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Laura Marenco

Top 7 Sights to See in the U.S. Post-Lockdown

With the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently 90% effective, it appears there may be a light at the end of the tunnel in the final months of 2020. And as lockdowns and isolation periods around the world are beginning to end, it seems like travel may indeed be a possibility in 2021. So, with our fingers crossed, we here at Golden Beacon USA recommend the following seven must-see sights to visit in America post-Covid19.

The Empire State Building – New York City

There is so much to do in the Big Apple, or the nickname for America’s largest city. The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park – you can spend days visiting all of NYC’s attractions! But the one place where you can see all of this magnificent city is at the top of the Empire State Building, formerly the tallest building in the world. Take the elevator to the top deck of this 102-story building to take in a sensational view of New York City. Afterwards, be sure to check out the building’s rich history and art deco design that has also made it a famous landmark.

The Grand Canyon – Arizona

Speaking of unforgettable views, very few will beat the deep ravines of the Grand Canyon. Carved by the unforgiving Colorado River, this steep-sided canyon in rural Arizona is a must-see. It will give you and your family a chance to witness the pure, earth-moving power of Mother Nature. It’s a fantastic trip no matter the time of day or year, but if you want the unparalleled beauty America has to offer, visit this natural attraction at sunrise or sunset. You’ll thank us later.

Yellowstone – Wyoming

Keeping with our theme of natural sights, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Yellowstone National Park. Hike a trail, watch for wildlife, hop on a bike or a horse; there’s so much to do in this vast corner of Wyoming. On the site of a supervolcano, Yellowstone is also home to some incredible geological features. Explore the thermal basins to witness hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and geysers up close.

Fenway Park – Boston

Few things are more American than going to the ballpark and watching a game of baseball. If you’re a sports fan and you want your fix of US pastimes, a visit to any baseball field is a must. But if you want to visit an iconic American baseball field, we recommend Fenway Park, home of the Boston Redsox. Few stadiums have more prestige and history spread throughout its corridors than Fenway. Book a stadium tour to learn about the heroics of Babe Ruth or purchase a ticket to a Major League Baseball game and experience an atmosphere like no other.

The White House – Washington DC

There’s something almost otherworldly about Washington DC. This purpose-built city hosts the most powerful person in the world, along with the US Congress and the Supreme Court. But if you’ve only got time to snap up a shot of one building in the capital, make it the White House. Generations of prestige and history are all squeezed into one place that symbolizes both American freedom and democracy. Want to take a look inside? You can even take a tour of this historic building! If you are a foreign national, contact your embassy in Washington, D.C. to submit a tour request.

French Quarter – New Orleans

A place most Americans hope to visit in their lifetimes, the French Quarter is the heart and soul of New Orleans. It’s a must-visit for its architecture, unique energy, street performers, jazz clubs, restaurants, and nightlife. If you want to experience a lively culture celebrating the very best of our nation’s diversity, then the French Quarter is the place for you.

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco

It was extraordinary when it was built, and it still holds that accolade today. The Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous landmark in San Francisco for a reason. The Frommer’s travel guide describes the Golden Gate Bridge as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.” Sure, you can cross it by car, but how about booking a ferry trip to travel right under the famous landmark and take in its beauty?

Are you looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America? Golden Beacon USA’s Resource Referrals and e-learning videos on American culture and resources are here to help make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

Why is America Called the Melting Pot?

Have you ever heard of the phrase “the melting pot” to describe the effects of the American immigration system?

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the United States of America became known worldwide as the great melting pot. Immigrants came to this country with the idea in their hearts and minds that they could become Americans no matter their origins.

Symbols like the Statue of Liberty represent this idea, but nothing quite sums up what it means to be an American like the concept of a “melting pot” of cultures, mixing, merging, and becoming stronger than each individual one. It’s a celebrated part of the American national identity and a reason why the United States is one of the most attractive countries for immigrants and refugees around the world.

But what IS the melting pot? And how did the phrase fall into common usage?

What is the Melting Pot?

The melting pot is at the heart of the American immigration system. The melting pot comes from the idea that all of the cultural differences in the United States meld together, as if they were metals being melted down to become a stronger alloy.

Rather than embracing multiculturalism, as is the policy in Canada and some other countries, the United States encourages different cultures to assimilate into its own. In fact, this philosophy demonstrates how American culture got its start.

As immigrants came from all over the world to the United States, they brought pieces of their own culture with them. Their music, food, fashion, religion, and much more slowly became part of America’s culture.

For example, pizza came from Italy, but it’s hard to think of anything more American than a slice of New York pizza. Rock & Roll, Blues, and Jazz all came from the African American musical tradition, but they are thought of as American today.

Where Did the Phrase Come From?

The phrase “melting pot” has been used since the 1780s, but entered into common usage because of a celebrated Broadway play.

“The Melting Pot,” written by Israel Zangwill in 1904, was about a Russian Jewish refugee immigrating to the U.S. to escape ethnic cleansing in his homeland. Here he finds love, acceptance, and belonging, as the differences between ethnicity “melted away” due to cultural exchange becoming the norm.

The play was a massive hit, and even received the praise of then-President Theodore Roosevelt. The idea of the “melting pot” was embraced and soon became a central part of the United States of America’s cultural identity.

What Does the Melting Pot Mean Today?

Today, immigration to the United States is considerably more complicated than it was over a hundred years ago, but the philosophy is still the same.

This country welcomes people from all over the world and encourages them to integrate themselves into American society. The only problem is that American society is more complicated than ever!

When an immigrant moves here, they will need to learn about all of America’s societal, economic, and cultural norms. For example, if their understanding of English is limited, they’re encouraged to take an English as a Second Language class (ESL) to better communicate with other Americans. That’s the reason why Golden Beacon USA exists. We want to help immigrants and refugees learn about the United States so they can succeed here.

We know how scary it can be to move to a new country, which is why we offer resources like career coaching, workshops, resource referrals, and much more. We will be with you every step of the way on your journey to becoming an American!

If you’re looking for more information about how Golden Beacon USA can help, we invite you to contact us. With our extensive educational videos and other services, we can help make the transition to your new home an easy one! Just send an email to laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. We can’t wait to help you begin your journey!

 

How Do I Vote for the First Time in the United States?

DISCLAIMER: Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities. 

In the United States, the government gets its power to govern from the people. American citizens influence the government and its policies, so it’s vital that U.S. residents learn about critical public issues and get involved in their communities. U.S. citizens vote in free elections to choose essential government officials, such as the president, vice president, senators, and representatives. Our government and laws are organized so that citizens from different backgrounds and different beliefs all have the same rights. No one can be punished or harmed for having an opinion or belief that is different from that of other people. And no one can be denied the right to vote based on their sex, race, ethnicity, or religious background.

Why is It Important to Vote?

Your vote can decide who becomes the next leader of the United States. It may seem like small numbers of votes won’t make a difference when elections can be won by a candidate with votes in the millions. Still, we only have to look at the most recent elections to realize just how different things would be if more people had voted for an alternative candidate.

In 2000, Democratic Presidential nominee Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to the Republican Presidential nominee George W. Bush. The winner of this election was determined by a recount in Florida, where Bush had won the popular vote by such a small margin that it triggered an automatic recount and a Supreme Court case (Bush v. Gore). It was decided that Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes. Had 600 more voters gone to the polls in Florida that November, there may have been an entirely different president.

Voting is a fundamental process in a democratic system. It is a chance for a country’s citizens to have a say in the people who represent them or an issue that impacts them. Informed voting and participation in elections is one of the responsibilities of citizens of the United States.

How Do I Register to Vote?

In the United States, the voting process is relatively simple. First, an eligible citizen who is 18 years or older registers to vote in their state, studies the candidates and issues, locates their local polling station, and then casts their ballot on Election Day, which is always the first Tuesday after November 1st.

To register to vote, visit vote.gov. Depending on your state’s voter registration rules, the site can help you:

  • Register online. This is available for 40 states plus the District of Columbia.
  • Download the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can fill it out online and print the completed form, or print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Remember to sign the form before mailing it to the location listed for your state. The website provides this form in 15 languages.
  • Find guidance for states and territories with different registration procedures.
  • Start your Voter Registration.

 

 

What Do I Do at a Polling Station?

Remember, you can’t vote online and you can only vote once. To vote, you’ll either have to request a postal ballot (also known as an ‘absentee ballot’) or vote in person at a polling station. To find your polling place and its hours, contact your state or territorial election office. You can also check the Can I Vote website. Your polling place is based on your address. Only go to the one you’ve been assigned. Your name will not be on the roster at any other location.

Two-thirds of states expect you to provide identification in order to vote at the polls. Your state’s laws determine whether you will need to show an I.D., and if so, what kind.

Once in the polling stations, follow instructions on which voting booth to use and read the ballot carefully so you don’t vote for the wrong candidate! You can bring in notes to help you vote, but some polling stations will require your cell phone to be turned off.

When is the Next Election?

Federal elections take place every 4 years and the next federal election will take place on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. In this election, Americans decide on the president and vice-president, one third of the Senate, and all of the House of Representatives. State and local elections will also be on the ballot in many areas.

Who Should I Vote For?

That’s entirely up to you! Make sure you research the candidates and decide which ones best reflect your opinion on the issues you care about. Beware of voter intimidation, or when someone tries to influence your vote or prevent you from voting by creating a hostile environment verbally or physically. This is illegal and you should report it if you see it or it happens to you.

Voter intimidation encompasses a wide range of behaviors, such as questioning you about your criminal background or U.S. citizenship. Someone who spreads lies about voter requirements in order to deter people from voting is also considered voter intimidation. For example, you are not required to read, write, and speak English in order to vote in an American election and you have the right to a ballot in your native language.

If you have recently become a U.S. citizen, take advantage of your right to vote and influence the future of America. Let your voice be heard on November 3rd!

Are you looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America? Golden Beacon USA’s Resource Referrals and e-learning videos on American culture and resources are here to help make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

How to Prepare and Study for Your U.S. Citizenship Test

DISCLAIMER: Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities. 

Is 2020 the year you plan to become a U.S. citizen? How exciting! Taking the U.S. Citizenship Test is a momentous occasion for immigrants and one that requires plenty of preparation.

As part of the naturalization process, an applicant for U.S. citizenship must pass a two-part test. The first part is an English test that assesses an applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak in the English language. The second is a civics test, evaluating an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government.

Each applicant has two chances to take the exam, which usually takes place on the same day as the citizenship interview. It can be incredibly daunting but your friends at Golden Beacon USA are here to help you succeed! Keep reading for our useful guide on preparing for your U.S. Citizenship Test.

What to Expect on the English Exam

The English exam consists of three parts. The first test evaluates your English speaking skills. Here, an immigration officer will ask you simple questions about your application and evaluate your ability to speak and understand English.

Next up is an English reading test. An immigration officer will give you a digital tablet that will show three sentences, and you will be asked to read these out loud. You’re not expected to know every word, although it’s important that you don’t replace words with ones you do know. The immigration officer is looking to see if you understand the full meaning of the sentence.

Finally, you will complete a writing test where an immigration officer will read a sentence and ask you to write down what he says. A few misspellings or capitalization errors are allowed. Also, you can write out numbers, like seven, in word form or use symbols, i.e., 7. However, remember not to use any abbreviations as these will not count.

What to Expect on the Civics Test

With the Civics Test, you must demonstrate sufficient knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government by answering at least six out of 10 questions correctly. You will be asked questions randomly from a list of 100. You can see the complete list of questions asked on the civics test here (you may be able to find them in your own language too). You must study all 100 questions on the list — unless you’re aged 65 or older, in which case you’ll need to learn only the 20 questions marked with an asterisk (*).

How to Prepare

Studying well for these tests is critical if you want to become an American citizen. Our first piece of advice: start studying right away! The sooner you begin to familiarize yourself with the likely questions and necessary answers to these tests, the more confident you will feel when you take it. Starting early will give you a better chance of fixing any weaknesses you may have.

Another recommendation: read children’s books. Since most of the words and sentences you’ll come across on the English exam test your basic English skills, reading children’s books is an easy and fun way to prepare. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out English grammar videos on YouTube to help you understand the language better.

Finally, create some flashcards that’ll help you with the civics test. Write down any information you’re struggling to remember and study these cards whenever you have spare time – while eating breakfast, waiting for the bus, or at bedtime, for example. Write only one topic on each flashcard. When it comes to memorizing, it’s best to learn new information in smaller pieces.

Summary

Taking the U.S. Citizenship Test is a milestone in any immigrant’s journey towards making America his or her home. If you prepare well and in advance with the tips from our guide, passing this test will be easy for you. Looking for help preparing for the citizenship test? Check out Golden Beacon USA’s Resource Referrals to be matched with a tutor. Familiarize yourself with American culture by signing up for our e-learning videos subscription too! Have questions? Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

How to Make Friends in the United States

Moving to a new country is one of the scariest experiences a person can go through. On top of packing, traveling, and setting up your new life in the United States, it’s easy to forget the next and arguably most important step: Making new friends!

Here at Golden Beacon USA, we’re passionate about helping you transition smoothly into your new life in America.

To help make your journey more manageable, we’ve put together this helpful guide on how to make friends in your new home.

 

Where Do I Start?

Get out there and be social! Take a class at the community center, join groups at your place of worship, and introduce yourself to your neighbors. If you see somebody who looks friendly at work, at the grocery store, or in any relaxed environment, don’t be afraid to smile and say hello. Don’t be discouraged if you have one bad experience; you just need to find the right person. Despite today’s political climate, many Americans are open to friendships with newcomers. You can also make a profile on our social forums to meet others like yourself!

One thing to watch out for, however, is how you’re approaching members of the opposite sex. You don’t want the other person to misunderstand your intentions.

How Do I Greet Strangers In The US?

“It’s nice to meet you” is the most common and neutral greeting in the United States. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, men would generally shake hands upon meeting, although women would rarely do so. Now, just a simple “nice to meet you” is sufficient, and remember to keep six feet apart.

Americans will also greet each other with a wave or simple “Hi” or “Hello.” They may also ask, “How are you?” but this is rarely a request for substantial information. Instead, responses like “Good,” “Great,” and “Fine” are generally what’s expected.

How Do I Make Conversation With An American?

With most Americans, you won’t have trouble making conversation. They’ll be interested to know about your experiences, your family, and what your home country was like. With others, however, conversation may be a bit more difficult.

Some people may feel shy and awkward while talking to you. Don’t be alarmed though; this may be the first time they’re talking to someone from another country. After they see how relaxed and easy-going you are, they’ll begin to open up.

If you are having difficulty keeping a conversation going, try asking questions about America. Ask the person you’re talking to about US customs and traditions you’re not sure about. Americans value honesty, and most feel comfortable helping strangers.

What Should I Not Talk To An American About?

Americans are a little awkward around money. You shouldn’t ask somebody how much they earn or ask strangers how much an item they own costs. You also shouldn’t ask adults – especially women – their age.

Finally, although some Americans are incredibly proud of their religion or which political party they belong to, it’s probably best to avoid these topics with people you don’t know yet.

What Do I Do If An American Says Something I Don’t Understand?

Simply ask the person to repeat what they’ve just said but slowly. If you still can’t understand, ask the person to spell it, write it down, or even act it out with gestures.

Summary

Americans value honesty and will often say exactly what they think, without a filter. It can be quite a culture shock at first! At the same time, don’t be afraid that being honest with a friend will insult them. Saying you can’t go to an event because you’re working is far better in an American’s eyes than saying you will come and not showing up.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Americans have lots of people who they’d call acquaintances. These are people they know by name but aren’t incredibly close with. Americans tend to have a few really close friends, so don’t be discouraged if it becomes clear somebody doesn’t want to have a deeper friendship with you. In our experience, you’ll find at least two or three Americans who will want you as a close friend. And that’s really all you need to start making the US feel like home!

 

Are you looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America? Need help finding a job or thinking about going back to school? Golden Beacon USA has the services you need! Check out our e-learning videos on American culture and resources, Resource Referrals to find local services, and our career coaching packages. We are here to help make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

 

WATCH: Our Educational Videos Will Help You Learn the American Way of Life

Life this year has been a mix of emotions: fear, sadness, hopelessness. Add to that the stress of being a newcomer to a foreign country, and your anxiety can hit an all-time high.

We here at Golden Beacon USA want to decrease your stress by making your transition to American life more manageable. That is why we are happy to announce that our educational videos subscription service is now available!

Choose a monthly or yearly plan to gain access to an ever-expanding content library that covers all things America! Learn about American culture and systems, finances, transportation and educational options, immigrant resources, job search and employment, and more, plus interviews with experts in their fields!

Check them out for yourself! We’re sure they’ll help you feel at home in the United States.

And in the meantime, here’s a taste of some of the topics we cover!

 

What are the housing options in America?

We’re glad you asked! Check out our ‘Housing in the U.S.’ video where we interview a seasoned real estate agent on the types of housing available – from townhouses to apartments to standalone homes – and payment options, such as buying or renting a place. Learn about a mortgage, or a loan you can receive from the bank, so you can buy that house with the white picket fence, considered by many to be the American Dream.

 

I’ve heard it’s expensive to live in America. How will I be able to afford it?

Don’t fret! The cost of living really depends on the area in the U.S. in which you settle. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles have high costs of living; living in a Southern state will be much cheaper in terms of housing prices, grocery prices, etc. But really, regardless of where you settle, it’s all about managing your money well. That’s why we recruited a banking and finance expert to give you some tips on how to be financially sound in your new country! Learn the basics of budgeting, or planning how to use your income, plus banking practices in the U.S., how credit is used, how to avoid debt, and how to protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.

And don’t forget to contact us about our Career Coaching services. We can help you discover your career interests, find and apply to jobs that align with your interests and education, and start or go back to school!

 

What are some everyday laws and rules I need to follow in America? I don’t want to get into trouble.

We don’t want you to get into trouble either! That’s why our videos focus on everything from car seat laws for children and acceptable forms of discipline to the process of gaining admittance to American universities and colleges to paying your bills and taxes (taxes are due every April). We even explain some of the minimum qualifications you must have in order to be eligible for federal and state programs that could assist you and your family. Learn more by signing up for a video subscription today!

 

Summary

If you’re looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America, Golden Beacon USA’s e-learning videos on American culture and everyday life are here to make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

 

5 Tips to Help You Adapt to American Culture

Moving to a new country is incredibly stressful! After you’ve finished packing, traveling, and setting up your new life, it’s easy to forget the next step: adapting to the incredibly unique American culture!

Here at Golden Beacon USA, we’re passionate about helping you transition smoothly into your new life in America.

To help make your journey more manageable, we’ve put together this helpful list of five ways to lessen your homesickness and adapt to the American way of life.

Watch American TV

Familiarize yourself with American media. What do your neighbors, friends, or colleagues watch? What books do they read? What movies would they recommend at the cinema? Conversations about what was on TV last night are a great icebreaker. American media has a strong entertainment focus on Hollywood and the personal lives of its biggest TV and movie stars. Being up to date with the latest must-watch show or the latest news about who’s dating who is a perfect way to get to know those around you.

Try local food

OK, when we say American food, you probably think of a giant burger with a side of large fries. But American cuisine is so much more than the stereotypes will have you believe. No two states are the same. If you’re in New England, look for lobster and clam chowder. In the south? Why not try soul food? You might just find your new favorite dish.

Explore your local area

America is massive. It’s the third-largest country in the world by area, and no single square kilometer is the same. Whether you’re surrounded by lush fields in the Midwest or skyscrapers in New York, take a step outside and explore the area around you. Get to know the locals by asking them what they enjoy. Tell them about your interests and hobbies and maybe you’ll find someone who shares those same interests! Also, Americans love their sports – football, hockey, baseball. Is there a nearby baseball team you could support? Go along with the locals to a game, and you’ll begin to see yourself fitting in.

Become an expert in small talk

Most Americans are very, very friendly. Those that have been brought up in a culture where people are far more reserved can often be caught off guard when a stranger asks them how their day is at the grocery store, or if they’re complimented on their outfit at the bus stop. But once you’ve gotten used to this, it can become an excellent gateway to making new friends. So learn how to make polite, quick conversation if you want to settle in. The weather, celebrity gossip, current events – these are all great starting points.

Share your experiences

Your past is what made you the wonderful, unique person you are today. Remember, only 42% of Americans have a passport, so chances are they’ve never been to your country of birth. Tell them about your own culture and chances are they’ll be fascinated and will want to learn more about you.

Yes, you may have heard of the ‘Ugly American’ stereotype that foreigners assign to us due to our tendency to compare other cultures and customs to our own. You will meet some people here who make crazy assumptions and ask things like whether your country has access to the internet or any hospitals and schools. But most of the time, these people are merely curious and don’t realize what they’re saying is incredibly rude. Teach them about your culture and answer any questions they may have. Educating just one person can do a world of good.

 

Are you looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America? Golden Beacon USA’s Resource Referrals and e-learning videos on American culture and resources are here to help make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Immigrating to the United States

DISCLAIMER: The following content is for educational and informational purposes only. Laura Marenco is not a lawyer and the following is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Each immigration case is unique. Always seek the advice of a licensed attorney with any questions you may have regarding immigration, visas, green cards, or any other immigration-related topics. Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities. In addition, every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of this content. However, the content below and in the links is subject to change at any time without notice. Laura Marenco and Golden Beacon USA assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content provided below. The information contained in this blog is provided on an “as is” basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness and without warranties of any kind, either expressed or implied. Reliance on any of the information found in the content below is solely at your own risk.

Put simply, moving to a new country can be stressful! On top of the endless logistics of packing, transportation, and setting up your new life, immigrating to the United States comes with a lot of confusing laws, paperwork, and phrases.

Here at Golden Beacon USA, we’re passionate about helping you transition smoothly into your new life in America.

To help make your journey more manageable, we’ve put together this list of the top 10 most frequently asked questions about immigrating to the United States!


1. What visas are available to someone looking to immigrate to the United States?

There are many different kinds of visas available to people looking to immigrate to the United States. Whether you’re relocating for family, employment, or qualify for special visas like the Diversity Immigrant Visa, there are various visa statuses for you to consider. If you’re unsure of which visa you should be applying for, click here to learn more!

2. Does having a visa guarantee me entry into the United States?

While an immigrant visa allows you to travel to a United States port-of-entry (usually an airport or a land border) where you can request access to enter the country, having a visa does not guarantee entry. At the border, you’ll go through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where officials will either permit or deny entry into the United States and tell you how long you’re able to stay.

3. What’s the difference between an immigrant visa and a green card?

A visa is required to enter the United States legally. Following entry into the country, the government will either grant you Permanent or Conditional Resident status depending on your situation and a green card will be then mailed to your address. Processing times to receive a green card vary.

4. What is a green card?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, issues “green cards” which prove that you are a legal and permanent resident of the United States. Green cards provide you with the ability to live and work anywhere in America, apply for a Social Security Number and get a state-issued driver’s license.

5. How do you get a green card and how long does it take?

If you’re looking to immigrate to the United States, there are a variety of ways to obtain a green card, and each method will take a different amount of time, depending on your situation. Check your eligibility for a green card here. This process can last a little less than a year to 3 years or more.

6. How much does a green card cost?

Each green card application is unique, and the cost will vary depending on your situation and the forms associated with it. The USCIS Immigrant Fee goes towards the processing of your immigration visa packet and your green card. The fee is $220 and can be paid after you receive your visa but before you leave for the U.S. or once you are in the U.S. However, you will not receive your green card if you do not pay the fee. Certain fee waivers are available for those who qualify. Green cards based on marriage will cost between $1200 to $1800, and you’ll also be responsible for paying for the medical exams required in the process. You can view all of the USCIS fees here .

7. What is the difference between a “lawful permanent resident” and a “conditional permanent resident?”

Otherwise known as a “green card holder,” a lawful permanent resident is an immigrant who is legally able to live and work in the United States and eventually apply for permanent citizenship. On the other hand, a conditional permanent resident holds a green card that is only valid for two years. Conditions include being married for less than two years or working as an entrepreneur.

8. Once I have a green card, does it need to be renewed?

Almost all green cards need to be renewed every ten years. However, “conditional” green cards — those based on marriage and entrepreneurship — are only valid for 2 years and cannot be renewed. Instead, you must file a petition to remove the conditions on your permanent resident status.

9. Where can I find healthcare in America?

You may have access to health insurance and healthcare through your spouse or employer. You can also buy health insurance through the federal government’s health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov. However, there are also plenty of low-cost and free options when it comes to healthcare! Read our blog or click here to find the closest free healthcare option to you!

10. What resources are there for immigrants in America? 

Moving to a new country can be intimidating and expensive! Click here for a comprehensive guide to your eligibility as an immigrant for public programs in the United States. Our Resource Referrals and e-learning videos on American culture and resources can also help make your transition as easy as possible! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

 

 

5 Helpful Resources for Immigrants During COVID-19

DISCLAIMER: Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities.

2020 certainly hasn’t gone as anyone planned and it’s likely that COVID-19 has added more stress for you and your family, especially if you’ve recently immigrated to the U.S.

From struggling to make friends in a time of social distancing and quarantine to losing income and facing food insecurities — COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all communities, including the immigrant and refugee population.

To help you and your family get through this challenging time, check out our list below of invaluable resources.

1. Free mental health and COVID-19 related courses

Besides the physical effects of the virus, COVID-19 has had an impact on people’s mental health. DaFero, a social enterprise supporting vulnerable women through life skills and workplace training, has released educational modules on COVID-19 and mental health through their Kura Foundation. These lessons are free of charge and have been translated into various languages! To access these modules, click here and here.

2. Struggling to pay rent? Check out your tenant protection and rights.

With high unemployment rates, it’s possible you’ve found yourself without a job and a steady income, unsure how you’ll pay rent next month. You’re not alone and thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself! Click here to learn more about your tenant rights and rent protection during this time!

3. Learn about free clinics!

If you’re without insurance or can’t currently cover the cost of healthcare, you have options! There are numerous free clinics where you and your family can receive healthcare at no cost to you. Click here for a guide on where to find free or low-cost healthcare clinics or visit our blog on this topic  to find even more options!

4. Comprehensive assistance for immigrant families during COVID-19

Unsure of your options and access when it comes to public programs? This is a confusing topic and one we get a lot of questions about! Here’s a complete guide to immigrant eligibility for public programs, like SNAP and Families First Act.

5. Turn this time into one of learning and growth! 

With quarantine and social distancing, it can be hard to connect with people, especially when you’re in a new place! But what if you could use this time to learn a new language or skill? Here are five unique ideas for being productive at home during COVID-19!

Are you looking for guidance when it comes to learning about life in America? Golden Beacon USA is here to help make your transition as easy as possible, even in the midst of COVID-19! Contact us today at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com or call or text (866) 403-7173. Remember, you are not alone!

 

 

 

I’m an Immigrant Without Health Insurance. Where Can I Get Low-Cost or Free Medical Care?

DISCLAIMER: Besides the links pertaining to our own products and services, Golden Beacon USA does not endorse nor is it affiliated with the companies, organizations or agencies and/or their products or services whose links are included in this post. In addition, we cannot control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in these links. Golden Beacon USA does not earn commissions from any of these entities. The following is not intended to be medical or legal advice and should not be construed as such.

 

 

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many inequities in the United States, including the gap in medical care for those with insurance and those without. To make it even worse, immigrants, especially the undocumented, struggle to understand America’s complex health system. Furthermore, this population may be on a limited budget, thus precipitating the need for free or low-cost medical services. That’s where we come in.

As a helping hand in your new land, our services help you understand the culture and processes of the United States. Today, we are going to talk about health insurance in America: what it is and alternative options for free or low-cost medical care for immigrants. Unlike other countries, such as Canada, where every citizen is guaranteed paid health insurance, America’s individualistic, pull-you-up-by-your-bootstraps culture leads to the endless discussion of making healthcare affordable to everyone in the country versus only to those who can afford it.

 

WHAT IS HEALTH INSURANCE? WHY IS IT SUCH A BIG DEAL AND SO POLITICIZED IN THE UNITED STATES?

 

According to healthcare.gov, health insurance is a contract between you and your health insurer wherein the health insurer is required to pay some or all of your medical care costs in exchange for a premium, or the amount you pay for your health insurance every month. Health insurance provides access to medical care for both physical and mental health and substance abuse such as alcoholism or drug addiction. Everything medical – from a yearly dental checkup to surgery to counseling to hospital stays while giving birth – costs a lot in the U.S. Americans mostly get health insurance through their employers or the healthcare marketplace put on by the federal government, which will be discussed in detail later on in this post. Dental insurance, which pays for visits to the dentist and dental procedures/services, is separate from medical insurance.

 

WHAT DOES HEALTH INSURANCE COVER?

 

Your health insurance coverage will differ according to the policy you buy. In general, most health insurance policies cover preventive services, or screenings that can detect disease or help prevent illnesses or other health problems. Health insurance coverage does not mean every visit or medical service you engage in is free. You may be required to pay the remaining balance after your health insurance pays its part for the services. For a detailed breakdown of health insurance coverage, including copayments, premiums, and deductibles, check out this primer: https://familydoctor.org/health-insurance-understanding-covers/

 

WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD HEALTH INSURANCE?

 

Paying medical expenses out of pocket, or the amount you pay on your own because the service is not covered by your insurance or is only partially covered, can be debilitating for some families and put them in debt. However, you have other options both at the state and community-levels to seek free or low-cost medical care. You should take advantage of these options and get medical treatment when necessary, especially if you are sick or think something is wrong.

Explore the following options to find the care you need, can afford, and qualify for:

 

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS

 

Supported by the government, community health centers provide efficient primary care at an affordable cost. A primary care practice is a patient’s first exposure to the healthcare system and serves as an individual’s source for complete health care services. Primary care doctors do not have a specialization, unlike an OBGYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) or a surgeon, but are trained to recognize symptoms, diagnose illnesses, and provide care for patients or refer them to a specialist, if needed.

Primary care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, heart and lung disease, depression, cancer and HIV/AIDS, in a variety of health care settings. Seeing your primary care physician at a community health center is much cheaper than a visit to your local hospital’s emergency department. These community health centers also can provide translation services to their patients.

Find a community health center near you using this tool: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

 

HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOMS

 

Though this option is NOT low-cost or free, you can visit your closest hospital’s emergency department if you are in dire, urgent need for medical attention. Under federal law, hospitals that receive support from the federal government (as most do) are required to care for patients who need emergency care, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. Shortly after your stay, you will receive a bill for the services. Without health insurance, these bills can be very high, depending on the care you received in the hospital. Hospitals are only required to provide care until the patient is stabilized, or, in other words, the patient’s condition has not gotten worse or deteriorated. Hospitals must also create a release plan for you for when you leave the hospital.

Because emergency departments do not require an appointment, you may wait a long time to be seen by a doctor if there are many other patients in the ER that day. When you arrive at the ER, a triage nurse will ask you for your symptoms to determine the severity of your situation. If other patients have more serious injuries or illnesses that require immediate attention, they will be seen before you.

 

LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS

 

There are almost 3,000 local health departments in the United States whose sole purpose is to ensure the health and well-being of a community. Most local health departments serve diverse communities who struggle with resources. More than two-thirds of local health departments provide the following core services:

  • Adult and childhood immunizations
  • Prevention and control of communicable diseases, or those caused by viruses or bacteria like the flu or colds
  • Community outreach and education
  • Epidemiology and surveillance
  • Environmental health regulation such as food safety services and restaurant inspections
  • Tuberculosis testing
  • Family planning (birth control, pregnancy counseling, and clinical tests including breast exams and tests for sexually-transmitted diseases)

Local health departments are associated with the health department of the state in which it resides. You can find a local health department in your city, town, county, or township. You may also find combination health departments that cover both the city and the county or multiple counties. However, please be advised that not all units of local government have health departments.

Find a health department near you using this guide from the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) where you can search by your state or zip code: https://www.naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory

 

 

FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAMS

 

There are various health insurance programs provided by the federal government; however, a person’s eligibility for each varies according to their immigration or citizenship status. Unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for federal health insurance programs but may be eligible for more discrete programs like emergency medical assistance under Medicaid, services in federally qualified health centers and certain public health programs. ‘Dreamers’, or undocumented immigrants who are permitted to stay in the U.S. under DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, are not eligible for federal health insurance programs.

 

The Affordable Care Act

 

In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (for then-President Barack Obama) which established the online health insurance marketplace at healthcare.gov. Here, you can search for health insurance programs that fit your needs and your budget. The Act extends health insurance to more than 30 million uninsured people, primarily by expanding Medicaid (see next section) and providing federal subsidies to help lower- and middle-income Americans buy private coverage. Those who do not acquire coverage have to pay a fine, which is a certain amount of money based on a percentage of your household income. With the online marketplace, you can avoid such fines by enrolling in plans that provide Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC).

Only lawfully present immigrants qualify for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This includes humanitarian entrants, victims of trafficking and certain immigrants with permission to live and work in the U.S. In addition, children are covered by the parent or legal guardian’s health insurance plan until they are 26 years old or until December 31 of the year they turn 26.

 

Non-Emergency Medicaid & Emergency Medicaid

 

Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. Citizens and qualified immigrants, including lawful permanent residents (green card holders), asylum-seekers, refugees, and victims of domestic violence and trafficking, are eligible to receive non-emergency Medicaid. Qualified immigrants must meet certain financial criteria. They also have to wait 5 years after their admittance date to the U.S. before they can obtain Medicaid, though some with certain statuses, such as an asylee or refugee, may be exempt from this requirement. It is up to each state to decide if it wants to extend or limit public benefits to immigrants, including whether or not to cover all lawfully present children and pregnant women without imposing the waiting period.

In addition, there is an option for Emergency Medicaid for those who do not qualify for regular Medicaid or have no health insurance. Citizenship or immigration status do not matter for obtaining such benefits. As the name suggests, a person’s medical expenses are paid for only in an emergency situation, where the person must be admitted to the hospital due to the sudden onset of acute symptoms and puts his or her life or health in immediate danger. Immigrants cannot apply for this benefit beforehand, but the hospital staff will be able to assist you with applying during your hospital stay. One requirement when applying for Emergency Medicaid is to submit a doctor’s note proving your situation was an emergency. Your family can also apply for Emergency Medicaid on your behalf by visiting their local social services department to apply or by applying online. If time is not of the essence, you can apply for these benefits by mail, but this usually takes substantially longer. To qualify for this benefit, you must meet the requirements for regular Medicaid: a certain income level, age, and ownership of property.

 

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

 

Parents whose income level disqualifies them from obtaining Medicaid but who need healthcare coverage for their children can apply to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program provides health insurance coverage to low-income children under age 19 based on their household income. CHIP programs vary by state; some serve as an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, a standalone insurance program, or a combination of the two. Legal immigrant children residing in the U.S. on or before August 22, 1996 are eligible. If children legally entered the U.S. after this date, there is a 5-year waiting period similar to that of Medicaid. Refugees are eligible for the first 7 years of residence. Like Medicaid, each state decides whether or not provide benefits for all lawfully present children and pregnant women, so check with your individual state to learn more.

For an overview of immigrant eligibility requirements federal programs, please visit https://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/immigrant-eligibility-for-federal-programs.aspx

 

CLINICS AT MEDICAL AND DENTAL SCHOOLS AND CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS

 

These health care clinics are free and available at many large medical or dental schools. Here, a current medical or dental student provides you with healthcare services while being supervised by physicians who are part of the university’s faculty. According to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, these types of clinics (including charitable pharmacies) provide a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, vision, and/or behavioral health services to the medically underserved and those with limited economic resources, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Some of these clinics may charge a small or sliding scale fee to patients. A sliding scale fee is a discounted fee based on a person’s income, meant to assist those who do not have the money to pay the full fee for the service. Only the uninsured, underinsured, and those who have limited to no access to primary, specialty, or prescription healthcare are eligible for these types of clinics.

To find a clinic near you, use this link to search by your city and state or zip code: https://www.nafcclinics.org/find-clinic

 

THROUGH YOUR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN 

 

Check with your college or university about their health insurance plans for students. These plans are similar to those provided by employers in the U.S. and because the school pays the majority of the total cost for the plan, the premiums you have to pay will be lower. Student health insurance is usually more affordable and offers better quality options than those provided by private companies or the federal health insurance marketplace. These plans also qualify as Minimum Essential Coverage, which you need in order to avoid fines for not obtaining health insurance coverage.

 

Having health insurance for you and your family is a necessity in the United States. For those who cannot afford to buy health insurance, I hope these suggestions help you obtain the medical care you need at a price you can afford. If you have any questions or need assistance, please e-mail me at laura@goldenbeaconusa.com. Through our Resource Referrals program, we can help you find healthcare resources in your specific community and accompany you on appointments if needed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and I will be happy to help you find what you need!

 

 

REFERENCES

  • https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/
  • https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/primary-care.html
  • https://www.primarycare.theclinics.com/article/S0095-4543(16)30062-8/pdf
  • http://affordablehealthca.com/timeline-obamacare/
  • http://www.nachc.org/about/about-our-health-centers/what-is-a-health-center/
  • https://www.healthcare.gov/immigrants/coverage/
  • https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-11-02/where-can-undocumented-immigrants-go-for-health-care
  • https://www.fairview.org/patient-education/85339
  • https://www.astho.org/Public-Policy/Public-Health-Law/Access-to-Care-for-Immigrant-Populations-Overview
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/immigrant-eligibility-for-health-care-programs-in-the-united-states.aspx
  • https://auglaizehealth.org/about-us/what-does-local-health-department-do-your-community
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221185/
  • https://www.medicaid.gov/state-overviews/scorecard/breast-cancer-screening/index.html
  • https://mymedicare.com/medicaid/emergency-medicaid/
  • https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-11-02/where-can-undocumented-immigrants-go-for-health-care
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/immigrant-eligibility-for-federal-programs.aspx
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/immigrant-eligibility-for-health-care-programs-in-the-united-states.aspx
  • https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/state-and-local-health-departments
  • https://auglaizehealth.org/about-us/what-does-local-health-department-do-your-community
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221185/
  • https://auglaizehealth.org/nursing-division/family-planning-clinic