For all the rightful talk of shining cities on hills, sea-washed sunset gates, and well-worn melting pots, the one thing they don’t tell you about moving to America is how much paperwork is involved.
When I left England in June 2011, I was 26 years old — an adult in the eyes of everyone save the Department of Health and Human Services. And yet, when I stepped off the plane at JFK, I had become a fresh-faced 18-year-old once again — with the papers to get into the country, yes, but not to go much farther. Quickly, I learned something to which I had given almost no thought before I left: That all of those hours spent as a teenager accruing the administrative prerequisites to adulthood would be erased the moment I crossed the border. I would have no bank balance, no credit rating, no ID cards — nothing. I would, in a strange sense, have been reset.