Settling down in a new country can be both exciting and stressful. But don’t be too worried. If you are coming to the U.S. to study (i.e., F-1 visa) or for work (i.e., H1B or L visa holders), Velo has the tips to help you make the transition easier.
#1 Open a U.S. Bank Account
In U.S., there are typically two types of bank accounts: A Checking account and Savings account. The access to your money is the major difference between these two accounts.
Checking accounts are typically the basic banking accounts for daily use, such as paying bills and ATM withdrawals. They usually earn low to zero interest. Meanwhile, savings accounts are better for storing money that you might not need to access often or right away. Therefore, you might earn a higher interest on savings accounts. Savings accounts also have a withdraw limit.
#2 Get a Secured Credit Card to Start Building Personal Credit
Since you are new to the U.S., you might likely not have any credit history. Getting a U.S. bank-issued credit card might be a hurdle. It could take about 4 to 6 months to create any useful credit history.
A secured credit card could be a choice. A secured credit card is a type of credit card where you make a deposit into a checking account that “secures” the line of credit. For example, you can put $1,000 as a deposit and get a line of credit for $1,000.
When shopping for a secured credit card, choose the one that gives you the highest credit limit, since this can lower your Credit Utilization Rate. If you have not obtained a U.S. Social Security number (SSN), make sure you choose one that doesn’t require it.
After you have opened a secured credit card, make sure you use your credit card often, so you can establish a credit score. Of course, make sure to keep your Credit Utilization Rate low and pay your bills on time.
#3 Rent an Apartment
There are many websites or mobile apps you can use for a home search, Zillow, Trulia, to name a couple.
In addition to those, forrentuniversity.com is also popular among students to look for apartments near campuses.
Craigslist is another source widely used by local residents. The website has a simple no-fuss presentation. But you can find almost everything here you might need to settle down, ranging from housing to furniture.
One thing to know is that some rental properties offer move-in bonuses. So don’t forget to ask. Also, if you have a friend already living in the rental community and the community provides a referral program, you can give your friends’ referral code to the rental office and both of you can share the bonus.
October to December is usually the best time to look for an apartment as this is the off-season. The rent is usually the highest in the summer months when many families and students prepare moving for the new school year.
If you have kids, you should consider school ratings and child care options as well. Check the apartment websites for public school ratings. The rating can range from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score.
#4 Get Your Social Security Number (SSN)
A Social Security number (SSN) is needed for employment and getting paid. So apply for an SSN as soon as possible if you are on a work visa or if you entered the U.S. with a green card. Depending on where you live, it usually takes 4 to 6 weeks for your SSN card to arrive after you apply.
#5 Get a U.S. Driver License
You can use your home country driver’s license in the U.S. if it is valid and is in English. Many states allow you to use your home country license for up to 6 months. However, each state has a different allowance period. Make sure you check the requirement for your state.
It is still recommended that you get a U.S. driver’s license at your earliest convenience. Getting a U.S. driver’s license starts your driving history. A longer driving history can help reduce your auto insurance premium.
Here are some popular auto insurance companies in the U.S.: Geico, State Farm, American Automobile Association (AAA), and Asian miles.
Some insurance companies would count your driving history in your home country and thus provide lower premiums. You can call the insurance company to ask for more details.
Any content, advice and forecast ("information") in this article is for informational purposes only and does not represent Velo's opinion or advice. As such, the information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on, for professional investment, accounting, legal or tax advice, or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your own investment, accounting, legal or tax advisors, or physician or other qualified health provider before engaging in any activity. Velo does not verify the accuracy of the information provided in this article, and is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.