Now that you have finally arrived in the USA, you must be wondering what to do next? After moving to USA from India, you are faced with tons of questions like what documents to get and from where, what things to buy and from where, what will suit your needs as an Indian and what not, where to rent a home, how to find a doctor, where to buy food items etc.. etc.. The list is endless.
Moving to USA from India, especially with a family, is not a small move in the life. It is one of the biggest moves of your life going to the topmost country in the world and starting up a new life from scratch. Apart from accepting the cultural differences, enjoying a better infrastructure and nourishing an improved lifestyle, you must also think about settling the entire home and living like a local for the coming years. It looks trivial and neglected aspect and even I was not thinking about how will I settle a home and live locally in the USA when I do not know anything about the place. I was neither aware of any administrative process that I had to follow nor I was aware of what things I need to buy for settling a life in the USA with my family.
It is not applicable to me or you only because as a newcomer in the country, we are not aware of anything here and we do not know where to start. It is natural and happens to everyone as you have not grown up here knowing the culture and the needs of administrative processes. Hence, as I could not find any help on starting up a new life in USA after moving from India, with this article I would like to share what I have learned as the starting steps to settle here.
In one of my previous articles, I talked about things to do in India before traveling to the USA, where I explained what should be done in India before you fly to USA. In this article today, I will share with you the things that you will have to do after arriving in the USA and start settling up a life here. I have tried to put these points in a logical order based on my learning and experience but you are free to opt to do them in any order of your liking. Please forgive me for any some misinterpretation and lack of understanding, I will surely update the article with your wisdom and learning if you will share.
As soon as you arrive in the USA, the first thing you should do is to get a copy of your i94 document from the Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security. It is a document that you will be required to show at most places and act as a proof of your legal stay in the USA. Hence, take a print out and keep it with you always until you get a local State Id or Driving License from the state.
Always store the soft copy of your I94 document on your phone locally without the need of Internet. In case required anywhere, you should always pull it in your phone and present it to the officer asking for it. Being an immigrant in this country, it is a very important document and shall always be kept somewhere readily accessible.
In order to apply any government approved documents, you will always need to show your employment verification letter also called VoE letter. You should ask your HR department to provide you a VOE letter unless you already do not have it from them. You will need to carry this letter with you all the time. Like I94, always store a soft copy of this document on your phone locally. You never know where you might need it, being an immigrant 🙂 🙂 …
You need to get a mobile connection to make calls and be connected. A lot of plans are offered by AT&T, Lyca Mobile, Verizon, and T-Mobile to suit various needs. You can choose the carrier and plan that suits your needs of mobile usage. I will cover this topic in details in my upcoming article on making phone calls to India from USA and tips on selecting a good mobile plan.
Once you have the I94 and VOE letter, you should walk into any bank over the Saturday and get your salary account open in it. I use Bank of America and with its app/net banking, I have visited the local branch once a year maybe 🙂 … You will need the bank account to have some letters delivered to your home address as well and get your paychecks from the employer. The sooner you start, the better it will be for you. Bank does not require SSN as mandatory document and will just need your I94 copy, VOE letter copy, I797 document and the Passport with a Valid VISA to open the account.
When opening the bank account, choose to open Savings and Checkings both as you can use Savings to move your saving funds easily. It helps a lot in the organization, at least it has helped me a lot. Once the bank account is opened, you can change the daily limits using net banking so that the bank sends the letter to the house address of your friend/colleague which you provided at the time of opening of the account. This letter will be useful for address proof purposes when applying SSN (as described below). Please note that you should NOT OPT for paperless options in order to receive this letter in the mail to the house address when opening the bank account. You can, of course, change the option to go paperless at any time later.
In the United States, every loan or credit application goes through a credit check. It means your background will be screened for credits, debts, penalties or defaults n paying the borrowed money. The better the credit score, the better the interest rates and limits you will get when applying for a credit.
You must be wondering, why would I need a loan?? Well, it is not just loan it applies but most things like you want to rent a home, loan or lease a car, get a postpaid mobile connection, etc.. Almost everywhere your credit score will be checked first.
Well, for someone new in the country, it means that you have a clean slate and there is no history at all. So, how do you get anything?? Well, to start with everything you will get, be it home or credit card or car loan, either you will have to pay some security for it or you will get a very high interest rate.
Hence, it is better to start building your credit history and credit card helps with it. As you cannot get a credit card without credit, many banks offer secured credit card option to help you build the credit history if you are new to the country. All you need to do is to deposit the amount for which you want the credit card, in advance and your credit limit is defined by it. So, start with a $300-$500 secured credit card and keep the statement balance about 10-12% always for next year or so. You will get your $500 deposited as the security, returned within 6-12 months depending on your usage of it. However, it will help you in the first year to build the credit history.
For an average earning person like me, things are a bit hard always here to start up life and with single earning, it is mostly living life paycheck to paycheck only for coming few years 🙂 🙂
The next thing you will have to do after getting the i94 print out is to apply for Social Security Number (SSN) card. The Aadhaar card in India is equivalent to the SSN card in the United States. Everywhere you go, you will be asked for an SSN card for any government-issued IDs or last four digits of your SSN at most other places. It is THE MOST important document in the USA for any person and everything from loans, utilities, personal identity, memberships, accounts, etc.. are tightly tied/associated with your SSN.
You need to visit a nearby local US Social Security Administration office after 2-3 weeks of your arrival in the USA. Make sure you give about 2-3 weeks before visiting the SSN office for applying your SSN because if you visit too early, your records might not have been updated in their systems. So, it will be a waste of your time and keep in mind that most local SSN offices will be crowded most of the times. They will not be open on weekends, you save your office time in the early days by any means. You can just search in Google Maps for “SSN office near me” to find the closest office nearby your work office or home.
As you might not have a home address in the first few weeks, you can mention the address of a close friend/colleague in the SSN application form. You will need to present your I797 (VISA Approval), Verification of Employment Letter (VOE), Passport with valid VISA and two mails/letters with a home address on it. The two mails/letters could be any utility bill or bank statement or any letter delivered by USPS to that address with your name on it. So, no need to waste your money in asking banks to send you the bank statement, you can post any letter to that address from USPS or change transaction limits to get a free letter from the bank.
Next thing you should do is to apply for learning driving license and/or get a State ID processed as well. In order to get the driving license, you need to visit a DMV center near you and apply for learning driving license first. You will also need to get a medical test done first from a nearby emergency center before visiting the DMV center for the learning test. Once you get the learning driving license, you need to learn/practice the rules and schedule an appointment for the driving test. If you clear the driving test, you get the driving license. I will talk about tips and tricks of clearing the driving test in a separate article in coming days.
You can drive on an Indian license or International Driving Permit for a year here in the USA. However, if you have a local driving license not only it acts as the photo ID proof, it also helps you get a lower car insurance rates. You will be charged higher car insurance premium in the absence of a driving license.
You can also get a State ID made for yourself and your spouse. I am asking for State ID because it may take a couple of months for you to get the driver’s license card especially in some states like Pennsylvania where the driving test is tough for a newcomer 🙂 🙂 … Of course, if your spouse is not going to drive, it is better to get him/her State ID.
State ID will cost you about $30 odd but it will help you with an identification document and address proof. You will not need to carry multiple documents like Passport, VISA, I94, etc.. with you as hard copy to prove your legal status as an immigrant. Your State ID should be sufficient. However, if you are confident of clearing the driving test within a month, you can save $30 odd for yourself without making the State ID as your driving license will act as the identification document thereafter.
As you are working with other documents, you should start looking out for apartments on rent. You can search them online, Google will help with it. Websites like Apartments, ApartmenetGuide , Zillow also will help you too with your preliminary search. However, do visit the apartments in person and beware of lease terms especially how much you have pay if you break the lease term.
Most apartments also offer referral programs, so in case you have a friend there, refer him/her so that you benefit your friend with your referral. You need an apartment anyhow, it will be a good deed to benefit your friend with no effort from your side 🙂 … In coming days, I will write more on such life hacks to know after moving to the USA from India in a dedicated article.
If you have school going kids, then the most important thing that you should keep in mind for finding the home for yourself is the school district ratings and local school ratings around that house. In the United States, both school districts and school have national ratings. The better the school district, the higher the apartment rental rates will be. So, choose a house in a better school district with a good local school rating. You can check the school ratings at Niche.com and other similar websites.
Once you find a home, next thing to do is to find a family doctor nearby. Check for ratings and reviews in Google. Unlike India, you cannot walk into a pharmacy store in the USA and get a prescription medicine for yourself including antibiotics. You also need a referral from your family doctor before visiting any specialist. So, in case of any need, you will be stuck in the absence of a family doctor. The only option such cases will be to visit nearby urgent care or emergency centers.
If you have moved to a suburb area in the USA, your life will not be complete without a car here. It won’t be possible even to go grocery shopping as local transport is fairly limited to big cities in the United States. Hence, without a car, it will be very difficult to survive. You have options to lease a new car, buy a new car or buy an old car certified or non-certified. The websites like Kelly Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds and True Car will help you a lot in finding the right car for you. In coming days, I will write a detailed article on tips for finding the right car for yourself after coming to the USA from India.
Once you have the home, you need to apply for the Internet connection as nowadays it is a necessity and you will need here in USA more than ever for so many other things. You will need the Internet for streaming entertainment, be connected and online with friends/family back in India and for your work too.
Depending on your residence, you will need to apply for the operator/services for the Internet. Many service providers offer the first year or new customer discounted plans, so do ask for them before making any deal. It is always a better deal to buy your own modem than paying for service provider modem. Not only it saves money in long-term but it also removes the burden of shipping it back to them when you are wrapping up or moving somewhere else.
As an employed person, you would have got the SSN card for yourself but in order to file the tax returns, you will have to file it jointly with spouse, if married or have kids. When you file the tax jointly to IRS, you should apply the ITIN for your spouse and kids. You can either apply for ITIN through a certified agent or yourself by mailing the W-7 form, tax return, proof of identity, and foreign status documents to Internal Revenue Services. You can also make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center nearby you and apply for the ITIN in person.
You must act quickly to apply for ITIN as soon as you receive your W2 form from your employer because without your spouse and kids ITIN, you will not be able to file the tax returns. It takes about 4-6 weeks to get the ITIN processed, hence, make an appointment as quickly as possible upon receiving W2 form.
If you ask me, “What do I love the most America since I moved here from India?”, well, Costco Membership is one of the top five things for sure 🙂 🙂 … So, in this list of things to do after moving to USA from India, I will surely recommend that you buy a Costo membership as in my honest opinion & experience it is worth it. You keep getting very good quality stuff at a cheaper price. Yes, it is in bulk but you can afford most of those things and consume them if you have a family with kids. Costco offers a wide range of products including Indian lentils and Naan too. Most of the time you will see offers and discounts on many major things.
In the last few articles of this series on moving to USA from India, I shared with you the tips/guides of things to be done in India, what to buy and bring to USA from India and step by step process on the airport when flying to USA from India. Now that you have arrived in the USA and you are looking out to seek answers on what to do in the USA for starting up a new life in this dreamland.
I hope this article helps you in getting started with the settlement process after coming to the USA from India and start a new life. Feel free to post any questions or doubts you may have in the comments section of the article below. If any of your family or friends are moving to USA from India for the first time, do share this article with them and help them in getting started with the things to do as soon as they arrive here. I am working on some infographics too that I will post in coming days on the social media channels of this blog as well, very soon 🙂 🙂 …
In my next article, I will share with you the list of most important “Things To Buy After You Move to USA from India“. So, stay tuned on this blog to learn more about living a life of a desi Indian in the USA eating veggies and eggs 🙂 🙂 …
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