Becoming an Immigrant

I’ve lived my whole life in this country, and I never really gave too much thought to leaving it. But, lately, I’ve been considering some career moves for after I graduate that could conceivably take me out of the country. If I were to leave the United States, I’d most likely end up in either the United Kingdom or Canada. Since those are both places where I’d speak the language, I think I’d be reasonably comfortable--which makes me wonder if I might not end up staying there for awhile, and maybe even settling down there for good.

My question is this: how tough is it to live abroad for a long period of time (as an American)? And how tough is it to get citizenship in another country?

For many Americans, of course, the immigrant experience is a daily reality. After all, more than one in ten Americans is foreign-born--a figure that includes people who immigrated to the United States at all different ages and people with all sorts of different immigration statuses. But, to the rest of the population, the immigrant experience can be tough to imagine. You say you’ve lived in this country your entire life; living as an American in a foreign country, even one as culturally and geographically proximate to the United States as Canada, would be a very different experience!

But it can also be a very rewarding one, experts say. And if your career takes you to another country, and you feel that moving is what you want to do, then you will find that managing your legal status--while not necessarily easy--should be manageable.

A big part of the reason that this will likely be possible for you is that you would be following your career. You probably already know that in order to move from country to country you will need a passport. If you want to stick around for any length of time, you’ll also need a visa. Some countries allow you to visit as a tourist for short stretches of time without a visa, but for extended stays of all sorts, you’ll almost always need one. And visas come in various types: if you arrive in a country on a volunteer or student visa, for instance, you may be breaking the law if you try to get a job.

Since your situation would involve taking a job abroad, you’d almost certainly be living in your adopted homeland on a worker’s visa sponsored by your employer, says one expert immigration lawyer Toronto. That will make it easier for you to stick around--as long as, of course, you keep your job!

Becoming a permanent resident of another country is much tougher, and that’s to say nothing of becoming a citizen! The law here varies from country to country, and experts caution that you should only get legal advice from an attorney who understands your situation. But you should know that, generally, you’ll be able to work and pursue your career for a long time in a foreign land before you find it necessary or even beneficial to pursue permanent residency or citizenship. If you do end up deciding that you want to settle down in your new home, we recommend you speak to an immigration attorney at that point.

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

― Judith Thurman

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