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The title says it all. We got our green cards! We are now permanent residents of the US.
As some of you may know, Mr. FAF and I came to the US on a student visa.
After graduating from school, we found a full-time job and have been on work and student visas for years.
Being on such visas means that our work and travel opportunities were pretty restricted.
(If you are curious what such restrictions are, you can Google H1B and F1 visas to see more details.)
Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor
How We Got Our Green Cards
There are lots of different ways you can get a green card.
Mr. FAF petitioned for himself through the National Interest Waiver program, and I got a green card as his dependent.
Chinese applicants have a huge backlog where they have to wait for years in order to get a green card.
But since my country of birth is Vietnam, and Vietnamese applicants have no backlog, Mr. FAF and I got our green cards a couple of months (instead of years!) after our applications were approved by USCIS.
What That Means for US
1. We no longer need an employer to sponsor our work visas.
Previously, Mr. FAF and I were pretty worried about getting laid off since it would jeopardize our legal status. If both of us lost our jobs and couldn’t find any other jobs in our areas of expertise (related to our degrees) within 30 days, we would have to leave the US or switch to another visa (i.e. student or tourist visas).
Now even if we get laid off, we can pick up some quick gigs such as driving Uber (for Mr. FAF) or working at Macy’s (for me) while looking for another job. That is a huge burden lifted off our shoulders.
2. I can now apply for developer jobs.
Since February of this year, I have been teaching myself programming in order to switch careers to software engineering. This is a competitive and highly coveted field.
Over the past few months, I have taken multiple online courses on Coursera, YouTube, and Udemy, and have built a portfolio site. I have also spent countless hours doing LeetCode problems to prepare for the technical interviews. LeetCode is hard, but it’s so addictive. I was originally scared away by data structures and algorithms. But now I’m obsessed.
Besides LeetCoding, I have also built up my portfolio website to practice the technologies I’ve learned and to pass the HR review process. Without the green card, it would be impossible for me to apply for developer jobs since it’s not related my degrees (Economics & Public Policy).
It doesn’t mean that I will get a developer job any time soon. But at least, I’m not held back by the work visa which ties me to my current employer.
I have also used this very blog as part of my portfolio to show how I’ve been involved with technology. I never thought the my personal finance blog would be part of this career transition. But I guess if you follow your passion, things will just fall into place.
An unexpected mentor
I want to give a shout-out to my fellow blogger Olivia at Birds of a Fire, who switched careers and became a software engineer.
I reached out to Olivia for advice on how to break into tech. Over the past few months, Olivia has been nothing but supportive of my career change.
She has given me valuable career advice, talked to me about my plan until late at night (past midnight!), and given me countless suggestions on how to make this career change possible.
I have never met Olivia in person, but through the personal finance community, I have made a new friend and met a great mentor in my transition to tech!
3. I can now monetize my blog.
Together with work flexibility, I can now monetize my blog, something I’ve been wanting to do for years.
I launched my blog using BlueHost on March 21, 2017. It was a quick and easy setup process ideal for beginner bloggers. You can start your own blog and potential blogging business with BlueHost for just $3.95/mo by clicking here.
As my site grew, I switched from BlueHost to SiteGround and have found the service phenomenal. SiteGround offers a free website transfer service done by their experts. You can get started with SiteGround for $3.95/mo by clicking here.
I got approved for Ezoic (thanks to my blog sis Lily‘s recommendation) and got back to some business requests. You will likely see ads popping up on my blog, but I will try to keep the ads to a level where they don’t interfere with the content. I have also added a Recommendations page to my site.
I’ve considered a couple of sponsor post requests. But I want to make sure that the content I present on my site will always be relevant and deliver value to you guys.
However, I will start monetizing slowly and mostly through passive channels such as ads. Currently, I want to dedicate most of my free time to coding in order to get a programmer job as soon as I can. That is my number one priority besides family and my current job.
4. We can travel freely.
Being on work/student visa means that every time we left the US, we had to apply for a visa to reenter the country. It means a mountain of paperwork and long waits and delays at the US embassy.
Every time I went home in the past, my whole family and I were really stressed out about whether I could get a visa to come back to the US, which took away more than half the fund of visiting family in Vietnam.
Now Mr. FAF and I can plan international trips without worrying about visas. Mr. FAF’s company has conferences overseas in countries such as Ireland, Singapore, and Japan which we can go to and have part of the expenses covered. We are just waiting for the right conference to go to when the weather is warmer. Traveling is no fun when the kids are sick!
If we decide to travel on non-business trips, we will take advantage of our travel points we’ve learned through our Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
5. We will travel to Asia soon!
We are also planning a trip to Vietnam. After the last debacle of trying to save money on transportation, I decided to take you guys’ advice and tried credit card hacking.
I applied for the Chase Sapphire credit card and got 60,000 points for travel (an equivalent of $750 in travel rewards) after spending $4,000 in the first three months. I also applied for the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card to get $200 after spending $500 in the first three months. I will not apply for any other credit cards at this point to see how this experiment pans out.
I was previously reluctant to apply for more credit cards because of Dave Ramsey’s advice (no credit card!). But given my financial accountability and tendency to pay off my credit card balance early, I think I can use credit cards to my advantage.
With the green cards, we now have more job opportunities and travel flexibility. It also means that we can now officially call America our second home. Coming from a low-income background in a developing country, I understand how fortunate I am to get the card many others are wishing for.
Thanks to this land of opportunity, I have gotten a great education and a good job, started this blog, built a family, and now am pursuing my dream of becoming a programmer. I also want to thank you all for following us all those years and for always giving such supportive feedback and suggestions when I needed them the most. 🙂