Expat life | Survival guide for newbie New Yorker

venir vivre new york obtenir green card travailler usa

I know, I am not (quite) new anymore. BUT. Arriving in an unknown city (country?) can be tricky, even though you guys already seem to speak English (which wasn’t my case at all when I first moved here – I wish you could hear the way I use to talk…!) Anyway, here is a little cheat sheet to help you go through the process of moving to New York:

  1. Go to the embassy

You may think you have more urgent things to do, but this is a non-negotiable one. In case of emergency, if you need to get repatriated or even just for administrative issues (voting, renewing your passport, …) this is the first and mandatory stop (also, because if you don’t go straight away, you never will…)

  1. Getting a social security number (SSN)

This little magic guy will be given to all US residents with a work permit (I am pretty sure no-working visa holders can qualify too, but I think the process is a little bit different). Anyway, this will be your identification number for taxes and all governmental service of paperwork in the future. It’s also mandatory to open a bank account, getting a mobile plan or renting an apartment.

10 days after arriving (not before), go to their offices Downtown (in Financial districtclic). Look it up on the Internet first, as you may or may not need an appointment (it changes all the time!) And take the morning off, the American administration could surprise you (in a good and in a bad way…. you never know!) Once you get there, take a number and be patient. (Also, bring a book or something, as you’re not supposed to use your cellphone.)

You’ll need a few originals (or certified copies) of the following documents:

  • passport
  • form I 551 (Green Card)
  • form I 94 (arrival/departure record)
  • form I 766 (Employment authorization document, EAD, work permit)

For J- visa holders

  • D2019 form (certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status)
  • a letter from your sponsor

For students (visas M1 and F1)

  • form I 20 (certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant student status)

Once you filled all the paperwork, you’ll get the SSN card at home, a few days later. Don’t expect a nice and plastic-y card, it’s just a piece of thick paper (you will most probably ruin when opening the envelope). You’re supposed to memorize the number (!) and to keep it at home with the important stuffs.

(Info to be found here –clic-. Contact them with specific question that you can’t find there.)

venir vivre new york obtenir green card travailler usa

  1. Opening a bank account / Starting to build a credit score

The credit score is probably the most important 3-digits number in your life (equal with your first salary…) because it’s the one that defines you as a creditor.

What do I need it for? More or less everything, dear. To sign almost any kind of contract (renting an apartment, working, …), to improve your credit limit, buying a car, etc.

How is it calculated? It involved a few factors, such as percentage of credit utilization (you should use 10% of your total limit), payment history, total of accounts you have, and age of credit history. Fun fact, in order to get the best score at the category “total accounts” should have 21 or more credits….

How to build one? By getting new credits and credits cards while not spending too much, by always paying your bills on time, and being patient…

Of course, and this brings us back to the paradox I am enjoying so much in this country, no one will give you a credit card without the credit score, but you need a credit in order to start building the score… The way to overrule this system’s stupidity is to get a secured (or pre-paid) credit card and start building on it. Your first score should arrive after 3 months and you’ll then be able to switch to a real card, increase your limit and start getting more credits.

This is actually how we started 3 years ago when we first arrived: Capital one gave us a prepaid credit card and an account with a blocked amount. (Note that we didn’t even have a SSN at the time, but the Cher-et-Tendre’s paycheck was issued by a big Swiss Bank, so it might have helped 🙂

More recently, Chase accepted to give me a “real” credit card. I had to provide a paycheck and to secure a certain amount of money with them but it worked.

Careful though, the card need to be a credit card, not a debit one. You can use apps such as Credit karmaclic to check your credit score.

  1. Getting a cell phone plan

There are plenty of companies and you won’t miss all the ads for every possible plan. Prices can be insane, mostly depending on data and international calls and texts.

Go online and check out T Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and all their little friends to find the best plan for you and your family. Just be careful coming from Europe, as your phone won’t necessarily be working in the US.

Once you’re done with all the above crap, let’s work on the rest:

  1. Rent an apartment

I already wrote about that here and there.

  • Find a job

Update your resume and apply –clic
Interviewing clic
Working in New York clic
Finding  new jobs –clic

And explore the City. Like, a lot.

venir vivre new york obtenir green card travailler usa

4 Responses

  1. Mais c’est fascinant cette histoire de credit score – veux-tu dire que les banques te demandent de souscrire des crédits pour l’augmenter ? Et que les propriétaires ont accès à cette information ? Vu de France, cela me parait incroyable.

    Cet été, à Montréal, il me semblait bien avoir vu des pubs de banques qui proposaient un système du même genre. Ca fait un peur, non ?

    1. C’est exactement ça… Mon score est monté en flèche et depuis, je reçois des tas d’offres pour des cartes de crédit, de la part de toutes les banques. Mon score est intéressant (aka je suis une “bonne payeuse”)( donc je suis déjà pré approuvée pour toutes sortes de crédits!

      TOUT le monde y a accès – les propriétaires, les vendeurs de voitures, les employeurs, les entreprises de téléphonie…. Chaque “hard inquiry”, donc chaque consultation pour un prêt fait baisser le score de manière temporaire mais du moment qu’ils ont ton autorisation, ils peuvent obtenir le score au point près.

      C’est un moyen assez étrange de procéder (en Suisse on a un registre qui liste les dettes et les poursuites) mais c’est assez cohérent avec la société d’ultra consommation américaine.

      Et petite anecdote (pas très) marrante, Equifax, un des 3 organismes qui calculent les crédit score, s’est fait pirater entre mai et juillet. Résultat, 160 MIO d’info utilisateurs sont actuellement dans la nature, incluant les noms, prénoms, adresses, dates de naissance, numéros de compte et de sécurité sociale…. Ou la porte ouverte aux vols d’identités, déjà relativement courants par ici.
      Et la blague est qu’il n’est même pas physiquement possible de sortir de ce système: presque aucune gérance ne te louerait d’appartement sans crédit score……..

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