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:
- 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…)
- 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 district –clic– ). 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:
- 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.)
- 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 karma –clic– to check your credit score.
- 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:
- Rent an apartment
- Find a job