Monthly Archives: August 2012

5 Questions from a World Nomad Traveler to an Expat Living in Colombia

Guest Post Interview of Jasmine Stephenson an expat living in Colombia and former World nomad traveler.

1st Question:

So your 27 and you went from Living in Florida to traveling the world. What inspired you to sell all your stuff and make that leap of faith to migrate to a new country not once but twice?

I just wanted something different for my life. I wanted to define my own version of success, live the way I wanted to, see other cultures, learn, explore.

2nd Question

You’ve lived abroad as a Nomad to Expat for over 4 years. How long & often do you call home to stay connected to friends and family from when you first left to New Zealand to now in Colombia?

I catch up with my family once every week or two.

3rd Question:

What would you say to inspire a Pingo customer to take this giant leap to becoming an Expat and/or Nomad to experience a life travel adventure?

Like Nike says, Just do it!

4th Question:

Can you share a culture shock experience while living abroad or perception experience of Americans?

I’ve had a few of those… probably the most laughable one was when I got blamed personally for causing the global financial crisis.

5th Question:

What advice would you give to someone considering being an Expat in Colombia?

I’d say that if you want to move to Colombia, don’t listen to the news. What you see on TV is very different from the daily reality that we live in here. Learn Spanish (at least the basics), talk to others who live here, and come visit. Find out why more people now than ever before are learning the truth behind the tourism slogan, “The only risk is wanting to stay.”

Expat Living in Colombia

Advice From an Expat Living in Colombia

Guest Interview Post Author Bio:

Jasmine Stephenson is a travel blogger who left her home in 2007 to live life on her own terms. She is currently living in Medellin, Colombia. Catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.

5 Immigration Questions with an Expert Immigration Attorney

Guest Blog Post:

By: Christine Swenson from Swenson Law Office PC

Question 1:
As you’re probably aware over 3,350,000 million searches on “immigration” are done in the US with over 11,100,000 globally.  What trusted immigration news & advice sites would you recommend to help people navigate the web to get a foundation of what to do before speaking with a licensed immigration attorney for specific advice?

Answer 1:

The Internet can be overwhelming, especially with a topic as broad and varied as immigration.  When using the Internet to begin your research and investigation, I recommend being as specific as possible when creating search terms.  Even though I practice immigration law exclusively, there are areas within this field that I do not handle.  Unfortunately, there are very few news websites I would recommend because, with the 24/7 news reporting method, it’s often difficult to provide concrete answers when so much is determined on a case-by-case basis.  However, there are two organizations I would recommend to get started:  Immigrant Law Resource Center at www.ilrg.org; and American Immigration, LLC, www.ilw.com.  Next, I would recommend immigration-related websites such as www.USCIS.gov or similar sites for government agencies that also deal with immigration such as the Department of State, for example.

Question 2:
What Immigration questions would you suggest someone ask to a licensed immigration attorney to ensure they know the current immigration laws & policies?

Answer 2:

I appreciate the fact that you’re focusing on “license immigration attorneys,” which tells me you are already aware of the problems with notarios, who may be able to conduct or to assist with legal transactions in foreign countries but which is not the case in the United States.  These folks claim to have special back channels to expedite or guarantee a favorable result.  These promises are not possible with the American immigration system.  At the same time, there are non-lawyers who have been through extensive training from the Board of Immigration Affairs, called Accredited Representatives, who are qualified to assist people with immigration issues.

Now, to address the heart of your question.  First, people need to conduct some research on their own to have a basic understanding of what immigration process you need assistance with so that you can communicate with your attorney.  In general, clients should ask whether the attorney has handled a similar immigration process previously, how many clients the attorney has handled similar situations, and whether those clients cases were resolved in favor of the client.  I would ask what the typical obstacles are applicants face when pursuing this type of process.  Lastly, I would engage them in a discussion about what they do to keep up on the changes in immigration law and policies: do they take any classes? Participate in discussion groups or training other attorneys?  Does the attorney participate in the American Immigrant Lawyers Association?

Question 3:
 Can you share an interesting client or industry immigration story?

Answer 3:
Without obtaining my client’s permission to share his/her situation, I cannot share their situation.  What I can tell you is that the people I have met through my immigration practice are some of the most sincere, hardworking, family-oriented people who simply want a better life for themselves and their families.

Question 4:
Being that this is an election year what political changes could you possible predict to help solve illegal immigration problems?

Answer 4:
Since the last “amnesty day,” authorized in 1983 under President Ronald Regan, there are millions of people who are in the United States and are non-citizens.  There is an entire generation which is caught between a rock and a hard place: DREAMers.  The DREAM Act is for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act and addresses the needs of those who were brought to the U.S. as children and who, for all intents and purposes, were raised as citizens but are not here legally.  As you likely know, on June 15, 2012, President Obama enacted a deferred action program for those who meet certain eligibility criteria.  This program does not grant a legal immigrant status; if eligible; it identifies and only allows requester the legitimate authority to work in the United States, to enroll in college and to pursue the dream they were raised with.

The first concern I have is whether this new deferred action program will remain in place if Mr. Romney becomes president.  Based on what has been stated to date, Mr. Romney has not made any statements of support of this policy nor has he committed to continuing it.  In light of how many people this policy will help, it would be calming to deferred action recipients to have a commitment to this program.

The second concern I have is that there is no one right solution to the various challenges we have with immigration.  For example, currently we have caps on the number of immigrants who can come to the United States to work.  This cap is fixed, regardless of the state of the American economy.  An option would be to have the cap flex – increase or decrease – dependent upon whether the economy is growing or contracting.

Next on my list would focus on agricultural workers; currently, the government only allows for temporary agricultural workers.  The maximum period of time those visa holders can remain in the United States is three years, with the expectation that visa holders do not work year round and they return to their country.  For most of us who live in urban or even suburban areas, we have little concept of what it takes to run and to sustain a successful farm operation.  There are so many agricultural jobs throughout the country that demand full-time, lesser-skilled employees, yet there is no viable visa available for them.

Lastly, regarding the large undocumented population not addressed through new policy, it would be more effective if the Obama deferred action policy was applied to the parents of DREAMers.  Contrary to the naysayers, this does not reward them with legal status but does allow them to work and continue their contributions to the economy, only legally.  For the DREAMer generation, an option might be to convert their deferred action status to a legal status, when it is time to renew their status, which is in two year (if the policy isn’t revoked).  This keeps in mind that the only way any of the DREAMers, or anyone else for that matter, will have the legal status is through congressional action.

Question 5:
Could you share some interesting immigration statistics?

I must admit that statistics are not my “thing” because of my skepticism with the ability for people to manipulate numbers.  However, I have found that the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), which is bipartisan, investigated the complexity of immigration and have shed a new light on the impact immigrants have on the economy.  Here is a sample of what they have found and brought to light:

•    When we typically thing of an entrepreneur, we think of small business owners who employ others.  Yet in the US, there is no visa option for foreign nationals to start small business.  If you have at least $1 million to invest in the U.S., then you can apply for an EB-5 visa.  Or, if you’re from certain treaty nations and are able to invest enough in your own business, then you can apply for an E-2 visa.
•    To apply for an H-2B visa, for temporary/seasonal, nonagricultural workers, it takes approximately eight weeks and at least $2,500.00 per applicant.  PNAE’s research found that under this current system and backlog, one in three small businesses would close or reduce hours due to the lack of help.
•    A 2010 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found areas with higher immigration have higher wages for native workers because immigration leads to greater specialization and productivity.  From 1990 to 2007, immigration was associated with an increase of about $5,100 in the yearly income of the average U.S. worker in constant 2005 dollars. The same study found no evidence that immigrants hurt employment rates or hours-per-worker for U.S.-born workers.

Guest Post Author Bio:

expert immigration attorney

Guest Post From Expert Immigration Attorney

Christine Swenson has practiced law for more than 15 years. She was a prosecutor in Tucson, Arizona, and in the greater Denver metro area for more than six years when she changed her focus to education.  She has been a vocal supporter of victims’ rights throughout her career. Christine recently opened her own practice as a result of her work with victims of crime and the opportunity for them to obtain a U Visa. This work has reignited her passion for immigrants and the struggles and prejudices they face in the United States, which prompted her to focus her practice exclusively on immigration law.  Check out her blog to keep up with her work with victims, DREAMers, and other immigrants.

When Illness Strikes While At Work Abroad With Children

Health Advice For Living Abroad With Children

Getting sick is never fun, but it is something that everyone will at some point experience in their life. Whether it’s a simple cold or a serious ailment, illness can leave us feeling miserable and sometimes even a little helpless. During our under-the-weather experiences, it’s always great to see a familiar face and hear friendly voices, but when we’re outside and away from our family circles, we often feel a little alone while living abroad with children.

Even our family may feel a little helpless since they cannot be there for you when illness strikes. When you’re work abroad with children and at a distance from your family and familiar friends, coping with sickness is basically left up to you. Maintaining your health, getting medical advice and assistance, and having to support yourself all on your own can be difficult, but the truth is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. And though your family may reside in a completely different country or continent, they can still be there for you when you need them the most to handle living abroad with children.

Helping keep things on track

When illness becomes serious, and it often strikes when we least expect it, it is always a good idea to enable your family to take care of any necessary processes that still need to be maintained when you can’t take care of them. In these situations, your family can take steps that will ensure that you and your life abroad are in good hands.

Provide your family the contacts you have, such as work, school, and friend circles so that they can assist you by handling bills and information for a care network. In many emergency situations, it is a good idea that such entities as work and school are quickly notified.

Despite their distance, you may depend on family abroad to arrange for transportation, grocery shopping, and other daily provisions. In serious illness situations, these care-essentials will make a large difference in your quality of life and enable a speedy recovery. Such simple tasks that a completely healthy person may take for granted can become an incredible hassle when we’re feeling under the weather, and it’s a great opportunity for your family to help even when they’re far away from your work abroad with children.

A different kind of help

Sick and yet so far away from family, keep in mind that they can’t really help you physically, but they can still be there where it really counts. They can be there in heart and provide advice and social support. This is one of the biggest concerns of anybody suffering from an ailment. The feeling of being alone and having to face not only the day’s regular challenges but also coping with sickness can leave an individual feeling a little depressed and helpless.

Because physical distances can become a barrier between individuals and their family, you can utilize an International service that’s not like typical prepaid calling cards keep your family close, even when they’re far away while living abroad with children. An economically sound method, prepaid calling services help your family stay in touch and provide the support needed when you’re confronted with illness.

A renowned saying, laughter is the best medicine, is very true. People that smile more and have a happier experience tend to recover at a quicker rate because they have the will and determination to recover. For these reasons, it is a very practical idea to discuss and chat regularly and keep a firm schedule to do so.  Your family chat experiences will give you something to look forward to and enjoy. You won’t feel alone and it will take away feelings of helplessness that are often associated with sickness.

Just knowing that they are there for you will make a huge difference in your recovery. Keep in mind that it also helps them to know that they are helping you through your recovery as well. Despite their distance, communication services provide one of the best tools by which we can stay in touch with our family circles and keep the important people in our lives a little closer to the heart.

Even when you’re in a new country surrounded by new people and places, you can still count on the familiarity of your family and friends to be there when you need them most. Even when illness strikes and you’re feeling a little helpless, the ability to communicate across long distances will provide you with the social support you truly need to recover as quickly as possible to work abroad with children

**Photograph “Young Man Sitting on Bed” by aaaal3xxx under Creative Commons Attribution

How to Survive Long Term House Guests

Everyone has had guests in their home. Some stay for dinner and others stay for the night. But, sometimes guests are here to stay for a while. Long-term guests will definitely affect every aspect of your lifestyle, some of which can be great and a few which may seem like a burden.

Though, since you are providing a house and roof for your long-term visitor, it is essential that you create a situation in which everyone will benefit from. In order to be as hospitable as possible while maintaining the comforts of a lifestyle that you are accustomed to, you need to plan and prepare for situations that will or might arise during your guests stay with you.

The topic most any host is primarily concerned with is the issue of avoiding crowding. At the same time, you don’t want to make your guest feel as though they are a burden to you. Space is always a concern, and is often only missed once it is occupied. A spare bedroom may have transitioned from storage into your guest’s new sanctuary. This means that you will have to plan out how you will adapt to a new occupant. What space will they need? What space will they want?

Though space can be limited and double-bunking or room sharing may be required, it is still necessary to provide some room so that guests can have space to themselves. Personal time is still important, and will be necessary when they need it. You don’t want them to feel like they are constantly without privacy, especially since this may leave other members of the family without privacy as well.

To aid in this objective, it is important to set long term house guest rules list. What is appropriate conduct? When and where should certain operations be conducted? Are there curfew house guest rules? This will include such topics as bathroom usage, living quarters, and the use of amenities such as the internet, phone, and kitchen. Setting down a solid set of base-line house guest rules is important. Though, you must still keep in mind that you don’t want your home to seem like a prison or your guest may feel as though they aren’t openly welcomed in your home. Set house guest rules that are fair and justifiable, such as not eating someone else’s food or leaving a mess for someone else to clean up. As for facility usage, such as the kitchen and bathroom, a fair schedule should be arranged to help maintain fairness throughout the household.

It is likely that your International house guest will need personal coaching as well regarding cultural differences and what practices will help them adjust to their new environment. Different countries have their own unique styles and habits, so it is important that you are there when your guest has questions or needs help adjusting to their new living abroad experience.

Plan ahead, such as school schedules and daily activities. Getting organized and balancing your time budget is essential to a successful experience, although it isn’t always considered until time becomes a pressing matter. Prior to your long term house guest’s arrival, make sure that you will be able to provide allotted time to take care of their needs. They may have schooling or work to conduct while they’re here, so it will be necessary that they are able to take care of those needs.

There is also the concern about keeping track of your guests. They’re in a new country, experiencing an unfamiliar culture and geography. Planning an effective communication method is a practical and efficient way to ensure your guest’s safety while they are staying with you.

Since it is up to you as the host to make your guest comfortable, providing certain amenities is necessary to aid them in their experience. When staying abroad, remembering home and being able to stay in contact with family from their home country is a comfort that helps immigrants adjust to their new home better.

However, long-distance calls can be an expensive addition to standard phone services, and aren’t always readily available. Prepaid international calling card service allows your guest to enjoy staying in touch with family while working abroad to save money. Pingo offers a family plan to have your relatives make a web dial International call with rates typically around 1.75 cents per minute by using Pingo Soft Phone and setting up sub accounts to manage your family’s account all online.

Long term house guests shouldn’t have to be thought of as a burden in your home. Through careful organization and proper planning, you can present a positive experience for your entire family. As a caring and hospitable host, it’s up to you to ensure that they feel welcome in their new home.

**Photograph “PA Mill Run: Falling water – Guest House – Living room” by Wallyg under Creative Commons Attribution

Best New Immigrant Gifts to Send Overseas To Your Family

Many immigrants travel in search of new and better opportunities, some for business, others for freedom. Regardless of the reason, not everyone immigrates with their entire family, and for most, there are still many family members that remain in their homelands.

While you are abroad, there is often the desire to stay in contact with the family you love. There are various means of communication for this, some of which are feasible and others that may not be so easily achieved.  We’ve compiled some of the best new immigrant gifts to send overseas to your family.

What to send?

Perhaps the most classic method of communication is writing. Whether it is a postcard or a lengthy letter, the mail has delivered messages and packages throughout the world. But, you may be concerned about what types of things to send to your family. What types of things would be useful? How can you remind your family that you are thinking of them, even when they are on a completely different continent from you?

To combine the two, nothing is better than a gift that says you are being thoughtful as well as mindful. Start by thinking about what you needed when you were home. Were there some items that were on a wish list? Perhaps there were a few items that you needed which weren’t readily available or may have cost too much in your homeland. Certain items can be rare in other countries, while exuberantly abundant in others. This may be a great time to buy gifts to send overseas to your family for these few items that are “hard-to-get.”

Lighting up their life always is appreciated

What about lighting?  It’s always great to have a guiding light in your house, especially when you find yourself in the dark. A simple hand-held LED flashlight is always a handy gift and comes in handy in just about any situation. Some flashlights are even combined with a small tool assortment, making them a handy tool to have around the home. Certain tools can be handy and may even be needed for your family to conduct business or work in their homeland.

You should also consider clothes. What about gear such as shoes and boots? These things can be customized to just about anyone’s style or desire, and there are even locations where you can get custom made t-shirts with pictures or writings on them.

Consider a box collection of postcards that has a variety of different scenes of your new city or country. It will save your family the trouble of writing you back, which is a plus since you’ll be able to hear from them more often. As they write to you, they can get an idea of where you are and share some of their experiences with you as well.

Music and art is not always readily available abroad, especially music that is specific or regional. You can share a taste of your new culture or even provide a few favorites that they don’t have. Regardless, music always makes for a great gift. Just make sure you send them the means to play it with as well. In addition, the arts combine a wide range of different mediums. You may have family members that enjoy painting or drawing. As simple as it may sound, some paper and pens can go a long way to making someone happy as a gift to send abroad.

The gift of your voice

What about a way to call you back? Not every country is renowned for its cellular services, and this would make a great opportunity to look into singing up for Pingo to take advantage of the Family Plan to make international web dial calls from over 200 countries for just 1.75 cents per minute. Then you’d be able to stay in contact with them more conveniently with guaranteed crystal clear quality.

Pay attention to the rules

What type of postage and packaging would you need? Consider what you will need to be able to send packages across international borders. What is allowed to travel across boarders? You don’t want to send anything that will be returned or confiscated, so do proper research on banned or prohibited items.

Communication is doubly important.  You’ll want to consider investing in a prepaid international calling card service  so that you can update family on gifts you’re sending or even the stories that “go with” your gifts.

Take the time to think of the thoughtful things you can send your family that can help them out as well as remind them that you are thinking of them. Send them a message or gift to send overseas, but always send them your thoughts. Though you may be in a completely different country, you can always stay close as long as you never forget those you love.

**Photograph “Amazing Treasures from the Land of Mr. Cranston and his Crime Fighting Ladyfriend Bumbles!” under Creative Commons Attribution

How to Buy Temporary Disposable Cell Phones to Make International Calls While Traveling Abroad

We all need a good holiday every once in a while in order to relieve stress and have a good time. When we travel abroad we inevitably have to plan and organize our trip, as well as make sure that we have everything we need while we’re away. Naturally, a cell phone is indispensable in this regard, but few people realize how temporary disposable cell phones are more advantageous in this context than standard cell phones.

Indeed, temporary disposable cell phones are nowadays a much-requested gadget for most traveling enthusiasts. While some people might decide to stick to normal cell phones, one cannot deny that the latter carry some inherent disadvantages while abroad. Generally, the primary concern is the fact that people tend to shell out a lot of cash on their mobile phones, and while abroad it is highly possible that they may lose it, misplace it, or even have it stolen. Traveling shouldn’t be about being overly-anxious and concerned about losing your phone, but about enjoying yourself.

Disposable phones are perfectly suited for travelers

Temporary disposable cell phones are perfectly suited for travelers since they are essentially simple, lightweight and cheap gadgets which are intended for short-term use. You need not worry about losing it or breaking it, since they are extremely cheap and are made of durable plastic and rubber. They only serve one function, and that is to make and receive calls while you’re abroad. Since they lack most of an advanced phone’s functions, they provide a very good battery life which is essential when you are on the go.

Getting disposable cell phones to make international calls is very straightforward. Most tourist shops are readily stocked with these phones since their surge in popularity has made them quite profitable. Typically, airport outlets also sell such phones, so you can get one right as you arrive at your destination. Another alternative is phone shops, which would generally sell temporary cell phones as well.

Prepaid International Calling Service

Making cheap international calls while traveling is now also possible thanks to Pingo. This is a prepaid international calling service which may be accessed through the Pingo.com web interface. The latter is extremely simple and user-friendly, so there really is nothing to worry about. Pingo is a service offered by iBasis a KPN Company, which is hailed as one of the world’s best international long-distance carriers.

Using Pingo to make international calls while abroad is very straightforward and convenient. Easy step-by-step instructions are available online at Pingo.com, and a stellar customer service ensures that any difficulty you may have will be resolved quickly and effectively.

Combining temporary disposable cell phones and a convenient service such as Pingo is a perfect recipe for peace of mind while traveling. You should be able to call your loved ones and receive calls normally, with perfect sound quality. All you need is a local phone number that can be provided from a temporary cell phone provider and then use Pingo to save on International calls.  You could bring your own cell phone if its a GSM phone and buy a local SIM card in the store to convert an unlocked cell phone.  However you will not need to worry about losing your expensive cell phone, including any personal information, photos or videos in the process, since you will be using a cheap and disposable cell phone model. Once your trip comes to an end, you can simply throw away your disposable phone, donate it, or have it recycled.

*Photograph “Brand New and Second Hand Cheap  Mobile Phones in MBK” by GianCayetano under Creative Commons Attribution

** Use this post only as a starting guide, please contact your prepaid cell phone carrier to confirm service availability and extra fees prior to making International calls while traveling abroad.