Saving up an emergency fund is such an important step to take in personal finance. If you are an immigrant, saving for an emergency fund is even more crucial. It can make or break your ability to fight and survive immigration problems, help you be ready pay for the expenses of applying for immigration status, and empower you to have choices. That\’s why we really view emergency funds as Immigrant Empowerment Funds.
Emergency Saving Funds are a Building Block of Personal Finance
Almost any personal finance blog, book, or podcast will kick and scream about the pivotal need to set up an emergency fund. Also known as a rainy day fund, an emergency fund is one of the most important money milestones because it can help you be prepared for anything. Emergencies happen to everyone and you never know when life will throw you a curveball. You or your family members could get sick and have to go to the hospital, have a car wreck, or lose a job. Your home may develop a leaky roof, or your heating system might break during the winter. One of the best ways to prepare for these kinds of emergencies is setting up an emergency fund. Otherwise, you might risk getting thrown into debt every time urgent matters come up. Without an emergency fund available, it is very difficult to build stability and wealth.
Immigrants can set up bank accounts to save money in an emergency fund. Even immigrants who are undocumented, or don\’t have legal status can do this.
Saving Money in an Emergency Fund Can Insure Against Immigration Problems and Help You Fight Deportation
Immigrants have another very important reason to build up an emergency fund: having resources available to hire an immigration lawyer. If you or your family members ever face immigration problems in the future, a lawyer is critical.
You won\’t be able to get a free immigration lawyer. There is no public defender system or right to a government-appointed lawyer in immigration court. Very few nonprofits provide free legal representation. In reality that often means that only immigrants who have thousands of dollars readily available are able to hire a lawyer to represent them. The vast majority of immigrants cannot afford a lawyer.
But having a lawyer makes or breaks an immigration case: immigrants who are represented by counsel are at least five times more likely to win their cases fighting deportation in immigration court than those who do not have a lawyer.
An Immigration Fund Can Also Help You Go Through the Process to Secure Immigration Status
In addition to preparing for a potential worst case scenario of possible deportation proceedings, an emergency fund has other benefits. Money set aside for immigration purposes is important so you can plan for getting legal status, renewing a green card, or becoming a citizen. Applications to get status, such as adjustment through a green card, or naturalize have high fees as well as related expenses.
It also costs a lot to hire an immigration lawyer. I highly recommend hiring an immigration lawyer for any immigration matters rather than trying to figure it out on your own. Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of the law. Some people say the immigration code is more complicated than the tax code. And any mistakes can be catastrophic for your life. It\’s just not worth trying to figure it out on your own.
Why We Wish We Had Set Up an Immigration Emergency Fund
When we went through the green card process for my husband, we ended up having to spend over a thousand dollars. On top of the anxiety of the process, the financial expense was very overwhelming. We had to pay for the application fees, the medical examination, passport photos, shipping costs of sending the application overnight, etc.
And that was even without the cost of hiring a lawyer full-time. I am an immigration lawyer so I was able to do the application for us. We still paid for consultations though with an immigration lawyer who specialized in this area. This helped us double check everything to be safe, given how drastic the consequences can be of an error. Paying an immigration lawyer for consultations also cost us hundreds of dollars.
All of these costs were outside our usual budget. It would have been a lot easier to manage these expenses if we had saved up an emergency fund for immigration purposes.
Now we know to save up for the next steps in the process. When my husband applies to remove the conditions on his green card or become a U.S. citizen, it will also cost a lot of money.
Set Up Your Own Immigrant Empowerment Fund
Every immigrant should empower themselves by starting an emergency fund. This is an amazing way to protect yourself for the worst but also give yourself options for the best.
Starting an emergency fund does not have to be overwhelming. Even saving small amounts per month will start to add up over time. Just putting away $10 a month can help. You will be more prepared for the next emergency or curveball that life hits you with. And you will be more likely to come out ok.
Having trouble saving for an emergency fund? Do you want to build stability and wealth in a new country, but feel not sure where to even begin? Sign up for a free 1 hour Immigrant Finance personal finance coaching session. We\’ll work together to identify what areas you need to focus on and set up some steps to get your basic finances in the U.S. set up. Schedule Appointment