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Patience Olanitori: So You Want to Move to the USA? Here Are 7 Factors to Consider

Patience Wumi

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This year some of my family members in Nigeria decided to relocate to the United States. It has been fascinating to watch other people experience the immigration process. There is a push to move back to Nigeria but many people still yearn to move to the U.S. I want to talk about some of the things to keep in mind when moving here to better prepare those ready to make the move. This list may not apply to all and in no way is it comprehensive so please add your own advice.

Culture Shock
When you arrive in the U.S. you will most likely experience a culture shock. The food, weather, transportation and many other things here are different from Nigeria. Give yourself time to adjust and do not be too hard on yourself. You may also experience situations that make you more aware of your skin color than you experienced in the past. A note to students, try to find the university’s African Student Association or a local church or mosque to meet Nigerians in your area. Call home when you miss home but also take time to know your new environment. You know what they say, when in Rome…

Poverty Exists
The USA may be the land of opportunities but extreme poverty exists in this country. There are a lot of people living on the streets, there are unemployed people, people who live in rough neighborhoods and insecurity exists. Your friends and relatives will start calling you as soon as you get here to send them goods and money; but let them be aware that you are entering the country jobless and money does not grow on trees. Now if you already landed a job before you get here that is really good for you.

Healthcare Is Not Free
Please take care of yourself. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of preventive care. Healthcare in the U.S. is very expensive and unless you have amazing health insurance you will have to pay all or a big part of the health cost. Do not start eating hamburgers and all that processed food. Eat healthy and stay active.

Have A Plan
You will meet people who have been in the U.S. for 10, 20 or even over 30 years and their lives seem to be stagnant. Have a plan for your life. If you do not have the proper documentation, have a plan to accomplish it as soon as possible. If you play around, you will find it harder to get your papers in the long run. Even if you have legal documents, make sure you have goals whether with school, moving up the corporate ladder or starting a business venture. Nigerians are doing great in this country and breaking all sorts of records so join that positive movement.

Obey The Law
When you make your plans please do not break the law. Please do not come here trying to take the shortcut way to success *side eye to the fraudsters*. Most people I know who have tried that has ended up paying for their actions in the long run. Be prepared to work hard. From road safety to work ethics, know the laws and obey them.

Do Not Give Up
Lastly, do not give up! Remember the reason you left your home country for a new land. Let your journey not be for waste. Things will be difficult at times but tough times do not last, tough people do.

Don’t Rack Up Babies
And one more thing… to my brothers, please do not make babies left and right. Child support is real in these streets.You have been warned.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Stephen Coburn

Patience Wumi Olanitori is a healthcare administrator and an aspiring novelist. She believes in living outside the box and thereby does not confine herself to one idea. She explores all her interests which include traveling, reading, writing, meditating, spreading positive energy and serving others.Find her on Instagram: @PatiencewumiBlog: http://jiriaworld.com

30 Comments

  1. RIFF RAFF

    December 2, 2015 at 9:49 am

    There’s no cookie cutter way to live your life, be flexible….just have the mind of an hustler wherever you go! AND PLEASE OBEY THE LAW!!!!

  2. Abk

    December 2, 2015 at 10:56 am

    This goes the same way for every other country, Canada, UK, you name it. You meet people who’ve been there for many years yet nothing to show for it, can’t pay their kids fees they have to use OSAP or student loans; some of them are never able to pay back. Some lose loved ones, or some have loved ones celebrating a milestone back home and are unable to attend; no money for ticket. Some don’t even travel anywhere, Truth is, always have a plan and a goal. If you’re “abroad” and things are going well for you, fine but still have accomplishments and goals; short and long term. If you’re in Nigeria/other African country don’t think the grass is always green. I have a relation who was doing very well in Abuja, got promoted and left it to go to the UK; biggest mistake of his life. Luckily for him, he was able to return to Nigeria after 7 and not think of “what people will say”; now he’s doing very well. A director in a top communications company. If he thought about what people will say, he’ll have remained stagnant in the UK. Never be scared to take the big step. I live in Canada and when I see people who’ve been here for many years with nothing to show for it, I always think to myself; is that really the “better life” they hoped for? It’s good to know when to try harder, and when to take the next best step.

    • Manny

      December 2, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Don’t be the judge of what a better life is for someone else.

    • Nma

      December 2, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Manny, do not judge a comment you’ve failed to understand. He/she made the comment probably because of the sad state of those individuals. Is being unable to pay fees, being unable to feed, wondering constantly about finances; just to mention a few “a better life”? Most people left Nigeria for this “better life”, yet things aren’t better. Being unnecessarily defensive, you may be in the said category. Cause I don’t get your comment.

    • Manny

      December 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      What you think is a “bad life” might be better and more manageable compared to where the person is coming from. You get it now?
      You wrote “Being unnecessarily defensive, you may be in the said category. ”
      ROTFL – typical one dimensional thinking e.g. a person has to have been a househelp to defend househelps or if you defend a celebrity, you have to be the celebrity or her friend/family. How does my comment translate to being defensive?

    • Jay baby

      December 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      I actually read your comment Manny and thought you were unnecessarily defensive. There was NO judgement in that comment. You’ll be alright.

    • Manny

      December 2, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      Saying don’t be the judge doesn’t translate to she was being judgmental , you do know? To judge means to be the decider. In fact, let me copy dictionary for you guys
      1. form an opinion or conclusion about.
      I was simply saying to her to let people decide for themselves what they consider to be a better life.
      As for being defensive, I guess defensive has many definitions.
      Thanks, I’m alright, I thank God 🙂 rme

    • Aliyu

      December 2, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      “what people will say” is why a lot ppl who are suffering here( hi fellow canuk!) and don’t want to go out. we need stop this self-imposed guilt. im going home next week for the holidays and I’m not buying anything for anyone outside of my imidiate family ( mom,dad, 2 siblings). just my 1 suit case. if they like insult me or beg me, nobody is getting kobo. im not working 30 hrs + overtime so i can help you build a castle. i have student loans to pay.

      I know ppl are going to come over to visit but they will be leaving empty handed. I want to break that cycle of “person from abroad is here so he must have brought something for me.” mentality. emi ko.

  3. tee

    December 2, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for the info @ writer

  4. Puzzles

    December 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    “And one more thing… to my brothers, please do not make babies left and right. Child support is real in these streets.You have been warned.”

    LOL. Tell them. America is not Nigeria where you impregnate a girl, deny the pregnancy, go scot free and come back 30 years later, begging the now successful child for forgiveness, claiming to have given your life to Christ so that they can forgive, forget and take care of your finances at your old age and sew you Father of the bride or groom attire.

    Failure to pay child support is a CRIME in America and you could go to JAIL for that.

    I wish this could be implemented in Nigeria. The number of baby Papas will decrease.

  5. Single Shalewa, Bitter Bintu!

    December 2, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Please can we have a similar write-up re Canada? I’m trying to convince hubby to allow us relocate to Canada. We don’t have kids yet, been married for almost 3yrs now. He’s not seeing any sense in it by the way. Sigh!

    • Bae

      December 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Similar to the states but maybe not as crazy. Healthcare is free on canada. Immigration laws are getting tighter except Trudeu makes a change. People are nicer in canada.

    • Olanma

      December 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      “People are nicer in Canada”. Not true. That isn’t even statistically correct. People can be nice or mean anywhere. Very subjective comment. In my opinion, there isn’t much of a difference between Canada and the U.S. Also, health care isn’t totally free in Canada or anywhere in fact, that’s the biggest misconception people make. I’m a Canadian Citizen, I’ll know. There are similarities between the U.S. and Canada; they’re also slightly different. There are better job opportunities in the U.S., doesn’t mean they’re no job opportunities in Canada. Getting citizenship in Canada was once really easy as they were underpopulated and needed more people, rules have changed now regarding immigration.
      I’ll say, if you want to move anywhere, make sure you have a logical reason to do so, so you don’t regret it as MF said. The grass isn’t always greener; always remember.

    • sholz

      December 2, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      canada also pays you child tax per child:$450 per child depending on province

    • Aliyu

      December 2, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Health care is not free. Its rendered accessible through tax payers like you and me. And only certain health care services are covered (please look it up).

    • MF

      December 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      I’ve been in Canada since 2007; I’m now a citizen. I didn’t come here for that, I came here for school. I was never able to go back home during Christmas as I either completed my exams on the 22nd of December or late, so traveling home for Christmas made no sense; 18+ hours journey. During summer, whenever I planned to go back home, that’s when my family will come visit me. I finished undergrad and masters in 2012; wanted to move back but got a contract job at PWC, which eventually turned to a full-time job. Now I’m a citizen. I’m moving home in December 2016 though. I must say this though, people who’ve been here for decades always ask me how I’m successful (thank God). These are people that have been here for ages. Many people sold their things back home to get here, things aren’t going well and they want to go back home, they can’t because of shame, also nothing to fall back on. Thing is, as an international student, My Parents paid my fees and were responsible for my upkeep, whereas you see people who’ve been here for ages, who get OSAP (student loan) and are responsible for themselves. While they were wondering about finances, I was busy planning my career. You’re forcing your hubby about Canada, why do you want to come? What’s the aim and purpose? You need to think critically about it so you eventually don’t regret it. Nowadays, you find more people moving back home, and less people thinking about moving abroad. If your reasons of wanting Canada aren’t tangible, I suggest you focus on building a good career in Nigeria and try to have financial success and stability. Living abroad doesn’t equate to success, fulfillment or happiness. If you want passports for kids, when you’re pregnant you can travel to the states and have your kids. Just be very reasonable about it. Many people think going abroad is luxury and end up regretting their decision.

    • Rolling my eyes

      December 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      @MF, na wa o. You can at least make your point without putting other people down abi what do you mean by this?
      ” My Parents paid my fees and were responsible for my upkeep, whereas you see people who’ve been here for ages, who get OSAP (student loan) and are responsible for themselves. While they were wondering about finances, I was busy planning my career.”

      If roles were reversed and you were in their shoes without any loaded parents to sponsor your education, what exactly would you be doing? Why the “humble brag”? It takes away from the point you are making sorry. The Nigeria you are coming back to sef, is everybody here rich? Fingers have never been equal, and they certainly will be unequal.

    • SugaMama

      December 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      How are you working at PwC and typing it PWC? Tut tut.

    • Phillip

      December 2, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Suga Mama, chill out; I work at PWC here in Nigeria and I don’t type it as PwC, so shoot me for it. Some of you are sad and start unnecessary drama. Rolling my eyes, how’s he/she putting other people down? It’s a fact. When you’re giving people advise on the situation of things, you state facts. It’s a known fact that most immigrants fund themselves, unlike international students who are lucky to have their Parents pay their fees, give them monthly allowance, and even still support them financially while working. Maybe you’re part of them so you’re taking it way too personal. There’s no harm in his/her comment, just stating facts that are helpful. While in school, I had friends who paid for themselves and they always told me how lucky I was. I’d rather someone gives a true analysis on something than paint a picture of something that’s not the way it is. If you read that comment and analysed it as bringing someone down, then there’s a serious problem. A very logical comment from MF, great advice and food for thought for Single Shalewa.

    • Mykelti

      December 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Rolling my eyes: you need to chill. Did she say everyone in Nigeria is rich? So what if she decides to move back? I’m Cameroonian and I’ve lived in Canada almost all my life, although married to a Nigerian, and I agree with the comment. I don’t understand how you can read that comment and translated it to bringing someone down or a humble brag. When people back home in Yaounde want to move overseas and think living abroad is milk and honey, and ask for my advise, I tell them to move if they want to and give them facts to consider. How she described her life is exactly how mine is, everything was sorted for me, all I had to worry about was getting a job after graduating. Even after graduating, I still got help from my folks until I was able to stand financially on my own. I’ll have been stupid to think it was the same for everyone, as it clearly wasn’t. I had friends that always thought about student loans and how they’ll pay back that it affected their grades at school and they were constantly depressed; it is not easy. Some still are yet to pay back many years after graduation. Truth is, as Africans, our Parents do almost everything for us, especially people back home. We are not taught early in life to be independent. Most African children aren’t even independent unlike folks here, you see kids already have moved out at 19; cause they’ve been working early in life and are so independent, so I really can understand the comment. I met a Nigerian that moved here cause someone told him while working in Nigeria at a top bank, that there is money is in Canada; he’s been struggling since he got here, since 2002. This is someone who was doing very well back home, just because of stupid advise. He’s always frustrated, can I blame him? The series of thoughts that go through his mind are alarming. Please, I appreciate people stating facts. You took her comment so personal, that I suspect you may be part of the people in that category. You need to quit mean overly sensitive, not everyone is trying to bring someone down. I hats people who reason like that, most of them have low-self esteem.

    • MF

      December 2, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Hi Rolling my eyes;
      You saw my comment as bringing someone down? Wow. Are you actually serious? I have friends turned family that I met here, some of them told me that the reason they’re here is because of inaccurate advise they got from other family members or friends already living here who never told them the reality of things. I know someone who wants to move back home and I even try to encourage the person to but he says he’s ashamed and I tell him to disregard what people will say, that’s why I gave that epistle. There’s nothing wrong in moving anywhere, just know why you’re moving. When I came here I was 16, and I was naive, very immature and I thought everyone’s Parents did everything for them, I was wrong. I had friends who were working at my age and younger. Moving away from home made me more open-minded and made me more reasonable; I got to know things aren’t always the same. I like people to tell me how things are and not sugar coat them. That I got a job doesn’t mean it’s easy, I was lucky to get it, it was a referral. I’ll be myopic to think getting a job right after graduation is easy, it is not. Without the referall I’ll probably have moved back right after graduating. Show me where I said everyone is rich in Nigeria in my comment? ? My friends Dad told me if he knows what he knows now, he won’t be here. If you saw my advise as a humble brag, that’s your own insecurities. I’m sorry.
      Suga Mama, cyber hugs to you.

    • NaijaPikin

      December 2, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      What is your plan for when you get to Canada?
      How do you plan to legally attain temporary or permanent residency
      What skill sets/educational background do you and hubby have? Is it currently in demand in Canada?
      Do you have enough savings to sustain you for up to 1 year?
      What part of Canada are you moving to? Do you have friends and family there? Trust me having a decent social life is key for staying sane.

  6. The real D

    December 2, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I tell people relocating to another country is not the answer to a better life, be it the US or Canada. I don’t know what plans people can have to get papers in the US cos omo e no dey easy at all unless you do arrangee runs!!! and without papers no legit work, i remember meeting someone at a grocery store who saw me wearing a cap from my former employer who was asking if my employer was hiring, he had moved from the UK after his masters but no work because no papers. The same goes for Canada so for the person wanting to relocate to Canada with hubby make sure you know what you need to have to get permanent residency in Canada AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THEM!!!. Don’t go relocating on a visitation visa and just expect lines to fall in pleasant places for you because your hubby will hate you then for pushing him to leave a cushy life in Nigeria. My brother is relocating from the US to Canada the beginning of next year but it involved a tons of savings and took about a year or more of paper work.
    Me, I want to relocate back to Nigeria, it is just finding the right job for 2 (hubby and I) and my parents thinking I shouldn’t but i miss the communal spirit in Nigeria amongst many other things.

    • The real dee

      December 3, 2015 at 12:58 am

      The real D, Stop stealing my name jor! *side eyes* Ok I’m just joking.

      Now to the crux of the article, money doesn’t grow on trees in USA or UK or Canada or anywhere. And the streets are not paved with gold, so quit listening to ‘abroadians’ who tell you, ‘just leave that useless Nigeria and come to America, life is good here, come and make dollars’. It’s not that life is terrible in the US but it’s not always the case especially if you don’t have papers.

      I recently relocated to the US, not because Nigeria is bad but my American Nigerian husband can’t stand Nigeria and would only move back if God transports him in his dreams*sad much*. Any way my own piece of advice having being here for some time is as follows:

      1. INFORMATION IS KEY: As much as possible get information about everything, thank God for Google. I am research inclined, so months before I moved here, I had obtained information about proper documentation and job prospects. I had looked at companies in my field I can work with and their requirements. And when I got here I was schooling my husband on how he’ll file for my stay. If you need info on that, apart from USCIS website, there are other websites where people share their visa stories. Read up. That’s where I found out if you want to get settled faster, apply for EAD while adjusting your status.

      2. YOU CAN’T BEAT THE SYSTEM: If you’re not properly documented, living a productive life will be almost impossible. Although there are people working without papers and many illegals who earn some dollars, the importance of living in the US or even UK with proper documentation cannot be overemphasised. I may be wrong but many people who complain about how a Nigerian cannot make it in the US probably have no proper documentation.

      3. DEPART FROM NEGATIVE NIGERIANS: The first advice I got was be careful who you seek advice from. Some have been here for donkey years and because things are not working out for them, they want to poison your mind. They tell you life is hard for Nigerians here and many American employers don’t accept Nigerian certificates. They tell you forget all your degrees even if you have Masters and ‘go and do nursing’, that’s the only place you’ll be accepted. Don’t listen to naysayers, do your own research and do TAKE RISKS. You’ll probably have to evaluate your credentials to get the American equivalence. So Google evaluation agencies approved by NACES and get that done.
      Also don’t blacklist all Nigerians, some have the right information to get you to the right place in the right way. Be discerning.

      4. LEARN THE AMERICAN CULTURE AND PROJECT IT: American culture i refer to here isn’t the ‘do as you like, cuss as you like, disrespect your parents’ kinda culture. It’s the culture in terms of mannerisms and language. I’m not an authority on this yet because I’m still learning but understanding American lifestyle will make you more welcoming and open minded. The accent may not really be a big deal but I find that communication is easier when you pronounce the way they do. Youtube accent reduction videos will help.

      5. BE SCAM ALERT: There are many ‘ogbologbo ole’ (smart thieves) in the US. They’ll corporately collect your hard earned dollars from you by introducing you to ‘Get money quick’ schemes that appear very legit. Some of them are seminars you have to pay for or multi level marketing jobs that resemble ponzi scheme. Be alert, don’t just jump at any money making scheme that is too good to be true especially if it involves you dropping some money in return.

      6. PRAY FOR DIRECTION: I have a knack for seeking God’s direction. Always endeavor to pray about your relocation decision. My husband will say, rather than complain about your situation in America, have you asked God if you are in the right location? Some people’s blessing & wealth is waiting in Nigeria unclaimed but they’re in America slaving away and seriously struggling.
      As one man of God will say, if you are in the right location, you’ll be rightly positioned to be blessed.

      Sorry for my long epistle. I felt someone might need it.

    • lilly

      December 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      You ve said it all…. thanks

  7. OJ

    December 3, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Very interesting topic and strange enough i’ve not seen those defensive comments stating emphatically that life abroad is full of milk and honey. A friend of mine resigned his senior position at big time auditing firm to go abroad, i wish him well oooo…..he would have to go back to school, start afresh, probably take out loan to study and all that…within me i ask myself, in the next five years when he comes to naija, the people he left behind would have climbed up the ladder in their careers…that is the reality and ive seen it first hand. i know people that left thier good jobs in the name of study and eventually had to force themselves to marry akata just to stay back and this doesnt guarantee a good job at the end of the day…if you have a good job in nigeria pls focus on your job and build your career, dont make the mistake of resigning and diving into a world of uncertainty in the name of ”i can make it anywhere”

  8. Fiyin

    December 3, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I am quite emotional about this topic because i am right in the middle of this. I am in one of the EU countries now and for me i didn’t come here by selling all my properties and moving. I am here through a temporary transfer by my company which is supposed to be permanent after some months. I was excited initially and the excitement was gingered by that expression you get from Nigerians “Congrats o and please don’t ever come back to this country”.. Fast forward to a few months later..my testimony has changed, now i find myself saying “trust me there is no where like naija”. Things might not just work well and all, but we are happy through it all.
    Abroad is fine if you just want to live a very ordinary & comfortable life. I just feel like there is more meaning to life in Nigeria and with this i do not mean good life but i mean life with loved ones, family and friends. I don’t know about US or Canada o, but this European country i dey ehn, is all shades of boring. If you greet your colleague more than once in the morning, to them you are going outside that work space and that isn’t funny..
    I can go on and on, but then one man’s meat is another man’s poison. So it depends on what you want out of life really. For me i don’t just want to live more than 5 decades i have left to live because there is a good network of road, trains are working fine and my kids attend a good school. I want to enjoy life and have naija kind of fun. God will provide and my kids will be able to school abroad by His Grace and Mercies.

    • OJ

      December 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      i can understand your situation, you’re probably in the northern part, rich economy but with highly mechanical and plastic people to deal with, and thier sense of humour could be difficult to understand, and its more terrible during the winter season, you will just hate going outside. Since its a company sponsorship, you just gotta close eye and live with it till you feel comfortable enough to relocate back to naija or anywhere else. On a side note, since you are resident and pay taxes as any regular worker, you would be qualified for an EU blue card after 2yrs, in case u wana relocate to another EU state….other social benefits are there anyway, but i can understand with time, its get pretty boring and monotonous…

  9. Belema

    December 3, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Hmmm, this brings back so many memories. While I was doing my undergrad in Mississauga, I met this lady in Toronto. She was in her early 30s at the time, with a daughter. She had already done her 1st degree in Nigeria and NYSC, but she moved to Toronto with her siblings and her Parents, at the time she had spent like 6 years. I can’t remember what her 1st degree was in, but when she came and was tired of doing rickety jobs, and wasn’t as financially stable as she was in Nigeria, a friend of her Father advised her to do Nursing. I’m unsure why many Nigerians in Canada and the U.S. assume that doing Nursing automatically guarantees you a good job. Study something that you have a passion for, and you can make something tangible and a career from. Anyway, she wasn’t even successful in that. But the girl had a complex and extreme insecurity issues. When she goes on Facebook and sees her friends back home doing well in their careers, married with kids, via pictures; that took her to a serious depressive mood. She was always buying fake things, take pictures of them, put on Facebook, coupled with a lot of other unnecessary things; to prove a point she didn’t have to. My point is Nigeria isn’t as bad as people make it to be. I’ve seen people make it and go from grass to grace without having connections. It’s hard to swallow, when things are going well for you, and change all of a sudden. The truth is, living abroad is no longer that big of a deal, decades ago it was, now it isn’t. Some people I met in Mississauga actually thought that they can study anything and easily get jobs when they get home because of “foreign degrees”, LOL. People who’ve never been abroad are so crazy about going, and often get disappointed when they get there. Gone are the days of going abroad for greener pastures. If things abroad are going well for you, fine. If not, pray for direction and consider alternatives. If you’re doing well in Nigeria, don’t end that and go abroad; 75% of the time people regret it. There’s a difference between going abroad, when its sponsored by your company; transfer (life in this instance is not tedious) as opposed to when you’re going on your own, you quit your job and go. People who are in this category never want to hear this or read things like that. I know people who get pissed when they see people doing well back home, and say atrocious things; just cause they’re not moving forward. Happiness is very important in life. Be realistic making decisions,
    I totally agree with MF.

  10. Van

    December 5, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    New orientation acquired.

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