Many people who want to move to the USA participate in the Green Card Lottery for years and years, hoping that one day they will win. But when it actually happens, your whole world is upside down. You finally have the ticket to the land of your dreams. But do you really want to take the leap? This is a huge step. Are you ready to live with the consequences?
Our former Green Card winner Nico from Hamburg, Germany, knows exactly how this feels like. He won the lottery in 2014. In the following interview he explains how this moment changed his life forever and what kind of experiences he made since then.
Why have you registered for the Green Card Lottery?
The first time I applied at The American Dream for a Green Card was in 2007 and then every year again. Back then I only knew the USA from documentations, books or stories. In 2009 I traveled to the USA for the first time and this trip proved to me that it was the right decision to apply for the lottery.
Why did you decide to apply with the help of The American Dream?
There are many ways to apply for the Green Card Lottery. You could do it yourself or with an agency. In 2007 were some rumors that there are agencies out there which are not quite reliable.
That’s why I decided for The American Dream because I have heard many good things about them. They also send you the official certificate after they have submitted your application to the US authorities. That means you can be sure that your application is really submitted.
How did you feel like when you received the winning notification?
2014 was full of significant events for me. I have lost an important person in my life and needed a break so I went on vacation. After my return I went through my mail. By then I already knew how the The American Dream letters looked like. They were in a normal envelop – bulk mail without a stamp. But 2014 I noticed immediately that the letter looked different this time. I quickly opened it and couldn’t believe my eyes:
Congratulations – You won a Green Card!
I realized that applying for the lottery is one thing. But actually winning it, is an entirely different story! There were so many thoughts running through my head. Should I take the leap or turn down the opportunity? Moving to another country always means leaving your family and friends behind. Everything that you have worked for in the past years will be gone.
How did you experience your activation trip?
After compiling all the documents, visiting the doctor and going to the interview appointment in Frankfurt, I received my passport with the immigration stamp. Another step towards my new life was completed.
In June 2015 I started my activation trip. It wasn’t that much different from a normal entry with an ESTA. You only have to go to a second security control where your documents are checked and you have to explain why you want to move to the USA.
Although it was very exciting, the activation itself was fairly easy in Miami. After my return to Hamburg it took about one month for my Green Card to arrive. Another step completed.
Now I applied for a social security card in Germany, which worked out without any difficulties. Since I had opened a bank account in 2014 I was able to build up a credit history, which is very useful in the USA.
How was your first entry as a Green Card holder?
My last trip to the USA was in June 2015 - almost a year ago. Sometimes this can result in troubles at the airport, security staff asking uncomfortable questions and such. So I was very nervous before that trip. I felt equally nervous to the day of my activation trip a year ago. To make sure I won’t get any issues at the airport, The American Dream suggested me to prepare some documents, which I did.
When it was my turn at the airport, I handed the security officer my passport and the Green Card. It was the usual procedure. You had to get your finger prints and a new photo taken. My pulse was racing at that time. They returned my documents and the officer said:
Welcome back home, Nico!
I’m going to remember that moment for the rest of my life. I had goosebumps for the rest of the day. I made it. I was finally back in my new home country.
Finding a new place to call home
The main goal of the second trip was to find a new place where I could settle down. Our journey [editor’s note: Nico went with a friend, who he met in our winner’s forum] went along the East Coast of Florida – from Key West to Naples, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach, and back to Miami.
There were many things to consider when picking a place to live: Do you prefer sunsets or sunrises? How strong is the economy? Are there things to do and see? Can you find a well-paid job?
Florida might be popular among pensioners but we made the rough decision of moving to Florida’s West Coast (Cape Coral / Fort Myers). This is going to be the first place for us to move to.
Do you have any goals career-wise in the USA?
I work in the area of medical IT and I’ve just started being self-employed in Hamburg. I want to try to do this job in the USA, too. Thanks to modern technology I’m able to do this kind of work location-independently. That means I could also work from home.
However, social contact is very important to me, especially in the beginning. So I will see how I go with it and try to stay flexible. “Hire and fire” is a real thing in the USA and it seems to be easy and common to let go of employees. On the other hand, I think that Germans have a great advantage due to our extensive and popular job trainings. So I think it should be fairly easy to connect and find a job.
What is your American Dream?
I’m dreaming of a life where your hard work is valued and there isn’t as much envy as there is in Germany sometimes. If you see someone driving an expensive car, people often think of it in a negative way. In the USA the attitude is different. People see how hard the other person has worked for that car.
To me, the American Dream is to be able to implement great ideas. You also get to live at a place where others go for vacation.
Living in Florida is not as stressful as living in Germany or New York City. People are so much friendlier and more service oriented. Some people say that the American mentality is superficial. But they usually only know it from their holidays. As soon as you make friends, this changes. Just as it is in Germany – you have both kinds of people.
I know that it is probably going to be hard in the beginning. There won’t be 30 days of paid vacation per year anymore. But I think it is better to live your dream than to dream your life. You can always go back if it won’t work out.
My advice is: Stop TALKING and start DOING.
What do you like most about the USA?
People are so much friendlier in the USA than they are in Germany. When I was there, people were always willing to help and were very understanding. Unfortunately, this became very rare in Germany. When we left the USA, people were very warm saying goodbye. The welcome in Germany wasn’t that friendly.
Have you used our winner’s forum?
I always wanted to move to Florida. However, it can be harder to move abroad when you are alone and not with your partner or family. So I made a post in the winner’s forum, asking if someone happens to want to move to Florida, too.
And there was! She is about my age and wanted to live there, too. She won her Green Card in 2015 and lived in Rodgau. I'm from Hamburg. We met anyway and became very good friends. Now we are planning our future in the USA together.
I was also able to find answers to many questions in the forum, like pension claims, financial proof, next steps, and things like that.
Is there anything you want to tell people who also dream about winning the Green Card Lottery?
You need to be aware that living in the USA is not necessarily easier, just different. Being there on vacation is different than actually living there.
I took me 7 years to finally win the Green Card – Never give up on your dreams! The chances of winning are great. Even I made it! Don’t be disappointed if you weren’t lucky yet. One day your chance will come!
And if that day is here: Take the chance! You might only get it once in your entire life. Don’t waste it!
Thank you so much, Nico, for your great review on winning the Green Card Lottery. We wish you all the best and great success in your new home Florida!
As you can see, it can be well worth it to hold on to your dream until your time has finally come. If you want to get a big step closer to your dream life in the USA, you should register for the Green Card Lottery now!
Maybe it’s going to be you whose world is going to change forever soon!