It has been a couple of years now since my move to USA from India for a long-term assignment. To be very frank, it has been a roller coaster ride with many bumps on the way. However, there were some upsides too on a brighter side. As I have settled in a bit now to this new life and entirely different culture, finally I thought of sharing my learning, mistakes, and experiences with others like me who are looking to move to USA from India. As you plan to undergo this big change in your life, there are many unknowns attached to it apart from just a cultural shock.
I am sure there are many like me who did not have the context on how life will change after they move to USA from India and what they could have done better to overcome some of the early mistakes to be better in those early days. These tips will surely help save money, official troubles, and hassles in this new way of life for you. This article embarks the beginning of such learning and experiences when you move to USA from India on Devil on Wheels website.
I know, you must be wondering that this blog, Discover with Dheeraj, is primarily focused on traveling and mainly dedicated to the Himalayas. But, now this USA travel or experiences or tips tricks of lifestyle in the USA? It does not make any sense to fit in here. Right?? 🙂 🙂 …. Well, I will agree to disagree a bit here. I feel that sharing my learning of this major long-term travel experience to the USA from India will certainly help many such people who wish to travel to the USA from India for the long term. There were many major mistakes I made and each day I learn something new in this lifestyle here in USA. There are many unknowns that I discover each day and discovered in the last two years on how as a desi Indian you need to adapt yourself and embrace the life in this new country. Apart from that, I will also be sharing my travel experiences in USA under the USA category of this blog.
I am sure that much like Discover with Dheeraj has helped millions of people for their Himalayan travels, this sub-section on an Indian life in USA will help many others looking out for help on this topic too. So, after thinking a lot on starting a new blog v/s diversifying the current content base of Discover with Dheeraj blog itself, I took a leap of faith and wish the decision will certainly help Indian people coming to USA from India either to travel or live for long-term. So, wish me luck and let the show roll :P…
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Things to do before you move to USA from India
Many people working in the corporate job in India, especially software or IT sector, have a dream of a long-term onsite opportunity at one or other time of their career. I also had this dream once in the first year or so of my career but then suddenly many dreams shattered and life went horribly upside down in just a year or so. I am thankful for that horrible time of my life because it led me gave birth to this Discover with Dheeraj travel platform that runs in my blood now, day in and out. So, when our elders say, everything happens for a good reason, now I see back the last decade and I nod, well “Hell o yeah!!”.
Time passed by and after about a decade of working in the software development, traveling many corners of the Himalayas in Northern India, I got an opportunity to move to USA from India for a long-term assignment. There was family pressure as well and I had to take a hard call of choosing between pursuing my career in India and keep visiting the Himalayas or travel to USA from India, settle for some time to learn, experience and travel a new country altogether. After many sleepless nights and thinking about many possible outcomes to one tough decision, I decided to move to USA from India in hopes of new experiences and learning.
When I came to USA from India, I tried to find out on the Internet what should I do before landing in USA or things I shall take. However, most information was scattered or lived generic on foreigners traveling to USA from different countries. However, we are Indians or call us desi and we have some peculiar requirements always ;). As I landed here in USA, with each new hurdle or challenge slowly I started to realize wish I had done this before arriving here or done that or brought that from India, etc.. Some things were so important, that I will continue to face the challenges of not doing them before moving to USA from India throughout my tenure here. I do not want you to suffer from them and hence, in this article I am going to share my experience of some things that you must do before coming to USA from India so that either you do not have to travel back on short notice and waste money OR suffer from hassles throughout your stay in USA.
I have tried to categorize these things to do before you move to USA from India in some sections below to organize them for you. Let us go through them one by one.
A. Documentation or Paper Work
The first category talks about the documentation you need to settle while in India so that you do not have any documentation issues.
1. Passport Corrections before VISA application and stamping
The first and foremost thing you must do is to ensure that your passports have correct information about you and your family. You must ensure your wife and kids also have correct information on the passport. You must be wondering what correct information I am talking about here. Well, in many Indian passports, you may find that even after correctly filling the passport application form, the Surname gets empty and first name/given name has both First Name and Surname.
If you have this, DO NOT fill DS160 until you get your passport corrected to reflect. If you fill the DS160, you will have to enter FNU (First Name Ungiven) in the application and whole name in Surname. This will change your name to FNU in USA and you will struggle to get past it. You will have to live it every day, every phone call you make to identify yourself, you will just struggle. Somewhere you will be named FNU, somewhere FNU First Name, somewhere FNU Surname etc.. The combinations are all you can make with those three words. Hence, DO NOT make this mistake. The same is applicable to your family passports as well. Make sure to correct them all.
If you have not put your spouse name in your passport and vice-versa, well though not a requirement but I will suggest to do it as it eases things at many places.
2. Learn Driving Car and Get an International Driving Permit (IDP)
If you are moving to USA from India, especially in some suburb area, you will not find much support with public transport. Hence, driving a car will be the means of commute. It will really be helpful to you to learn driving a car in India before moving to USA. It is best to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) which will help you drive the car for about a year. Some states also accept the driving license if they are in the English language. So, till the time you get used to rules and get a local driving license in USA for yourself, it is best to at least carry an IDP with you.
In states like Delhi, the authorities will not give you IDP unless you have a chip supported driving license. So, if your driving license is old, first get that corrected and then apply for a permit. Make sure that you have enough days (15-20) before flying to USA for all these formalities. I did it just a few days before and it was too tight that I would have almost missed my flight.
3. Complete your Aadhar Formalities
Aadhar number is the root of every other financial and identity documentation in India now. Make sure you have a working phone number where OTP can be sent for any changes in Aadhar. You should make any corrections if required in Aadarh and connect it to your banks and all wherever it is required to be present. You should not spend $1200 after coming to USA to go back and complete a mere formality of Aadhar. You will need it to file your IT returns back in India too. So, don’t sideline it thinking you will not need it.
4. Complete or update your Bank Accounts KYC
You should complete all the documentation related to your banks and update your KYC before moving to USA. If you see yourself long-term in USA (like 4-6 years) best will be to close all accounts and accumulate to one account for easier management and FBAR filing. Anyways after 6 months, you will have to convert your bank accounts and fixed deposits to NRE/NRO accounts. Also, if you trade in India, you will have to close your DMAT accounts as well.
5. Settle & update any other official documentation
You should think about any other official documentation such as the power of attorney, outstanding utility bills, home papers, etc.. Again you would not want to fly in between for mere paperwork. You should have copies of all documents with you all the time when you travel. So, if there are any hard copies, make sure you get soft copies of them too.
6. File and confirm your pending Income tax
You should make sure that you have filed all Income tax returns and confirmed them with the IT department either using e-Verify or by sending the IT department signed a copy of it. Make sure there are no pending Income tax for any fiscal year present for you.
7. Carry all study documents, degrees, and transcripts
You may apply for your degree transcripts and make sure they arrive before you leave India. It is not required but you may not know when those transcripts will be required anytime when you are here. Don’t forget that USA is called the land of opportunities 😉 … So, along with all your study documentation set, you should also get the transcripts for yourself and your spouse too.
B. Health & Well Being
This category talks about few things that you must do related to medical and health before you plan to move to USA from India.
8. Better to travel illness free
It is better that you travel without any known illness to the USA because finding a doctor, treatment and medicine are not as trivial as walking into the doctor shop or stepping into Chemist shop for medicine in India. And when you are new to the country, you already have a lot to process. You must carry your all your medical records for any ongoing illness with you.
9. Fix your dental issues
Finding dental help in USA and affording it are two different things. Even a simple root canal process with a decent insurance might end up costing you some $1500 which is a lot when you compare it with India. You will not want to spend a fortune on your dental problems here in USA as even with insurance, it costs a lot. So, if you know that there are some teeth that can cause some issues for you, get rid of them in India instead of suffering with them here 🙂 …
10. Prepare a basic medical kit with medicines
You should prepare a basic medical kit with day to day medicines available over the counter in India after consulting your doctor with a valid doctor’s prescription. It may help you at times when you are unable to find the doctor in early days when you have not appointed a family doctor in USA. You can also refer to list of things to carry when you go on trip
11. Complete your kid’s vaccination, if pending
If your child is due for any vaccination, make sure to get it done. You may also want to get in touch with a family kid doctor as soon as possible after coming to USA from India as well to update any require vaccines according to rules here. You must carry the vaccination records to show it here.
12. Get a couple of pair of eyeglasses and sunshades
Well if you wear eyeglasses, it is best to carry a couple of pair of eyeglasses and sunshades with power from India itself. Much like dental, eye care is also pretty costly and if you break the only pair, you may end up living without the eyeglasses for 4-7 days. Very seldom you will find services which are instant unless you are one of those with simple numbers that can be purchased at Walmart or any pharmacy stores like CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, etc..
13. Get good health insurance
Again, make sure you have good health insurance till the time you do not come on the payroll especially for the family in case your company does not provide it. Even with the health insurance, the medical prices are sky high in the USA when compared back in India. So, in case you risk it and unfortunately, something happens, you may end up paying almost six months of your savings that you are going to make here.
C. Communication & Mobile Apps
In this category, I am enlisting some important points about communications channels and mobile apps you must have set up before you move to USA from India.
14. Carry a mobile phone with a right frequency band
Most modern age smartphones including Android and iPhone work everywhere now but still if you plan to carry a dual sim basic bar mobile phone, check if the frequency band is supported in USA for such mobile phone or better buy such a basic bar phone after coming to USA.
15. Carry sim card that works in USA for all your OTP needs
You should get your mobile plan sorted with international roaming or prepaid connection packs capable to get SMS for OTPs in USA. You should verify that you are able to change your mobile plan or access it online in case of any issue.
16. Update mobile number for OTP needs wherever necessary
You should verify your mobile number that you plan to carry to confirm that all your OTPs for Bank accounts, Aadhar card, Income tax logins, etc.. are working fine and update them in case required with the mobile number that you plan to carry to USA.
17. Install and set up banking mobile apps
You should set up all your banking mobile apps in India before you move to USA as many a time you will not find such mobile apps in the local app stores here. Even if you find them, it becomes very hard to install them with one or other verification needs. So, do not plan to install them after coming here.
D. General Tips
In this category I will like to share some general tips that does not fit into a single category.
18. Carry many passport size photos with you
As you move and settle in USA from India, at many places you may require passport size photos to be submitted. Getting the passport sized photos is pretty cheap in India as compare the dollar price here. Hence, it is best to carry passport photos for yourself and your family that can last about a year 🙂
19. Get your credit card reissued and ensure it works internationally too
You should get your credit card re-issued so that you get longer expiry period on it in case it is expiring in a year or so. It will be hard to get it re-issued from USA. You should also ensure that your credit card works internationally so that if you get stuck or run out of cash, you have this card to save you from hassles. Example, you do not get free carts at JFK New York Airport, you if you are not carrying US dollars, you can’t get a cart then. My card saved me from that situation 😉 …
20. Don’t forget to meet all your friends and family
Last but not the least, you should meet up all your friends and families because first, you do not know when you will meet them again and second, you are going to miss them the most after moving to USA from India.
Handy Checklist for moving to USA from India
For the lazy ones like me, I prepared a quick checklist that you can just print and start preparing for yourself to move to USA from India covering all the points discussed in this article.
This article starts a new chapter on Discover with Dheeraj blog about traveling or living as a desi Indian in USA. I hope this article helped you uncover some of the things that you might be overseeing or ignored before moving to USA from India. Once, you are here and you had done these things right, you will thank this article of saving you time, money and lot of hassles while living as a desi Indian in USA. Now, that you know what things to do before moving to USA from India, in the next article I will share with you the list of things to buy before coming to USA from India.
Do you have any questions or suggestions that you think will benefit others when moving to USA from India? If yes, please feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below. I am sure it will help many more people like us. If you like this article, please feel free to share it further with any of your family or friends whom you think might get benefit from the tips mentioned in this article on moving to USA from India.