A couple from Russia spent $17 to move to the USA, but the couple could not live in America
In 2020, a couple from Russia decided to move to the United States, and for this, the couple even sold their only apartment. But they couldn't live in America. Why did it happen, says “Tinkoff Magazine”.
In 2020, the woman was 28 and her husband was 33. She worked as an SMM specialist, and he worked as a designer. The couple lived in a Siberian city with a million inhabitants and have long wanted to move: it is cold in Siberia, bad for the environment, and they are tired of their work, as the woman says.
“We dreamed of changing our lives, and it seemed to us: where, if not in the USA, is the best place to do this,” says the woman under the nickname Who Is Troublemaker.
Ten years ago, she already went to the States under the Work and Travel program and lived there for three months. Then she and her husband were twice in the United States on vacation - they spent a month on the West and East coasts. The country attracted spouses with an atmosphere of freedom and opportunities.
“I met a bunch of people who lived there for years and quietly worked in an illegal or semi-legal status. And I had work experience in the States, my husband and I spoke good English and knew the legal way to move - on a study visa. Therefore, we thought that we would definitely succeed,” she says.
By the end of 2021, they saved up money, sold an apartment in Siberia and moved in 2022. But they did not live in the States for even two months and moved to Georgia. The spouses spent $17 to prepare for the move, live in the United States and leave.
How did the couple decide to move?
At the end of 2020, the couple watched videos about moving to the United States, read blogs about visas and life in the States. Nothing they heard seemed impossible to them. They thought that only money and a visa were needed for a smooth move. According to various estimates, about $20 was needed to move and for the first time in the United States. The spouses had to save up money and find a legal way to move. They did not have a specific plan, the timing when they need to move, too.
“We acted according to the circumstances,” the woman says.
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At some point, they thought about selling the apartment. They lived in a girl's one-room Khrushchev apartment with cosmetic repairs: her grandmother gave her part of the money for it, and she took the rest in a mortgage. First she paid herself, and then - together with her husband. She did not want to sell this housing. But in August 2021, her grandmother died, and the apartment was very reminiscent of her - it was hard to be there.
“By that moment, I finally realized that I no longer want to live in Siberia. And it seemed to me that selling an apartment and spending money not on new real estate, but on some other life, was a good idea, ”she said.
In the fall of 2021, a woman sold an apartment for $30000 - half of the money went to pay off the mortgage, and the wife put half in a piggy bank.
After that, she no longer saved money from her salary, and her husband continued to replenish savings. The couple moved into a rented apartment.
“We talked about the decision to move to the US to friends and relatives, and basically everyone supported us. Only a few asked if we understood that it would be difficult. We answered in the affirmative,” she says.
How the spouses chose the basis for the visa
The couple did not plan to look for work in the United States in advance. We wanted to come and see the options already on the spot. The sphere was unimportant - the main thing was that they paid. It seemed that with such input, finding a job would not be difficult.
She heard that it is difficult to get a job in the country without an SSN - this is the local analogue of the TIN, which can only be obtained with official employment. But the couple was sure that for finding some simple job like a cashier in a supermarket or a waiter, SSN was not really needed. Moreover, a large number of illegal migrants have always lived in the United States.
“We were ready to work informally: I knew that many people do this, even if they have legal status in the country,” the woman says. - In this case, we just needed a visa that allows you to enter the States and stay there for at least a year. The study visa F1 was suitable for this. You can get it if you go to a local college, university, or even a language course lasting several months.”
What the couple did to get US visas
The courses were only an excuse to legally enter the US, so the couple did not look for a school with the best ratings or reviews. It was more important to find a trusted agency that would help prepare documents for admission and visa processing. In the fall of 2021, they began searching.
The couple found on the Internet the agency A&K American Educational Consulting, which was founded by immigrants from Russia. There were a lot of good reviews about it on social networks, and on the website there is a large list of language schools with which the company cooperates, as the woman says. All this inspired confidence, so at the end of 2021 she wrote to the agency’s email: she wanted to know what documents would be needed, how much the services cost, training courses, and other details.
Here is what they replied to her:
- For admission to the school, it is necessary to translate into English and notarize diplomas and a marriage certificate. English proficiency certificates are not required.
- The agency will fill out the application for admission and send it to the school for them.
- You need to provide a bank statement - there must be at least $ 6000 per person. This will confirm that people have something to live on in the United States.
- You can choose any training period - from a month to a year. Three months is optimal, while a visa will still be given for a year.
- To get a visa, you just need to wait for an invitation from the school and pass an interview at the US consulate. The agency will help prepare for it.
Together with the visa fee, all this cost $ 1000 for two. Spouses arranged everything, they transferred the fee for the services of the agency for details.
The agency then filled out the visa forms and helped prepare for the interview.
“I can’t tell you the details, I’ll just say that the main task at the visa interview is to prove your connection with your homeland and convince the consul that you are not going to stay in the United States,” the girl says.
They interviewed together.
“Just in case, they brought with them translations of certificates from work into English, but the consul did not even look at them. All he needed was our passports and an invitation from the language school. He asked some simple questions about past trips to the US and the purpose of this trip, she says. - The interview took no more than ten minutes - the consul immediately said that the visas were approved, and took the passports. We were not given any documents that would temporarily replace them.”
How the couple prepared for their departure from Russia
The couple planned that after a trip to Madrid, where they were interviewed, they would return home and live there for another month and a half before leaving for the United States. In January, they began to slowly distribute and sell their belongings. But after February 24, they began to fear that if they returned home, then they would not be able to leave Russia. Therefore, they took most of the things to their relatives, and the rest was distributed just like that.
They converted the money into dollars. In part, they paid for the services of the agency, flights and other expenses associated with the move, with the accumulated money.
They also bought medicines. In the US, many medicines cannot be purchased without a prescription. To get it, you need to go to a therapist, and an appointment without local insurance costs from $150. Therefore, in Russia, a woman bought a lot of medicines, including colds and antipyretics.
Housing in Boston
At the end of April, the couple flew from Yerevan to New York with Qatar Airways. The journey took 20 hours, including a change in Doha.
“We arrived in New York in the afternoon. We were not there for the first time, so we felt nothing but fatigue - neither joy nor inspiration. We love this city very much, but after a long flight, all we wanted to do was sleep,” the woman says.
The next day they took a bus to Boston, where their school was located.
They had previously searched for an apartment in an expat group on Facebook and Craigslist.org. But there were few offers, and everything was either very expensive or far from the school, she says. As a result, in the students' Telegram chat, they found a message that a room in an apartment was being rented near the school.
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“We didn’t see the photo, and we didn’t care how it looks, because due to the small number of offers, we were afraid to be left without housing at all. We wrote to the owner of the apartment and said we were ready to move in at the end of April. The rent was $1200 a month, with the same amount to be left as a deposit. The communal was included in the amount, ”the woman says.
The apartment was in the Allston area. It is close to the center and has everything you need: supermarkets, cafes, convenience stores. In the photo from the Internet, the area looked pretty - when the couple were there for the first time, they decided that there were no problems.
They entered into a lease agreement with the owner of the apartment. It was for a year, but the spouses could move out at any time with a month's notice.
The room was located on the first floor of a three-story building. She looked normal, the woman says. There was a bed, a wardrobe, a table and a chest of drawers, towels, pillows, blankets, bed linen. The couple bought only a duvet cover. She also found a good lamp on the street and brought it home. In the US, this is normal: many people leave their things on the street, they can be picked up for free.
How was the study
The couple studied in the evenings from 17:30 to 21:30 four days a week. Every day there was one grammar lesson and two conversational English lessons. Everything took place in one office, between classes there were breaks of ten minutes.
“Mostly Russians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, Ukrainians studied at the school, many children from Latin American countries. Classmates were between 20 and 40 years old. The teachers are Americans, but the director is Russian-speaking,” the woman says.
It was mandatory to attend classes - this left the legal status of stay in the United States for visitors.
“Many students extended their studies and lived in this mode in the country for four or five years. They came to class with absolutely glassy eyes,” she says.
Every day they were given homework from textbooks. At the end of the week, they handed in written assignments or tests: they made up dialogues using new knowledge and then spoke to teachers. They were not graded: at the end of the course, everyone simply had to receive certificates.
“At first everything was easy for me, but when I got a job, I didn’t have the strength to do anything else,” she says.
Jobs in Boston
To officially get somewhere, you need a work permit - EAD. To do this, you need to get an SSN number, apply to the Department of Homeland Security, pay a state fee - about $ 500, according to the woman. But the F1 study visa for language courses does not give the right to work in the United States, which means that there was no point in asking for a work permit.
Immigrants with such visas work in the United States illegally and in low-skilled positions. The couple were ready for this and from the first days in the States they were looking for a place.
“My classmate worked in a pharmacy and suggested that I get a job with them: it was necessary to pack pills and deliver them to customers. There was no interview, they didn’t ask me for documents and a work permit: the pharmacy manager knew perfectly well that I didn’t have one. A week after my arrival, I started working in a pharmacy,” she says.
She worked five days a week for eight hours - from 08:00 to 16:00. She liked the work and did not bother at all: she had to stand at the checkout, pack up pills in jars and deliver them to customers - mostly Russian-speaking pensioners who lived nearby.
“The days off were only on Wednesday and Sunday. The salary is $15 an hour, which is the minimum rate in the US, but it was not bad for a start. It was given out in cash once a week. I received $2000 a month,” she says.
Other nuances of life in Boston
In the first days after their arrival in Boston, the couple opened accounts and received cards at Bank of America. No lease agreement or papers from the language school were needed to open accounts - only passports.
They immediately deposited all the money into the account. The spouses received physical cards in a couple of days and paid with them everywhere.
I spent about $400 a month on food. “We didn’t save much, but we preferred to cook at home,” she says.
The school was located next to the house, so the couple went there on foot. We went for walks to the center by subway — the ticket cost $2,5.
“We bought clothes and shoes in regular stores like H&M, Nike, New Balance. Clothing in the US is cheap: T-shirts, jeans and sweatshirts can be found for $5. Sneakers usually cost around $100. Since we arrived with a minimum of things, in two months of living in the States we bought a lot of things: a laptop, sneakers, cosmetics, a phone, clothes and various little things, ”she says.
“In general, living in Boston was great: it's a big city with a lot of entertainment - although we didn't have time for them. In two months, we went to a neighboring city once, walked around Boston a couple of times, and went to a restaurant a couple more times. We were very tired, and we didn’t have the strength to go somewhere even on weekends,” she says.
Why did the couple decide to leave the United States
“Moving to the USA was my dream and it came true. But after a month and a half, we decided to leave there,” the woman says.
Difficult living conditions. After a few days of living in Boston, the couple realized that their area was very dirty: there was rubbish everywhere, and rats scurried around the house every now and then, as the woman says. And it turned out to be noisy: people from neighboring houses, as the woman recalls, constantly had parties all night.
“As for the apartment, initially we were told that we would share a kitchen and a toilet with three people, but there were six of them: the house turned out to be the ground floor, where three more lived. As a result, the toilet, bathroom and kitchen were constantly occupied by someone, she says. - All the neighbors were from Russia, but they arrived before us: someone - on a green card, someone - as a refugee. Some of them never cleaned up: everyone washed the dishes after themselves, but the appliances, cabinets, stove and floors in the kitchen, bathroom and hallway were always dirty.”
As a result, as the woman says, the dirt was constantly and everywhere. The fact that our neighbors had bed bugs did not add optimism either. “Fortunately, they didn’t crawl over to us,” she says.
“At first I reassured myself: I live in the USA - I dreamed about this, you can endure inconvenience. But then she started to freak out: someone has been washing for an hour, and I can’t even brush my teeth! The lack of sanitation annoyed me the most. To the right of our house there were several garbage cans - in them and next to me I saw rats every now and then, ”she says.
The couple tried to find other housing, but in Boston it is very expensive. Everything they found was about the same in terms of conditions, and something better could only be rented from $2000 —they were not ready to spend that much. As a result, domestic inconveniences became the first reason why the couple thought about leaving the United States.
Husband couldn't find a job. He tried to work as a laborer in a Russian store, a loader in a moving company, a cook, a waiter. But they refused to take him without SSN.
He was offered to get a job through someone else's SSN, but the couple had no acquaintances who could provide it. The husband continued to work remotely at his old job and received a salary in rubles, which they withdrew through a crypto wallet. In terms of dollars, it turned out not very profitable, as she says, besides, the spouses were afraid that the ruble could collapse at any moment and they would be left without money. The couple lived on savings and salaries from the pharmacy. Including tuition fees, housing and meals, they spent about $4000 per month.
Lack of free time. By 08:00 the woman left for work, and at 22:00 came home from school. My husband worked the same amount, but from home.” It became more and more difficult: studies, the city, the ever-occupied kitchen and bath annoyed me, the rats squeaking under the windows infuriated me. We began to swear often, we felt lonely, ”she says.
Reducing working hours in the pharmacy. “The last straw was that at work my hours were cut without warning, which is minus $ 500 a month. In addition to poor living conditions, endless fatigue and uncertainty, the fact that now my salary was barely enough to cover the cost of housing was added to the piggy bank. I didn’t even have enough to pay for the next month of training,” she says.
A month and a half after moving to the USA, the couple bought tickets to Georgia: their friends lived in Tbilisi.
“You can enter and live there without a visa for almost a year, there is a familiar rhythm and a comfortable atmosphere. And there we would have had enough for two of my husband’s salary, but by the time I left the United States, I still found a remote job in my specialty, ”she says.
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“In general, we like Tbilisi. My husband works at an old job, and I am an SMM specialist in a Lithuanian company founded by Russians. Our income for two is just over $3000,” she says.
With the result that
Now, six months after leaving for Georgia, the couple began to look towards the United States again.
“We thought about legalizing ourselves in Georgia, but from the experience of many people, we realized that now they often refuse to issue a residence permit. Therefore, we are looking for another country to live in,” the woman says.
“If we go to the USA as students, we will correct a few things: we will find a cheaper school and, when choosing housing, we will look not at proximity to anything, but at the area and the condition of the apartment. If we decide to legalize in the country, we will look for an immigration lawyer: he will help you understand how to get a work permit, she says. - I have not yet thought about how much money we will need if we still gather in the USA again, and whether we want to go there at all. Wait and see".
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