39 am 3

On How Much is Too Much for a Root Canal?

IS dental really worth it? I looked into it recently and it seemed as though the premiums were high but the coverage they offered was not that great. Also, I remember that even though my dad has excellent health+vision+dental from his university, when he needed a bridge last year, he still had to pay several thousands dollars out of pocket.

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 11:39 am 0

On A Banker Missing His Wallet Asks for Some Money

About ten years ago, as an undergraduate, I was walking down the street in downtown Toronto on a warm, sunny afternoon. Suddenly, I saw a dozen yards ahead of me a large man wearing a nice business suit, and lying belly-down on the sidewalk. His clothes and his body position were so odd that some of those milling around him in rush-hour pace stopped to ask if he was all right. I, too, thought instinctively that he had fallen down or was injured. He didn't seem homeless, or at least, I had never before or since seen a homeless man wear a nice business suit and lie down on his belly. When I approached the man, I, too, said, "do you need anything, sir?" The man looked up at me from the pavement and said, with a mildly sarcastic tone, "do I need anything? yeah, a pizza and coke would be nice." I immediately noticed two things: first, the wasn't injured and hadn't fallen down. He was "simply" begging for money in a nice-looking suit and while lying down on his stomach, to catch more people's attention. And second, we were right outside a Pizza Pizza, a popular Canadian pizza chain. Feeling embarrassed by his sarcastic tone, but more ashamed that I would not have stopped if he wasn't so well-dressed, I walked into the Pizza Pizza and got him a slice of pepperoni pizza and coke. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I would help him even if he didn't sound so grateful about it and that I shouldn't judge. Maybe he really needed food and had none, and maybe he got that suit from the salvation army and was really homeless. When I stepped outside with the pizza and coke, the man was now sitting up and talking on a flip cell phone while brushing away some of the pavement dust that had clung to his knees while he'd been lying down. I held out the pizza and coke to him, and he, still talking on his cell phone, simply motioned for me to put them down on the ground beside him, without saying anything or thanking me. I did so, feeling increasingly annoyed and perplexed by the whole situation. At that moment, another man standing next to him who seemed to be his friend, and who was considerably less well-dressed, grinned at me said in a whiny voice, "Miss? Will you get me a pizza and a coke too? Please? I'm hungry!" I turned around and began walking away quickly, hearing the second man bursting into laughter behind me. I was really pissed. 7$ was a lot for me in those days. I had spent them thinking I was helping someone in need, and I felt I'd been had. But probably I was the jerk, only bothering to stop by him because he seemed like a "normal" guy in a suit, i.e. not your typical homeless guy. It was a point well-made. What kind of thank you did I expect, anyway?

Posted on August 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm 2