Green card process through fiancé (k1) visa

Once upon a time my husband and I were engaged :). Some of you know that I am an Indian and my husband is an American so after we got engaged and decided to live in the US, my green card process towered over us. We spoke to some friends who had gone through this process before and realized that it would be easier for us to get married in the US. It would be simpler to get our marriage recognized, which, in turn would expedite my green card process.

I bookmarked this page on my computer: and followed all the steps listed.

Other sites that were helpful:

The information on those links might seem like a whole lot but read on and you will see that it’s not that difficult to get through the process as long as you are paying attention.

March 2014:

My fiancé had returned to the US after our engagement and that served to our advantage because he was able to submit the initial intent of marriage and other supporting documents to the US immigration services in the US. You can find the list of documents on the USCIS webpage but two things seemed important:

  1. Proof of income/employment in the US – This included salary details and a letter from the employer. Therefore, proof that I wouldn’t waltz into the US and ask the government to support us.
  2. Proof of our relationship – This included some letters and photographs – thankfully we had plenty of both which were appropriate for sharing. We submitted photographs of just the two of us and a few we had clicked with friends.

August 2014:

There was just silence till August 2014. We had received an acknowledgement after sending the initial documents and I had a tracking number assigned to me.

In August, I received an email that that the initial plea was approved and I needed to submit additional documents supporting my intent to marry my fiancé and other documents that would establish me as someone credible. I spent the next several days filling out forms and gathering documents.

One of the documents required was a proof of no criminal history. The easiest way to do this was to ask the passport office in Kolkata to release my criminal history since they maintain that information for issued passports. This step required an appointment set up at the passport office, which wasn’t hard to do. You can check your passport office’s website about how to go about this.

After mailing those documents, we waited to hear from USCIS again.

September 2014:

We heard back around mid-September! I was directed to the final step of the process, which involved a health screening and in-person interview. Inconveniently for me, neither of these processes were done in Kolkata. I called USCIS and requested an appointment in Mumbai.

According to the USCIS representative I spoke to, who are all really polite and patient, by the way, if I had a clear health record – meaning if I wasn’t the carrier of any deadly diseases that would be a threat to the US, I would have the in-person interview within the week! Since I was able to stay with relatives there, I decided to spend a week during the first week of October in Mumbai, hoping to get everything done and return to Kolkata with my visa approval.

For the interview in Mumbai, I needed some originals from my fiancé which he had to mail through FedEx to make sure they made it on time. So I opted for the second week of October for the visa interview just to give us enough time to get all the documents perfect the first time. Our goal was to go through the process without having to repeat any steps.

October 2014:

Health checks take a few hours to finish and you will receive an email with instructions about those. Save that email because the health center in Mumbai asked me to forward the email to them before they could schedule the test.

I went for my health test alone and wished I had company because the waiting between different steps were boring. I was asked to return another day to collect all the test results and was warned not to open or tamper with the envelop in any way. I would have to carry it with me to the US and present the sealed envelope to the Immigration officer at the airport. (Side note: I did not have to submit anything at the US airport. The fiancé/k1 visa on my passport was all that was needed).

Before the health test, I was advised to get visa photos done before going to the in-person interview. There were several stores that offered visa photo service near the health test location. Visa photos have some strict specifications. You could also get photos clicked and printed at the consulate but the prices and hassle would be outrageous. So get the right photos done even before the health test so that you can submit the same one during the health test.

I was excited to have cleared the health test, even though I wasn’t really expecting anything different. We had made it this far! I felt ready for the consulate interview. Consulates always have rules about restricted and permitted items and it important you comply if you want to get inside otherwise you might have to reschedule your appointment.

The in-person interview at the consulate was painless. Someone at the first counter checked my paperwork and I was directed to another counter for my interview. I was asked a few details about my fiancé and his family. Basic questions about the number of siblings he has, if I had ever met his family, his date of birth, how we met, if we have a wedding date set, if my family would be able to attend. Then the person asked me for my fiancé’s phone number. I did not have it memorized so I told her that. She smiled and went ahead with the approval. But just so you don’t feel as foolish as I did, learn your partner’s number and address.

I received my fiancée visa approval right away and I was told that my passport bearing the visa would be mailed to the consulate in Kolkata. It was ready for pick up within a week!

December 2014:

We fixed the wedding date and I booked my tickets so that we would be married within 90 days of my arrival in the US!

I arrived in the US a week and a half before the wedding date. I had my visa and the sealed medical documents with me. I went through immigration without being pestered with questions. My fiancé and I picked up our wedding license the day before the wedding and being together really made the long visa process worth it!

When my family arrived in the US closer to the wedding date, they were asked two questions: anyone carrying pickles? haha…and purpose of the visit.

They breezed through the immigration process.

[One advice that I received was to get married in court right after entering the US in case the wedding ceremony and party could not be arranged within the 90 days period. That way we could proceed with the green card process and I would not risk the possibility of getting deported. The wedding party could be planned anytime later. Thankfully, my fiancé and I didn’t need to go through this step and our wedding day was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!]

January 2015:

We received our marriage certificate after about 2 weeks of being married and we were able to send all the documents required for my green card processing!

We applied for two other authorizations at the same time – one was Advance Parole, which allowed me to leave and enter the US while I waited for my green card. USCIS is strict about this and may not allow you to reenter the US without that prior approval. The other authorization was related to employment.

I also applied for my Social Security Card, added my name to our cellphone and utility bills and applied for my local ID. I was issued a temporary ID and applied for my driver’s license.

March 2015:

I received my Advance Parole authorization.

April 2015:

We heard back from USCIS – we were eligible for an interview waiver before my green card was issued. In April, I also traveled back to India to visit family and reentered the US smoothly.

June 2015:

I received my employment approval in June.

August 2015:

I received my temporary green card by mail.

My green card and government IDs have expiration dates and are valid for two years. We will need to apply for renewals in 2017 and I look forward to sharing more about those processes when they are completed.




Which genre of books to pack when you’re moving overseas

If you were to live overseas for a year or two,
which book(s) would you take with you?

The Overseas Magazine asked readers to contribute a few book ideas for the #favtravelbook campaign on Facebook and a few readers participated. So instead of listing all the books, here are some guiding points:

Books that remind you of home or your childhood can be very special when you are homesick.

Examples: Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was suggested for our readers from Eastern India moving to the US. It’s a book that captures the essence of rural Bengal and is considered a classic. The Hobbit was another great suggestion!

Pick a book that inspires you when the going gets tough.

Examples: A religious book or something fun like The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, can make you feel better and renew inspiration. If you enjoy inspirational biographies, those can be inspiring. Books related to your purpose of living overseas -business, missions or career can get you back on track even on rainy days!

Living Overseas
Why Learning History is essential when living overseas

Books about the history of the place you are moving to are essential. 

Unless you have read everything there is to read about your overseas city, books on the historical and geographical facts about your destination will help you understand the culture and context of conversations.

Examples: The Ocean of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal explains a lot about India. A People’s History of the United States explains a lot about the US.

Pick a book written by an author of the country you are moving to.

It’s not only interesting to read stories set in a different context, these books could serve as a great conversation starters!

If you’re wondering if you really need to pack some books when moving overseas, remember this quote:

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

~Charles William Eliot

Are there books that made your transition overseas smoother? Share them with us on The Overseas Magazine’s Facebook page.


Tips for Overseas Living – What about the orphans?

I can still picture her clearly in my mind. She looked about eight years old, and was lying asleep on the broken sidewalk. A begging bowl was by her hands, and her tattered dress was wrinkled and wadded up around her waist. Her panties were visible to anybody walking by. I glanced around, and didn’t see one person who seemed responsible for her. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t take her home with me (kidnapping, anyone?). If I gave her money, it would be taken by whoever was using her to beg. I simply prayed for her as I passed. But I have never forgotten her.

When living in the cities of this world, we are faced with the awful question, “What about the orphans?” So many kids who need to be cared for and loved. So many kids who are ripe for being trafficked. Maybe they are not officially orphans, but emotional and/or physical ones. What are we supposed to do?

Some Americans first realizing the widespread needs assume it’s fairly simple to adopt a child, or take a child into their home when they live overseas. Sadly, it is very complicated.  Countries have their specific adoption laws that vary from those of other countries. Some countries do not allow adoption at all. You might be able to legally adopt a child by the laws of the country you reside in, but not be able to ever take that child back to your home country due to the home country adoption laws. We know people who have done that, and it often takes years to get U.S. Immigration to grant the proper authorization for the child to be allowed admittance to the U.S., if ever. This article is NOT a criticism of those people at all. Most of the ones we know personally chose to do it with full understanding of what they were doing. We love and respect them and their decisions. However, it is that understanding of the situation that I want to build.

If you must leave due to an emergency evacuation, or a health issue, or lack of funding, or any number of scenarios, what happens to the child then? You cannot make promises to that child that you will take them with you, or that they can always count on you, or anything like that. I am not saying not to do anything. Nor am I saying that we are to throw up our hands and say, “Well, we can’t see the future, so we should just wall off our hearts from the people we want to help and not do anything.” But sometimes our attempts to help a situation can bring even more harm and hurt to a child. So think through carefully the possible outcomes of your good intentions.

Are there local organizations you can trust? (You don’t want to give to a place that has no accountability for the helps you might offer. Research carefully before you commit yourself or your finances, especially if you are new to a culture.) Are there ways you can help improve a child’s situation without jeopardizing their emotional health or creating even greater problems down the road? Can you support organizations like IJM? I know what it is like for arms to ache to take a child, feed her, get her clean, comb the rats out of her hair, hold her close and read her a story. How can you do what is best for that child? Can you help provide clinics for street children and impoverished mothers to teach childcare and basic sanitation? Can you humanize a child by looking into his eyes, yet still help him to flourish in his home environment?

I don’t have the answers, so I am not writing this as someone who can give three steps to a better life for orphans. But I have heard people express heart-felt thoughts that were not consistent with what might really be helpful for the children. Sometimes their passion of the moment prevents them from carrying that passion into a long-term life-giving plan. Don’t let your fervor become more about you and satisfying that desire to do something, than about what is best for the child. YES, something should be done. But control the impulses and make sure your actions will have positive effects for the long run, and not just the immediate future.

If you want to adopt a child, do your homework first. (There is parental preparation to do too, but that’s beyond what I’m trying to do here.) Find out what your home country’s immigration and adoption laws are. Find out what your resident country’s adoption laws are. Find out if there are steps you can take ahead of time to speed up the paperwork so that once you adopt, the process will go more smoothly. Many countries are now part of the Hague Convention. Study the implications of that. Make sure you are not contributing inadvertently to a system that exploits children by using an unethical agency. Don’t make promises to a child that you may not be able to keep.

You may not be able to adopt a specific child who has stolen your heart. But you may be able to adopt a child who is just as needy or even more so. Many of the adoption laws, while cumbersome and even seemingly wrong in how they provide care for children (or not), have the intention of protecting the children from those who would exploit them. Unfortunately, they may also “protect” them from gaining a loving home. Yeah, it’s complicated.

Joan Perkins

Guest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

Returning to the “Llajta”

At this time next Tuesday I’ll be in a little neighborhood outside of town in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, surrounded by mountains, but best of all, surrounded by some of my most favorite people in the world, my “peeps”, my “homies”- my family.

It seems hard to believe that it’s been 13 months since I left Bolivia as a young, newly-wed wife of only a week. Now I return, of course, as an oh-so-mature, grown-up wife of a whole whoppin’ year! 🙂 In all seriousness, I do feel like I have grown and learned so very much during this year.

I’ve learned about love on a whole different level through the example of Godly love that my husband has shown me. I’ve learned what it feels like to be the new person in the crowd, to start setting down roots in a whole new place and to learn new names, names of people and of streets. I’ve learned to pump my own gas and to drive myself places, instead of relying on public transportation to get around. I feel braver and hey, my sense of direction has improved a teeny bit! Best of all, I’ve been reminded of the faithfulness of a wonderful, loving and VERY real God that I serve.

In many ways, I’m still the same Laura that stepped onto that BOA airlines plane last year (maybe a few pounds heavier…marriage weight is a real thing, people!), but at the same time, I feel like I have changed in many ways, and while change can be a good thing, it can also be kind of scary, even if the changes are good.

As I started getting things ready to head back to my “llajta”, my homeland, my mother-land (no, not on a mother ship…) and the date to travel got closer and closer, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervousness creeping in alongside the excitement of going back. It was an odd feeling that I couldn’t quite explain and after thinking it through a bit, I realized that my nervousness stemmed from a little dose of fear that perhaps the changes I felt were so huge in my heart and my mind that I had lived in the last year would be too big of a change. What if’s crowded my thoughts.

What if it’s weird? What if I’ve changed too much? What if it feels too different? What if they think I’ve changed (even though I know I have)?

And just like that a new wave of thoughts hit. What if they’ve changed? What if I don’t fit into the new “normal” that has evolved as I have been away?

It’s a strange thought that what used to be my normal, my everyday living has changed now. My routines and the people that I see are completely different now. Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself that life carried on and continued after I left Bolivia.

My family has had new experiences. My friends have made other friends that I haven’t met yet. That corner on the old road I used to walk may now have become a little weekend market. That empty lot may now be filled by a building.

Change. Change. Change.

But, didn’t I change before? Didn’t those around me change too? Is this the first time a building or road has changed? No. And while I understand that perhaps before I was present for those changes and specific groups of people were present for mine, the changes still took place, experiences were had and shared. Through the ups and the downs, relationships were strengthened and people were present to listen, to witness, to guide and to encourage those changes.

What makes this time any different?

I can’t wait to throw my arms around my parents. To go shopping with my mom. Solve world issues with my dad. To squeeze the life out of my brothers and snicker at inside jokes. To kiss my dear grandma. To laugh and joke with my cousins. To sit at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table and talk. I can’t wait to see my crazy friends and catch up for hours. To stuff my face with all sorts of delicious, mouth-watering traditional meals and fruit. To ride a trufi (public transportation) and to go to the Cancha (our huge open-air market). And I so can’t wait for Saturday afternoon to feel the rope on my hand once again at the climbing wall for Kids’ Club and to hear the screams of 600 kids saying “Amen”.

As the day draws near to get on that plane and go back to my beloved Bolivia, I have been reminded that yes, things will be different. People and places will have changed. Life has moved on. But the heart and the beauty that lies within all those groups remains very much the same.

Laura VargasGuest author: Laura V. Joppeck is just a born and raised popcorn-loving girl from Bolivia embarking on new adventures with my born and raised (and might I add amazing!) Ohioan husband as we seek to follow the Lord every step of the way. Laura is passionate about Jesus, her husband, people and relationships, teaching and Bolivia! 

Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing

There are so many things to think of when you are looking for a home in a new culture, and it is hard to remember everything! Especially when you don’t know what questions to ask.  Here is a place to get started, and maybe it will stimulate your thinking for the questions you need to ask for your particular area of the world:

  • Will you need railings for balconies (for either safety or security concerns)?
  • Will you need a gate for the door(s)?
  • What kinds of locks are on the outside door/doors?
  • Are there railings for the windows (if needed)?
  • Are there sufficient plugs?
  • If not, can you put in more?
  • Are ceiling fans provided?
  • Are hot water heaters provided?
  • Are there good cross breezes?
  • Will you need to build kitchen cabinets?  Will the landlord permit it?
  • Is there sufficient outside lighting for safety concerns?
  • Is there a generator?
  • How is the water system (tanks?) set up?
  • If filtered or bottled water must be used, where can it be purchased?
  • If cooking or heating gas is used, is it a built-in system, or gas cylinders?
  • If cylinders are used for gas, are they in the landlord’s name?
  • If not, how long does it take to get an account and get it delivered?
  • Are closets built in, or will you need wardrobes?
  • Where does the sun hit in the a.m., p.m.?
  • Is the electrical system sufficient to consistently run the appliances you plan to use?
  • Are there air-conditioners? Can they be installed? (If needed—you might prefer heat where you live, if possible.)
  • Are light fixtures provided or will you need to install them? How much natural light is there?
  • Are curtain rods provided or will you need to install them?
  • Can you install a shower rod?
  • Can you repaint in the colors you prefer? (Can a paint job make it lighter, more cheerful, etc.?)
  • Are there any stains from leaks or other damage? Is there puckering paint hiding a problem?
  • Do you smell any mold or see any signs of it?
  • What of the above improvements is the landlord willing to provide?
  • Is the atmosphere depressing, and if so, are there ways it can be improved?
  • Is there any part of the house or apartment that you will not have access to?
  • How are utilities set up? (Electricity, gas, internet, cable, water, etc.)
  • Does the landlord have preferred maintenance providers?
  • Is the landlord local? If not, who will handle repairs, problems, etc., when they occur?
  • If in an apartment building or complex, check out the elevators. How large are they? Are there service elevators for moving in and out?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • How long will the contract cover?
  • If you need to move before the contract is completed, how many days notice must you give?


Advantages of an apartment complex. This definitely is not for everyone, but our lives were made much less stressful when we moved from the 2nd floor of a 3-story house in an old established neighborhood, to a newer apartment complex, for the following reasons:


  1. The complex was a closed community, so just anybody off the street could not come up and ring the doorbell.  This cut down considerably on interruptions to work and study time, eliminated most of our safety concerns, and helped make our home a much-needed haven.


  1. There was a central green and park area where our children could play and meet other children.  This was especially nice on strike days when it wasn’t wise to get out.


  1. Most maintenance problems were dealt with by complex employees, and we were not responsible for finding a reliable person to come in and deal with plumbing and electrical problems.  Nor were we reliant on the landlord to get things repaired.  We just called the maintenance office and they sent the appropriate person.


  1. There was a generator system which at least provided some lighting and some fans when the electricity was out.


  1. When we were traveling, we did not worry about our apartment being broken into.  It could have happened, but would have been much more difficult for someone to do than if we had lived in a single-family dwelling.
  2. There were grocery shops and drugstores conveniently located nearby.


  1. The flat was light and cheerful.


  1. Street noise and dirt were much less. (We lived on a bus route at first, and noise and soot from busses were considerable.)


  1. There was more of a sense of community with the other complex dwellers than we had in our former neighborhood, and it was much easier to meet them.


  1. We actually had more privacy than we had before.


This list is mainly from the perspective of housing in India. What additional questions/comments do you think would be helpful?


RelatedOutside Considerations for Housing

Joan PerkinsGuest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

Tips for Overseas Living—Outside Considerations For Housing

When you move overseas, looking for housing is one of the first big decisions you have to make. Questions you may never have needed to consider in your home country can be very important. Sometimes, you are fortunate enough (or not, in some cases!) to have housing already chosen for you. But when you have to find it on your own, here are some questions to help guide you, keeping in mind that they will need to be tweaked according to your new country, your job/purpose for being there, and your personality/needs.


It is good to remember that some items will probably have to be compromised in order to satisfy issues you consider a higher priority. You may not be able to do anything about some problems endemic to a country or area, but being aware of them ahead of time can help you be proactive, and thus minimize their impact. The answers to quite a few of these questions might be negative, but you will have thought through them and won’t be walking into a situation unprepared. These are written from the perspective/experiences I had as an American to countries in South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.


  1. If a single-family dwelling (or some flats):  Is it secure?  Will you need to have a guard? (Do they usually live on the premises?) Is your entry/doorway easily accessible to the street, so that beggars, salesmen, potential thieves, etc., can ring your doorbell or case out the situation?  Can people easily see when you are gone or when you are home?  Can people reach in through your windows/window bars? Can a maid pass things from your home to an outside person through the windows when you are not looking?  Can clothes or furniture be taken off your racks or through the bars from a roof or porch?


  1. What is the pollution level in the neighborhood (air and noise)? Is construction going on nearby? How will that affect the noise, dust, and ability to get around?


  1. Is public transportation readily available (i.e., how far are you willing to walk in pouring rain or intense heat, or holding a sleeping baby)?  Your spouse may have the car, or your car may be in the shop.


  1. If you have children, is there a place for them to play?  Are nearby parks relatively clean, and is playground equipment dangerous or in disrepair?  Are diseased dogs very numerous and lying in the playground area?  Is the play area in a place where your foreign presence would draw a crowd? Is there a club with facilities for children, if there are no playgrounds or play areas nearby?


  1. If a dog as a family pet is important to you, check out the possibilities for exercise and daily needs.


  1. Is the neighborhood a political hotspot where demonstrations are often carried out or where riots take place during times of political unrest or on strike days?  It may be fine to live in this area, but you need to know beforehand whether you should plan to work/play indoors during these times.


  1. Where is the nearest grocery shop and vegetable market? (Preferably within short walking distance.) Do they have available most of the staples you need daily? Do they deliver?


  1. Is flooding often a problem during rainy season?


  1. Is this an area of frequent load shedding or water shortages?


  1. If possible, talk to people in the neighborhood other than the landlord or real estate agent. It is good to go to the neighborhood without the agent to walk around and get a feel for it; then you can also see exactly where things are located in relation to the rental property. If possible, visit the neighborhood at different times of the day.


While these questions may seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you have never had to think about these things, you will eventually take them in stride as simply part of learning to look at your new culture practically.


What have been important considerations where you have lived? 


Related: Tips for Overseas Living – Inside Considerations for Housing

Joan Perkins

Guest author:  Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and the first grandbaby is due soon!

Tips for Overseas Living – In the Kitchen

One of the most challenging adjustments to overseas living is in the kitchen. Food can cause us to experience homesickness like nothing else! Foods are closely related to feelings of comfort, home, and culture. Dealing with food issues can be frustrating, especially if you have never been one to spend time in the kitchen. This is written from the American standpoint, but if you are from another culture, hopefully some of these tips will still be helpful to you.

Get some good natural food cookbooks. Some of these cookbooks not only have recipes, but also have tips that can help you learn more about nutrition and how to adapt the recipes for the situation where you live. They are less likely to call for packaged products that are unavailable, but use basic foods and spices.

From the American/Western angle, some I have found helpful are:

Whole Foods for the Whole Family by La Leche League

More-with-Less Cookbook

The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook

Disclaimer: My copies are old editions, and I have not tried out the new ones to see if they retain the same helpfulness.

Copy substitution and measurement equivalent lists. Having information like the following in your kitchen makes conversions between American and other systems easy:

Measurements (some of these are approximate conversions, but have worked for me):


1 tsp.= 5 milliliters

1 T= 15 milliliters

1 cup=240 milliliters

1 qt.=approx. 1 liter



1 cup=250 grams

½ cup=125 grams (1 stick of butter is about 125 grams)



180 C = 350 F  [conversion formula:  (C temp. x 1.8) + 32 = F temp.]

General Tips:

*All ingredients are not created equally in different countries.  For example:  butter may seem greasier, salt may be saltier, baking powder may or may not need to be doubled, flours may be more absorbent.  Some of these things must just be discovered through experimenting.  

*In American recipes, 4 eggs should equal 1 cup, so if the eggs are small where you are, this is a guideline to follow rather than number of eggs.

*In many countries, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is bought in the drug store or chemist’s shop, and is not available at the grocer’s.

*To make sure eggs are good, cover them with water.  If they float, throw them away.


*Fats—oil, shortening, and butter may be used interchangeably in baking, but it will affect the texture of the product somewhat.  Oil makes brownies chewier, butter makes them more cake-like.  In cookies that call for shortening, when you use butter overseas, you may need to add 1/3 to ½ cup more flour to make them firmer and less runny.

*If whole wheat flour is finely ground, it can be substituted equally for white flour, but you may need to add a little more water or milk to the recipe to keep it from being too dry. It will change the texture and taste some, so you have to learn which recipes you like with more or less whole wheat.

*1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup regular flour plus 1 tsp. baking powder and ½ tsp. salt.

*For “Pet” milk, or evaporated milk in a recipe, use powdered milk, but double the amount of milk powder you would use for regular milk.

*1 square chocolate (1 oz. or 30 gms.)= 3 T cocoa + 1 T butter or margarine

*1 cup corn syrup=1 cup sugar+1/4 cup liquid (water) (For dark corn syrup or molasses, use brown sugar) With both, add more sugar after the water is added to make it equal 1 cup again)

*1 cup buttermilk or sour milk= 1 cup milk+1 T lemon juice or vinegar

*Pancake syrup:  2 cups sugar, 1 cup water; heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add ½ tsp. maple or other flavoring.

*Chop up about a 200 gm. chocolate bar for the 12-oz. bag of chocolate chips for cookies.

Keep on-going lists. Keep a list in your planner or Smartphone of spices and food items that you cannot find locally, so that when you have the opportunity, you will know immediately what you need. I found it much easier to learn how to make things like vegetable dip and taco seasoning by using spices rather than trying to keep mixes on hand; it’s healthier too! (The cookbooks mentioned above are helpful with this.)

Experiment with local products. Trying local foods will supply you with new favorites that you will look back on with fondness in the future. It will also make living in your new home less complicated. Sometimes you can substitute items that may not be quite what you are wanting, but will be “good enough.” For instance, in India, I could not find cornmeal for making cornbread. But I could substitute sooji in my recipe, and though it wasn’t quite the same, it was still good.

The more quickly you can adjust to locally available foods, the easier it will be. However, there will probably always be at least a few things that you will want to bring in when you can!


Guest author: Joan Perkins lives in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with her husband, Bill, and two youngest sons. She spent 25 years living overseas, in Costa Rica, Argentina, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Joan graduated with a M.Div. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and enjoys teaching women. She and Bill have six children, and one grandchild.



Read more from Joan Perkins: The Adjustments | Tips for Overseas Living – Be a Learner | Tips for Overseas Living – Study History | Tips For Overseas Living-Respect