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  1. 3 points
    Today seemed so far away, and yet, in the blink of an eye, we have arrived. Five years ago, two people stepped off an airplane and into one of their biggest adventures yet. It all started on that day we landed in Philadelphia, and got our Diversity Visa stamped, marking our official Resident status. That first week was our first LSD trip, and it was WILD! We relayed from Philadelphia on to Raleigh-Durham, and spent a couple of days exploring the Research Triangle Park. Well, more like exploring FOR the Research Triangle Park! Couldn't find it. Completely hidden from view! Along the way we established a US address in a postbox, applied for the All Important Social Security Number, opened a bank account, learned all about The Hurdle Known As Credit Score, looked at a couple of apartments to rent, and tried to work out where in the world we are. From Raleigh-Durham, we traveled a few hours westward to Charlotte, and immediately thought it was way cooler than R-D was! Spent another couple of days doing job interview(s), looking for places to live, and of course, most important of all, explored Carowinds! One week went by in a blur, and before we knew it, we were on our way back to SA, but we have managed to establish a presence in the US, and our Green Cards would be in our hands really soon! About one month later, I departed SA for a permanent move to the USA. My husband stayed on in SA for a few more weeks to tie things up, while I pioneered westward to set up our new lives in the USA. Thankfully we have some dear friends in the US willing to lend a helping hand, and we will forever be grateful for their assistance with a number of things that needed to be done. It really would be a lot harder to do this without someone who can point you in the right direction, or who is at a known location to receive notices and provide a base from where to operate. We were fortunate to secure an apartment before my arrival, so that was a huge relief. We also opted for Immigration Lite, which saw me fly in with two suitcases and a couple of dollars in my pocket. And then I had to buy what I needed: bed, bedding, toiletries, kettle, internet, TV, car, ... Another week of bouncing here and there and everywhere, falling in love with IKEA, falling out of love with self-assembling furniture, hating internet setups, loving how easy things work in the USA, hating credit scores, loving the people who are ever helpful, hating winters, loving the ability to walk to work, loving the view from the apartment, loving the endless possibilities here in the USA... At the end of the year, husband left SA, and we re-united to start settling in. The first year was quite a flurry of activity, and elsewhere on the forum is a post about all those adventures and the "honeymoon phase". I'll summarize some of it again here for completeness of this report. We had to visit Walt Disney World asap of course, and took a road-trip, one of many more to come, down to Florida from North Carolina. Husband managed to find and start a job within about a month of arriving and looking for work. We relocated a couple hundred miles eastward for said job. We visited many places, including trips to Boston and New York, both of which was amazing and exciting. We attended several sporting events, including a baseball game, several PGA Tour events, and a cricket match. We joined a golf club and made a few friends at the club. We discovered Greenways and explored for days on foot and on bicycles. We eventually worked up the courage to go for drivers licenses and found we passed it with ease, and regretted not getting it done sooner. We grew tired of paying a fortune to eat grilled steaks at the restaurants, and bought a braai and started grilling regularly at home. We increased in size. We learned to drink American Wine, but we love to find South African Wine in the USA. We learned to drink craft beer, and now we have become beer snobs. We discovered that there are many bugs in the USA. Oh so many bugs. Terrible bugs. They ruin summer, unless you buy all kinds of bug repellents, which works with varying degrees of success. We made peace with the fact that in the USA, homes do not have lighting in living spaces, you must bring the standing lamps. And plugs do not have switches, you just have to hope you do not touch anything live while working electrical cords. But all in all, we discovered that even though we miss our friends and family back in South Africa very very much, they are never too far away thanks to modern marvels like Skype and Facebook, and WhatsApp. The next couple of years saw many changes for us. We did another LSD trip down to Florida, and shortly after relocated there. We saw many job changes between the two of us. We bought more cars and we bought a town-home. We sold our house in South Africa and our things we loved so much. We bought many, many more things from Amazon. So many things. We found that the USA is like a collection of "countries" and what you get and do in one state, is not necessarily the way of the world in another state, even though it is all USA. We miss our South African favourite foods and stores, and now we miss our North Carolina favorite stores. But we learned to embrace the Walmart, and the Publix, and the local South African Goods traders. We found out there are many South Africans here in the USA, and you can kick one from behind just about any bush in the region. We love the festivals and the chance to Gooi Die Taal, and enjoy boerewors rolls, pies, and skaapbraai, and we still have to get to one of the Potjie festivals. We still have to learn what the deal is with American Football, but we enjoy going to or watching the games, even though it takes FOREVER. We have been to the beach, and it was busy and beachy and fun, and we should do it more. We discovered the weather. It is violent and wild, and miserable, but it passes by quick. We were thrilled to learn about "screened whatevers", which are bug-free and pleasant and soothes our African need to spend time outdoors with our braai and our wine and our pets. We have seen the National Mall and it was impressive. We have been to the Outer Banks and it was incredible. We learned about the Wright Brothers doing their test flights out there and realized that we know history, but we don't always know where that history happened. We visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and by accident learned about the First Colony and early US history. We went to see Dollywood and was amazed to find Pigeon Forge in the middle of nowhere being all touristy and surprisingly busy. We learned about "roadside attractions" and were skeptical and still have to venture on one of those. We discovered the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Trail along the way and must go back to see more someday. We went to see a live volcano out in Hawaii. On bike. We went to St Pete Beach in Florida, and discovered Pass-A-Grille Beach and the fascinating story. We stopped to see some friends out at Melbourne, and they pointed us to Gator Tail and Frogs Legs at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp on the way back. Who knew? So good. We visited Myrtle Beach and got inspired and changed careers for a while. Endless opportunities for the taking. We camped out INSIDE a theme park, underneath the roller coasters. What a night! Endless fun! We played golf on so many of the famous courses, and more to look forward to. We have been to ice hockey, and even took a shot at goal, and did not land on our ass while at it. We have been to South Africa, we love to visit there and kuier with friends and family, but we love coming home at the end of the trip. And today we have been at this for a whole five years already. How time flies! We have recently put in our application for citizenship, so next year will be filled with more exciting events. While we enjoy our visits to South Africa, we wish for all of our friends and family to come and visit us here in our new home. There are many more things we look forward to as we continue our adventure. We must go and see the National Parks. Many of them. We must go ski, and we must go see the Rockies in the summertime. We must go see Chicago. And the North in the summer, that everyone raves endlessly on about. We have to visit Cedar Fair, of course. We must go see Texas, where rumour has it there is an unusually large gathering of South Africans. We must go see the Grand Canyon. We must go see Canada, or parts of Canada. We must go taste bourbon in Tennessee and/or Kentucky. We must go see the wine country in California. We must go visit Key West, and dive the reefs out there. We want to go cruising again, to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, everywhere! So many more places to go and so many more experiences waiting. We'll see y'all out there!
  2. 3 points
    Thanks [at]SJ272. I am here for good, but going back December or January to sort things out. This place is unbelievably beautiful. Took the bus the wrong (clockwise) way around the island, and so glad i did, wow the mountains!!! Tip: You can get a mobile sim line to get you sorted with data and communication very easily. What I did was go to AT&T, bought a Prepaid line, i got the unlimited with hotspot $80, then you pay $80 in the store, they give you a sim, and that’s it. You then have to put a card for payments on your account online within three days. I keep my SA phone on roaming for now, and then went to Apple store and just bought a new phone. Easy peasy. Still waiting for my social security card, to open a bank account.
  3. 2 points
    Good luck to everyone entering. May your dreams come true and your applications be successful. After entering the Visa lottery 11 times and never winning the lottery, I am not entering this year as my F3 application is nearing the Interview stage - YEAHHH!!
  4. 2 points
    I just finished my entry at LAX, all good, normal foreign passport line, and it was quick, like 10 minutes. Kallas, I am in Honolulu tonight, and renting a car tomorrow, need to go buy some stuff, what are your plans? I started a stopwatch when I got in the car in SA, have now commuted 38 hours, only semi sleep on plane, and have another 5 hours to Honolulu 😜
  5. 2 points
    Ok that makes sense now, it’s not the “first time ESTA” that’s relevant, it’s the “visitors with visas other than b1/B2” that makes that line the correct one.
  6. 2 points
    Thanks for all the info. I got through JFK immigration quite quickly - followed the ESTA "first entry" signs. Took me about an hour. Officer was super chilled again, hardly any questions and very friendly. I'm currently in Honolulu and fly back on Thursday - by far the longest flights I've been on, super draining, but good to be here.
  7. 1 point
    [at]Kallas, it sounds like something has gone wrong (happens occasionally) and you will need to go into a SSA office to get yourself on the system. Take your passport with the immigrant visa with you.
  8. 1 point
    Ours took just over four weeks to arrive which was in 2005. I believe they are much quicker now. The Green cards took about 6 weeks. This was around Thanksgiving time. So we only initially stayed in the US for a week and then went back to SA for three months. For newer folks, the process is a bit quicker. I know as someone used our address and their SSN Cards arrived within a week of their arrival.
  9. 1 point
    Good luck everyone. Remember there is a new rule, a valid passport held by the principal applicant is now needed to enter.
  10. 1 point
    It’s for immigrants. Among the people who are probably going to be most affected by this are diversity visa applicants, who generally don’t already have jobs and sponsors when they move, unless they already have a good few thousand dollars spare in savings. That said I have seen some threads about how citizens really game the Obamacare subsidies to get insurance for their parents that they are immigrating, and from my understanding that won’t be allowable as an avenue to prove insurance under this. From the horse’s mouth: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-protecting-healthcare-benefits-american-citizens/ The rah-rah blurb takes up most of it but the important bit is this part: Immigrant visa applicants will have to demonstrate that they will be covered by health insurance within thirty days of entering the country or have the financial resources to pay for medical costs. Applicants will be required to meet these requirements before being issued an immigrant visa. A number of exceptions will be made, such as for children of American citizens.
  11. 1 point
    Finally! So excited for you! It really is such an awesome experience and wonderful milestone on this insane journey we on this forum have chosen to take.
  12. 1 point
    Ah, yes, the Paramount. They had all of those doing the naturalization ceremony sit downstairs - and I was directed to a specific seat (this made sense later - as after the oath, they brought the naturalization certificates to the row you were in, and we each received ours there - so they knew who was sitting where) - i.e. you couldn't choose your seat. Guests were seated upstairs on the balcony, so you couldn't see them, nor they you, really, unless they were near the front etc, but you could join up afterwards. You will know about any other South Africans, as they start reading out the represented countries alphabetically, and you stand when your country is called, although you remain standing, so it is also hard to see who stands at the same time as you. Once all the countries are standing, you take the oath, and then all sit down again as Americans. They had quite an entertainment program with a band on stage playing 'This land is your land', the National Anthem etc. All in all, it was over in about 40 mins or so. Be prepared for the throng of vendors outside, selling special folders for your certificate, passport covers, even people to take your photo for your passport etc. Enjoy!
  13. 1 point
    Very exciting SJ272 - you are very close now. I did my ceremony in the Bay Area - and it was huge - over 800 people there, but a very nicely done ceremony. Yes, there were passport people there - and there was a part of the ceremony where they asked those who were applying for passports to make an oath en masse - so it was a simple question of handing in the form afterwards. I don't remember the voter registration, but they could well have been there - it was very crowded - 1000's of people with those natuarlizing and their guests etc. Also go to the Social Security office soon after to change your status to citizen - they do remind you to do that. It is a very nice feeling to have that certificate in hand, and even nicer to receive your USA passport! Enjoy.
  14. 1 point
    Fabulous! How exciting!
  15. 1 point
    Ok, so our tickets are all sorted. We're flying on 16 Oct! Can hardly wait, but the house is in a terrible state! 🙈
  16. 1 point
    We sent our cat separately via KLM, because they have an “animal hotel” at schipohl where cats go into larger cages while their traveling crates are cleaned and dogs actually taken for a walk on a special lawn area. All klm staff handing animals go for training and annual refresher training at one of the Dutch vet schools. Not sure if Emirates does anything similar? A direct flight from SA is still very, very long of course. There is no doubt it’s a traumatic experience for the pets no matter which way it gets done, but that seems to get forgotten quickly thankfully.
  17. 1 point
    FranetteM - did you decide to travel ahead of your furry family member, or are they coming in the hold on the same flight? If they are coming on Emirates too, that can be a long, long flight in a crate for a dog, with transit time in Dubai etc, vs a direct flight.
  18. 1 point
  19. 1 point
    Remember that ESTA is actually the program for visa free travel from certain countries like the UK, EU etc. (well, not entirely visa free - it is an electronic visa, instantly granted). The first time one lands on an ESTA, they do a special processing, and after that it is quick. So, the ESTA First Entry queue is actually for holders of those passports entering the USA for the first time on their ESTA. Most of the time, if you are in the wrong queue, they won't send you back, will just process you. There may be a line for new immigrants - but it wouldn't be labelled ESTA.
  20. 1 point
    Good to hear, [at]Kallas Hope the interview went well!
  21. 1 point
    I have seen dedicated “new immigrant” lines at jfk but I am not sure if they are in all terminals or only some. As a non green card holder, my shortest time through immigration was five minutes (yes!! BA from London had a flight landing at around 1pm that was the only one at that terminal for from an hour or so before) and the longest was over 2 hours, but that was just before Christmas and high season and landing with a bunch of other planes. I definitely recommend asking an official (they always have someone directing to lines) for help (and show your brown envelope) if there isn’t a new immigrant line -technically you are supposed to use the normal non-immigrant non US/LPR line but I have seen them direct new immigrants to the USC/LPR line if it’s short and the other is long. Any CBP official can process an immigrant visa. (I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an ESTA line at an airport? [at]adventurer1what airport was that?)
  22. 1 point
    [at]Kallas, SAA flies into Terminal 4 at JFK. usually arrives around 6:40am- but including taxi-ing to the gate you will only get off the plane after 7am. it usually takes about an hour to clear customs at JFK- give or take if you arrive with another flight (shortest we've had was 40min but once it took over an hour and a half). For first time entry with immigration that might actually be shorter, as you won't line up with the rest from passport control- you will most likely go through the ESTA etc line? (this was recently changed) and again it will depend on any other flights arriving at the same time. This again can differ- our son in law had to go to a second counter/ office as the first officer wasn't able to click on a button (jip) to activate his GC and he had to line up at another office, where he waited for more than an hour- just to have a supervisor click the icon. you will have to pick up all your luggage and clear through customs before you can take your connection flight. You can make use of the Sky Train on the 3rd floor to connect to all the other terminals. Its less than 15 min ride. There's a Delta connection flight desk right outside the entry into the arrivals hall (to your left). I am not 100% sure if this is for all airline use or only Delta? I've hear of people using it for other airlines too Just a note: On Saturday I arrived back from SA from a short trip- and ALL the passengers from the SA 203 flight was pulled over for luggage checks from customs. There was a whole lot of customs police and everyone's bags were searched and some where even x-rayed. Wrappings were cut off etc. If its a normal day with normal circumstances you should be ok with 3 hours, but its no guarantee Good luck, All exciting. Its also great if the company is willing to fly you in for an in-person interview- this is usually a great sign as US companies will have 2-4 telephone interviews before they invite a candidate for face to face / in person interview
  23. 1 point
    SAA and Hawaiian Airlines use Terminal 5 at JFK. You should be able to do it in three hours. I have not arrived internationally at JFK for the past few years always been through Dulles Airport at Washington DC which usually takes about an hour. You should be ok but just a little frazzled from the runaround.
  24. 1 point
    3 hours will be close, but is doable. The trouble with the JNB to JFK flight is that it usually lands first thing in the morning, so there aren’t always a full compliment of officers at passport control and with a bunch of other flights landing at the same time the lines can get pretty long. The actual immigration process itself is pretty quick once you get to the officer.
  25. 1 point
    3 hours is borderline for jfk, usually I’d say you’d probably be fine (especially if you don’t have to change terminals) but occasionally it backs up a lot, and immigrant processing can be unpredictable depending what else the guys are doing, sometimes very quick, sometimes quite long. Would you be flying direct to jfk from SA? As long as the flights are booked on one ticket the airline will move you to the next flight if you miss the first connection. I’m personally the ultra cautious type who’d take a four hour connection and risk an idle hour surfing the airport WiFi, but 3 is -usually - doable.
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