Author Topic: Hopeless in Germany  (Read 8216 times)

Malaika

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Hopeless in Germany
« on: June 05, 2016, 04:31:03 AM »
Hello everyone,
Am very impressed by all those who made it to financial independence. And of course would love to be there myself. But I personally don't see any possibility to ever reach it myself. My idea now is to make it at least possible to my 4 year old son, trying to have him be financially independent by the age of 30, meaning, I would have 25 years time for that goal. But even this seems so difficult to reach as things seem to be different / more difficult here in Germany.
Trying to describe my situation in short: I am a single mother, working  part time and living in an expensive city in Germany. I can only save around 200€ per month. I have 1900€ per month and pay 800€ in rent. My son's daycare is 130€. I have no car and am not able to get a cheaper apartment (the current one is 70 square meters with only one bedroom in an area which is also not the best in town). Moving to a cheaper town is not an option as jobs, especially part-time jobs, are rarer there and I also cannot commute too long as I need to be free by 5pm at the latest when day cares close.  My son's father is not supporting us financially, having returned to the foreign country he is originally from. I am saving 150€ in a couple of funds but this is not showing very successful so far. Low-risk funds only give around 4% interest - before inflation & taxes! Also, in Germany, we have to pay 25% in taxes to all interests exceeding 800€ per year. I have checked Mr. Money Mustache's recommendation of Vanguard and Betterment but  it seems not to be 'allowed' for non-US residents.
My question to the community now is: Do you have any idea of what I could do? (else?/different?)
Thank you very much in advance for your advice / help / support!
Looking forward to hearing from you.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2016, 04:41:25 AM by Malaika »

Peacefulwarrior

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2016, 05:24:34 AM »
It's definitely possible living in Germany. I live in Denmark. The tax is higher here (42% on the dividends) and the rent is much higher as well. The thing is you got to get your income up. It's simply too low. What field of work are you in?

Christof

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2016, 07:10:13 AM »
If 1900€ is your net income, that is actually pretty close to the median German household income of 2000€ per month.

The first thing you need to do is to overcome your mindset of things being impossible. That's is really holding you back. You might be right, but if you aren't open to other choices, you'll never find out.

For instance, your current situation is likely to change soon. In two years you son goes to school. No more daycare fees. Some cities have no daycare fees in the last year before school, either. So by then you pay less, but you also might have to come home earlier. A few years later, though, your son is old enough for a key and get home on his own. You can also leave him alone at home (with a phone, of course) for a few hours in the evening.

You are spending about 770€ a month. That is still a lot of money. I'm pretty sure you can shave off 100€ of that by tracking your spending, by shopping around for new contracts for electricity, insurance, phone. Most people just don't realize how much they are spending in small expenses over the month.

Buy things used on ebay Kleinanzeigen. Plan ahead of what you need.

Search for a job in a different, cheaper city. If you don't start searching for a different job, you won't have practiced the skill by the time your son is older and you are more flexible.

Finally, don't compare US numbers with German numbers. Our salaries are much closer together. You rarely have someone being paid 3-4 times the average salary here. A salary of over a 100,000€ puts you firmly into the top 1%.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2016, 07:25:31 AM »
It seems as though you're doing well considering your situation.

Like Christof's indicated, have a look at where that other 770 euros are going, there may be room for optimisation.

Even building up an emergency fund of a few thousand should make things much easier for you.

Could you work full-time once your son starts attending school? Is there additional government support available for single parents (although the childcare looks as though it's subsidised)?

komink

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2016, 08:02:10 AM »
70 square meters for single mother with one child? Really? For first 16 years of my life I lived with my parents and brother on 48 meters, and it was pretty normal.
I don't know how it is Germany, but for me it looks like you could just move to smaller apartment.

former player

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2016, 09:58:26 AM »
Don't forget that you have much better health options than in the USA, and quite possibly better state pension options too, so your taxes are doing something useful.

I don't understand why you are aiming for your son to be financially independent when he is 30.  You should be aiming for your own financial independence and bringing your son up to aim for his own financial independence.

Start thinking now about your work options for when your son starts school - what hours you will be able to work, and whether it will allow you to move into more lucrative work.  Is there anything you could be doing now to brush up your skills and experience so you are ready as soon as the time comes?

You are actually not doing badly as things are, though.  The early years of child rearing are the most difficult in terms of earning and saving, so the fact that you are managing to save anything when bringing up a pre-school child on your own is a good sign for your abilities and attitude.

HAPPYINAZ

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2016, 12:52:24 PM »
I also don't understand why you would aim for making your son FI by 30, when you could use those years to make yourself financially independent and when he is an adult, he can follow your example and create his own FI.  If it is possible for you to make your son financially independent, then it seems it should be possible for you to be financially independent.  How were you planning to make your son FI?  Just do those things for yourself instead.  Why should he be FI at 30 if you aren't?  It's a bigger gift to your son to make sure you take care of yourself so he doesn't have to. 

Small changes have surprisingly big impacts.  Follow the advice others have posted here about tracking exactly what you spend your money on and finding ways to make cuts.  It may seem small at first, but over time, that all adds up. 

And I am sorry I don't know the answer to your question about index funds for Germany.  But I imagine you can just google it and find some options.  Or talk to a financial advisor or friend in Germany about this. 

clarkevii

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2016, 01:15:54 PM »
LEGALLY come to the United States and pay literally no taxes on your income. Their are plenty of states like Texas and Nevada where you can live with a low cost of living and make it happen.

mozar

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2016, 01:25:20 PM »
Well let's compare apples to apples. I live in an HCOL area. A one bedroom apartment is 1800 euro. Day care for a child would be 1800 euro as well. We don't have subsidies for day care. You wouldn't even have the option to just work one part time job and get by. Low income parents here have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. Believe me, you don't want to live in an HCOL area in the USA.

Christof

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2016, 02:18:23 PM »
To expand on the investment part.... Get an account with a broker that lets you trade for free. ING DiBa has an account where you can buy a number of investments without paying a trading fee if you invest 500 Euros at a time which would equate to once a quarter. From time to time they even pay a little bit when you open an account and weren't a customer yet.

Vanguard isn't the best option here as they are relatively expensive due to European funding and reporting requirements, even when using their ETF version. However, you can get a number of MSCI world or DAX ETFs with low annual fees. I'm currently investing in the UBS ETF, because it is replicating and distributing, but there are others as well.

Cassie

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2016, 06:14:16 PM »
Nevada does not have a lcol. It really depends on what area you compare it to.  If you choose S CA of course it is cheap there. But much of the Midwest, prairie states, etc things are much cheaper.  I have lived all over the country and things really do vary.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2016, 06:41:35 PM »
Regarding investments, the excellent Bogleheads wiki has a starter page that touches on investment options for Germany residents.

https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investing_from_Germany

Your situation doesn't sound too dire at all. Your kid will grow up. Jobs will come (and go). You may meet someone.

Beriberi

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2016, 08:47:48 PM »
LEGALLY come to the United States and pay literally no taxes on your income. Their are plenty of states like Texas and Nevada where you can live with a low cost of living and make it happen.

Do you have any insight on this? Asking for a friend...really.

My friend is currently working in the US (legally) on a J-1 visa. She would like to emigrate permanently, legally.  As far as I can tell, she can't. She is from Colombia, and has a lot of enthusiasm and works very hard. She does not have any skills that would allow her to get a H1-b visa. There are literally (as far as I can tell) no legal ways for her to emigrate to the US.  Her choices are to stay illegally, or go home and never come back. I would love it if you could point to some other options (and maybe it is different for Germans than it is for South Americans).

Also, people in Texas and Nevada pay a lot of tax.  Let's not kid about that.

mozar

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2016, 08:56:12 PM »
Quote
Do you have any insight on this? Asking for a friend...really.

Um...refugee status? Does she fear for her life if she returns to Columbia?

Beriberi

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2016, 09:32:32 PM »
Nope.  She has a pretty solid lower middle class life waiting for her without hope of hard work leading to financial security.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2016, 04:30:09 AM »
LEGALLY come to the United States and pay literally no taxes on your income. Their are plenty of states like Texas and Nevada where you can live with a low cost of living and make it happen.

Do you have any insight on this? Asking for a friend...really.

My friend is currently working in the US (legally) on a J-1 visa. She would like to emigrate permanently, legally.  As far as I can tell, she can't. She is from Colombia, and has a lot of enthusiasm and works very hard. She does not have any skills that would allow her to get a H1-b visa. There are literally (as far as I can tell) no legal ways for her to emigrate to the US.  Her choices are to stay illegally, or go home and never come back. I would love it if you could point to some other options (and maybe it is different for Germans than it is for South Americans).

Also, people in Texas and Nevada pay a lot of tax.  Let's not kid about that.
There is no practical way, as of June 2016, for people to "just immigrate legally you lazy slob".

The paths to immigrations are:
1) By blood relative, the closer the better
2) By work, the more skilled the better (and that path is fraught with pitfalls)
3) By refugee status, typically don't decide which country they go to
4) Green card lottery that is conducted every year, with the odds that you can imagine

There is no "I'm a good person", or "I really want to live here" option. These are the choices.

There are a few countries that have slightly better options. Germany and Colombia aren't on the list.

Wertigo

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2016, 05:17:34 AM »
Since rent is 42 % of your income I would do some soul searching on that. We live in a 70 square meter (2br+living room+kitchen) apartment with two adults, one child (1-yo) and two small dogs. Planning to add two more children. A lot of people in our house live there or have raised 2-3 children as a couple in an identical apartment. I always think about the fact that in the DDR in the 80's we would have considered having it made with our current apartment and you have one less adult, which mean that you can sleep in the living room for instance.

So downsizing could definitely be an option if you're looking to cut costs. However here (Helsinki, Finland) downsizing from 70 to 50 sq meters only saves about 200 euros on rent (1000 -> 800), and I don't know about your market.

As for being FI, I would not try to 'make' it as long as your son is at home. But when he's moved out in 13-16 years, you should have a nice nest egg and you can look into much cheaper accommodation in a less expensive place.

Malaika

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2016, 05:57:07 AM »
Dear All:
Thank you so much so far for your replies / your ideas / your support.
I may have exaggerated a bit in the title – I do not feel completely hopeless but so far have not seen any possibility to reach FI even in 25 to 30 years – so thank you especially to Christof and “Paul der Krake” for your investment recommendations in Germany.
And I will definitely look (again) into all the other ideas like spending less, moving to a smaller apartment and making myself rather than my son FI within 25/30 years.
Wishing everyone all the best so far and good luck on your own ways to financial independence.

buttairfly

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2016, 06:32:17 AM »
Seconding that the German thread has some good info, even though it gets lost quite regularly in tax and law talk.

Due to differences in German taxation and salary spread but also the social safety nets in regards to healthcare, unemployment and retirement, some of the premises of early retirement have to be modified accordingly, in my opinion.
For instance, the 4% rule may not apply to people who want to retire with a high salary because of the 25% taxation above 800€. However, for a retirement on the cheap, lower healthcare costs can help.

For the stock market investment, consider looking into low-cost ETFs that track a broad index like the MSCI world as an alternative to Vanguard mutual funds. For instance, the magazine Finanztest (check it out at your local library instead of buying it) has regularly updated lists that show the main differences between the big ETFs. For further research into possible candidates you can use justetf.
There are also some german blogs like Finanzwesir that talk in detail about ETFs and the issues around it (e.g. differences in taxation between "ausschόttend" and "thesaurierend"). Just don't forget to be aware of your risk tolerance (I'm guessing lower than other people here as a single mom with a part-time job) and build your portfolio accordingly.
And don't forget your emergency fund.

If you don't live in Munich or somewhere on that level, cost of housing could be something to adjust as other people pointed out. What part of those costs are "Nebenkosten" and could they be reduced first before contemplating a move (e.g. parking space to re-rent, saving water, heat, changing providers, recycling trash)?

Also single moms are pretty much the unsung heroes of modern society and kick ass.

poorboyrichman

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2016, 07:00:39 AM »
Malaika, all hope is not lost. Have you read Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lumb Fisker, he retired in 7 years making less than $40,000.

Lyssa

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2016, 07:30:46 AM »
What kind of education do you have? E.g. as a nurse you have many legal immigration options which would increase your income substantially. Imho mid-level jobs are underpaid in Germany and income tax and social contributions make matters worse. To 'increase your income' as some have suggested may be a lot easier to achieve somewhere else.

I am not going to lie: assuming you cannot substantially increase your income FI in Germany is going to be very hard to achieve. The system here is very good for protecting you from catastrophic life changes but not good at all at allowing people to build personal wealth or -gasp- encouraging it. US readers trying to understand the differences should simply start by striking their 401k plans from their investment and retirement plans...

What can however be achieved before you're to old to enjoy the benefits is a semi-retirement putting your need to work at 20 or less hours per week.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 11:16:16 AM by Lyssa »

SimplyMarvie

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2016, 07:55:25 AM »
LEGALLY come to the United States and pay literally no taxes on your income. Their are plenty of states like Texas and Nevada where you can live with a low cost of living and make it happen.

Do you have any insight on this? Asking for a friend...really.

My friend is currently working in the US (legally) on a J-1 visa. She would like to emigrate permanently, legally.  As far as I can tell, she can't. She is from Colombia, and has a lot of enthusiasm and works very hard. She does not have any skills that would allow her to get a H1-b visa. There are literally (as far as I can tell) no legal ways for her to emigrate to the US.  Her choices are to stay illegally, or go home and never come back. I would love it if you could point to some other options (and maybe it is different for Germans than it is for South Americans).

Also, people in Texas and Nevada pay a lot of tax.  Let's not kid about that.

You are probably right about your friend, barring her falling in love with and marrying an American Citizen. If she has no close family with status in the US (parents, basically... although brothers and sisters are an option, the petition takes many, many years to become current) she will not qualify for a family-based immigration petition, which leads to permanent residency. If she were not Colombian, she might have the option of applying for a visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery program... but that is only an option for countries that send small numbers of immigrants to the US through normal channels, so Colombia is not included in the program.

Also, depending on what kind of a J-1 visa she is on, she may be legally required to live and work in her country of origin for 2 years before qualifying for a work or immigrant visa. (This would be written on her physical visa, as being either subject or not subject to Section 212(e), or "the two year rule" depending on how they wrote the annotation. )

H1-B is actually NOT an immigrant visa, it's a non-immigrant visa leading to a longer-term legal status to work in the US. She would need to have skills and be petitioned by her employer, have skills, etc. There are other options for long-term working status in the US, including H2-B and H2-A visas (temporary non-skilled and agricultural labor, respectively. The 'temporary' can last from 6 months to 3 years, with the proper paperwork) but would need to be sponsored by an employer for that job, and cannot change her job while she's on the visa. She could also investigate a student visa in the US, if she can fund her studies and has a legitimate reason for studying in the US.

Claiming refugee status without being able to back up a sincere and creditable threat in her country of origin is a really, really BAD idea. It can make you actually or de facto ineligible for other visas, including visiting visas, to the US, possibly permanently.

But yeah. Our immigration system is not set up to permit easy migration of people outside of set categories. I've had some immigration authorities tell me "Oh, there's a visa for everyone..." but that is really not true.

Beriberi

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2016, 09:00:26 AM »
SimplyMarvie - thank you for confirming what my limited research had suggested. I was very surprised there was no queue she could stand in or other legal process that was open to her.

 I get very frustrated with the suggestion that the solution  is for people to "just come here legally". My relatives came here legally without standing in a long line, or arranging complicated papers and were able to work hard and establish a good life in America. Those doors are no longer open.

 I know we can't let everyone in. But there should be a path for people who just want to contribute to the economy and society.

Drifterrider

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2016, 01:01:05 PM »
. I can only save around 200€ per month. I have 1900€ per month

That is a very good start.  Most Americans don't save 10%.

Beriberi

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2016, 09:09:37 PM »
But there should be a path for people who just want to contribute to the economy and society.
Like basically almost all immigrants?
They aren't all out to scrounge benefits and siesta all day.

I don't mean to imply that most immigrants want to scrounge benefits.

However, the vast majority of people legally immigrating (74%) to the US are indirect family members of citizens and residents - that number doesn't including nuclear family members . The legal visa holders are selected based on their relations, not on their ability to contribute to the economy or society. In my experience working with this population, the older generation often doesn't learn the language, even if they end up here for a few decades. I don't think these people should be granted visas at the expense of young people who may have a lot more to contribute.

chrisgermany

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2016, 07:40:45 AM »
I am also living in Germany, FI at 55.
You could be, too, if you focus on your money instead of dreaming of FI for your kid.

Your personal tax rate should be well below 25%. So file your taxes and get back the withholding tax between your personal tax rate and 25%.
Track expenses in writing and try to reduce non-necessary items.
Could you list with one of the "Wohnungsgenossenschaften" in your city? Some have decent rentals and your deposit gets good interest.
Increase your knowledge about money. Check out the free info on the internet like http://finanziell-umdenken.blogspot.de/
Increase your marketable skills so that you are ready to look for a great full time job once your kid goes to school.

If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse.

« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 07:51:46 AM by chrisgermany »

Verdandi

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2016, 01:17:46 PM »
Hello from a native Munich person😀

I think you have first to believe that it is possible. Sounds cheesy and boring, I know.
But once you have that Vision and the belief that it is actually possible, you will find a way.
I' m doing it as well 😃
As Chrisgermany wrote, get a Genossenschaftswohnung. Find a side Gig that makes you some more money, and do that when your child has gone to bed. I know it can be exhausting, but it will be well worth it. There are several ways you can earn some money online, so you can so it at home.
Save every dime. Ever time you have 20k, you buy an apartment in a city with a University and rent it out. So while your own saving ability can be optimized, but is clearly not limitless, you can let your tenants Save for you by paying the mortgage.  This is obviously just one way, and I don't want to tell you your Situation is easy. But it is far from hopeless. http://affordanything.com/2014/08/05/5-people-one-income-and-self-made-success/I also recommend this article:

Bertram

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #27 on: July 20, 2016, 12:24:29 AM »
You do not pay 25% of tax for every interest income above 800€. If your personal tax rate on income is lower you only pay whatever the tax rate on your income is. I don't see why everybody gets this wrong... Or maybe everybody is earning well enough that they pay a higher tax on income anyway. May not be relevant in the accumulation phase but will be in the retirement phase.

I earned the same income on a full time job with lots of travel on top right after university, if you are making that part time and are home before sunset count your blessings.

As for FIRE, I find that Germans especially those that come from families that were a bit better off have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that you don't "deserve" everything just because you happened to be used to it while growing up. I am sure if you do a case study people can give more concrete suggestions. Just for reference I know a single dad living with three kids who works full time for 1500€ after taxes. Also in one of the major cities and with no savings (and no he is not saving either).
« Last Edit: July 20, 2016, 05:47:10 AM by Bertram »

RedmondStash

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #28 on: July 20, 2016, 09:25:25 AM »
Lots of good advice already.

What I'd add is to track your spending for at least a month. Everything, down to the last penny (or whatever 1/100 of a Euro is). Get a paper notebook, or track it on a mobile device, but write down every single thing you spend money on. You may find just that practice reduces your spending, and even if it doesn't, you'll find the practice illuminating. It may well lead to ideas for where you can trim spending without sacrificing quality of life.

And, really, focus on your own FI, not your son's. He's so young that you can't know yet whether he even has a FI temperament, or whether it will be a priority for him. The best gift you can give him is to be on solid financial footing yourself, so you're not financially dependent on him and possibly can even give him a hand now and then if he needs it as a young adult.

Very best of luck.

2lazy2retire

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #29 on: July 20, 2016, 10:13:18 AM »
LEGALLY come to the United States and pay literally no taxes on your income. Their are plenty of states like Texas and Nevada where you can live with a low cost of living and make it happen.

Do you have any insight on this? Asking for a friend...really.

My friend is currently working in the US (legally) on a J-1 visa. She would like to emigrate permanently, legally.  As far as I can tell, she can't. She is from Colombia, and has a lot of enthusiasm and works very hard. She does not have any skills that would allow her to get a H1-b visa. There are literally (as far as I can tell) no legal ways for her to emigrate to the US.  Her choices are to stay illegally, or go home and never come back. I would love it if you could point to some other options (and maybe it is different for Germans than it is for South Americans).

Also, people in Texas and Nevada pay a lot of tax.  Let's not kid about that.

You are probably right about your friend, barring her falling in love with and marrying an American Citizen. If she has no close family with status in the US (parents, basically... although brothers and sisters are an option, the petition takes many, many years to become current) she will not qualify for a family-based immigration petition, which leads to permanent residency. If she were not Colombian, she might have the option of applying for a visa through the Diversity Visa Lottery program... but that is only an option for countries that send small numbers of immigrants to the US through normal channels, so Colombia is not included in the program.

Also, depending on what kind of a J-1 visa she is on, she may be legally required to live and work in her country of origin for 2 years before qualifying for a work or immigrant visa. (This would be written on her physical visa, as being either subject or not subject to Section 212(e), or "the two year rule" depending on how they wrote the annotation. )

H1-B is actually NOT an immigrant visa, it's a non-immigrant visa leading to a longer-term legal status to work in the US. She would need to have skills and be petitioned by her employer, have skills, etc. There are other options for long-term working status in the US, including H2-B and H2-A visas (temporary non-skilled and agricultural labor, respectively. The 'temporary' can last from 6 months to 3 years, with the proper paperwork) but would need to be sponsored by an employer for that job, and cannot change her job while she's on the visa. She could also investigate a student visa in the US, if she can fund her studies and has a legitimate reason for studying in the US.

Claiming refugee status without being able to back up a sincere and creditable threat in her country of origin is a really, really BAD idea. It can make you actually or de facto ineligible for other visas, including visiting visas, to the US, possibly permanently.

But yeah. Our immigration system is not set up to permit easy migration of people outside of set categories. I've had some immigration authorities tell me "Oh, there's a visa for everyone..." but that is really not true.


Which is why it's so annoying when you get Trump types piping up that all those illegals should just join the line and come here legally - "just like my grandaddy back in the day"

dougules

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Re: Hopeless in Germany
« Reply #30 on: July 20, 2016, 03:08:07 PM »
I think the first thing you should do is to realize how badass you are saving 200€/month as a single mother without a fat paycheck.  If you've gotten that far, you are way ahead of the game.  There are a lot of people making 5 times what you do that don't save 200€/month.  You've done the hard part already. 

(And how did we get to a debate on US immigration? Seriously people?)