Late last year, not long after I graduated, I decided that I wanted to do the year-long USIT graduate Visa. As I mentioned before, I did a tour around the west coast of America last year. I started in Boston and then flew to the west coast to begin the tour. I’ve always loved the U.S. but that tour made me fall in love even more. I’ve always wanted to experience that ‘American Dream’ and I felt that this year-long visa would allow me to do that.
When I first enquired about the visa, I got plenty of information and felt really relaxed about it overall. I took the plunge and paid my deposit. For me, the hardest part was paying everything off. I had just graduated college and decided to take a few months out for my mental health, especially after my dad passed away last year. Funds were low but I was determined to make it happen. What I found great with USIT is I could pay money off whenever I wanted. They had a cut off date for which the fees had to be paid by, but luckily I managed to pay it just before that.
So far, it has cost me about €6,000. That includes all of the fees involved in the U.S. Graduate Visa programme by USIT (visa, flights, insurance etc.) but excluding the Embassy Interview fee (€145). Along with having a minimum of €2,000 in savings to keep you going when you first arrive. Once I had paid my deposit, I received a welcome pack with information on what to expect. I dealt with it all through email and I always received a quick, professional response. There is a lot to the visa application but once you plan well and leave yourself plenty of time, you’ll have no problems getting through everything.
With that in mind, I think it’d be helpful to list a few things that may help you if you’re thinking about applying for the graduate visa.
USIT do offer a quicker turn around time if you need to leave within 6-8 weeks, but this is more expensive. If you’re like me and plan on paying off in instalments, work out how long (realistically) it will take you to pay off, then factor in the cut off date for payment, visa interview, getting all the documentation in order and so on. I graduated last October and shortly after that I placed my deposit. To be eligible for the grad visa, you have to leave for the states within one year of your graduation date. So I knew that applying last October/early November would give me plenty of time to get organised and still have arrived in America before my year was up. This is an important part to factor in, so as soon as you decide you want to do it, get on it straight away. The process takes a lot longer than you first anticipate (if you don’t pay in full from the start), but it’s definitely worth the months of planning.
If you’re like me and aren’t made of money and you’ve just graduated college, I don’t think you’re going to have a pile of savings set aside to just pay for the visa up front. I’m not the best at budgeting but I’m trying to improve every day and this was a huge learning lesson for me. I really struggled at times because it’s a large amount of money to pay off, especially when you own your own house & car, and have plenty other bills to pay too. But I had a goal and I stuck to it. I paid for everything myself and I’m really proud of what I’m undertaking. It’s a huge change, and a risk to leave my home for a year in search of something new and exciting. Budgeting meant cutting down on random trips to Penney’s, not as many lunch dates and not wasting petrol going places with no real purpose. Of course, I did all of those things at times, but I tried whenever possible to think about everything I was spending and say no to unnecessary purchases. Without doing this, I think I’d probably still be struggling to pay off the last of my fee’s, so although I missed out on that nice pair of sandals in Penney’s or a lunch date with friends, it was definitely worth it, in my opinion.
Organisation is Key!
When it comes to organisation, this was really important. I exchanged so many emails with USIT, filled out a fair few forms, created checklists and my own corresponding documents, that it was hard to keep track of it all. Set up a specific folder in your email just for those emails. I hate having my inbox full with read messages so moving them to a specific folder kept everything organised. I also created a folder on my desktop with a few sub-folders where I named and organised everything that way. When I’d fill in a form, I’d make a copy of it and put it in the correct place. This made things easier to find when you went looking for them and helped avoid a lot of stress. I’m a pretty organised person anyway, and by pretty organised I mean I have slight OCD tendencies when it comes to putting things in the right place, so I may have gone slightly overboard with my organisation, but at least I felt (relatively) stress free whenever I needed something. Also, don’t forget to back everything up! My Macbook broke in the middle of everything but luckily I had it all backed up to an external hard drive and Google drive. You can never be too safe!
Ask Silly Questions!
And lots of them! Whenever I’d be confused about something, or just if I wanted to know more, I’d always send a quick email to the representation I was dealing with (I had Lynda, she was lovely), and she’d always reply back quickly and settle my mind. You’re paying a lot of money for something you basically don’t know that much about, so ask the questions no matter how silly you think they are. But alongside corresponding with your rep, asking people who have done the visa is also a good way of getting that first hand experience advice. I didn’t know anybody personally, but two bloggers I’ve followed for a while (Retro Flame and LCs Closet) also did the grad visa and they were actually a big inspiration for me finally biting the bullet. So coming up to my visa interview I messaged them to get some advice and it definitely helped calm my nerves. I also went on to the USIT Facebook page and read a few reviews. I was still quite anxious about the whole thing so I messaged someone who had recently posted a review, and I got some great advice from him. I wouldn’t recommend plaguing people, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and if it makes you feel more comfortable than I don’t see much of a problem.
Embrace the Excitement!
This is a huge change in your life. You’re packing everything up and moving countries – that doesn’t happen every day. It’s a scary time, but there’s also a lot of excitement that comes along with it too. Putting the scary parts aside (they’ll all work out), I’ve found myself being really excited when I check how many days are left until the big move (25 days!), think about packing and making lists, the journey to the airport, the flight, actually getting there and finally spending that first night in your new ‘home’. Along with that, something that has really excited me (I live a sheltered life..!) was picking out new luggage. For my trip last year I bought a beautiful large white suitcase, but I needed a new carry on piece and another large piece. I searched for months for the right style I was looking for and I’d say if I mentioned once more how much I love my suitcases, I’ll be banned from leaving the country! But it’s exciting. All those little details add to the experience and although they really are just that, little, it’s all part of the process and I know it’s a time I’ll look back on and smile. So embrace the excitement. If that means buying the latest Ban.Do passport cover with matching luggage tags, do it. If it mean’s matching your suitcases to each other, go for it. Don’t let anybody dull that excitement. You’re life is about to change drastically and anything that will help saying goodbye to loved ones a little easier, is worth it in my book!
I also wrote a post on what to expect in the