You should be well-prepared before you immigrate to the USA. The biggest step of winning a Green Card is already behind you and now you are finally getting ready to move. You may be wondering what you should bring with you or which documents you need to translate into English - with our tips and tricks, you should be more than well-prepared.
You won the Green Card Lottery and already have a Green Card in your name? Then it is time for the most exciting phase of the Green Card process – moving to the USA! The better you prepare for your move, the easier it will be to start living in the USA. With our moving-to-the-USA-checklist, you will have a clear view of what needs to be done and what you have already completed. Ideally, you should take care of the following things early on:
Having you ever wondered whether it is possible to move to the USA without being able to speak perfect English? Strictly speaking, there are no language requirements for entering the USA. Of course, being able to speak and understand English at a certain level is definitely an advantage and will make it easier for you to adjust to life in the USA. If your English skills need a bit of work, it would be a good idea to start practicing before you move to America.
Children will quickly learn English at school and many of the state supported schools provide additional courses for children in need of special support. Children can also take an English as a second language (ESL) course in school instead of the regular English lessons. Pupils who already have a certain level of English will take part in normal school lessons and receive additional support. It is good to look at after school English programs for group or individual lessons.
Adults with no English can also apply for English as a foreign language courses (ESL). Normally, these courses are offered by either state-supported institutions, adult education centers or private language schools. Colleges and schools in your neighborhood will usually offer adult education courses supported by the state or local government. These ESL courses are often taught by volunteers from the neighborhood so not only can you learn English, but you can also make friends. The advantage of these courses is that they are inexpensive or even free.
There a few required documents and forms that you should not forget to bring with you when you move to the USA. It is very important to bring all documents! It is advisable to collect all your documents and have them translated into English before you move. Once you are in the USA, it may be more of a hassle to have the documents translated or they may not be available from the American authorities.
Important documents that you should absolutely bring with you:
Please keep in mind that all important documents and records should be translated into English
Tip: Make more than one copy of all your documents and pack them in separate boxes. It is advisable to carry the original documents with you in your carry-on luggage. You never know if a box or suitcase might get lost during the move.
It is amazing how much stuff you can collect over the years. Before you pack everything in a container and send it over the ocean to America, maybe you should give it a second thought: What should I really bring with me to the USA? You must also decide if you want immediately sell your home or rent.
A well-meaning tip: Separate yourself from your possessions. Most of it is unnecessary weight. First of all, there is a lot you can buy in the USA. Second of all, purchasing new or used furniture or appliances in the USA can be cheaper than importing all your belongings. Naturally, there are some things that you should not part with like valuable porcelain or antique furniture. You should consider every object and think about if bringing it to the USA is really worth the trouble.
Many things are different in the USA including the outlets and the voltage standard for electric appliances. The outlets in America look different and only carry 110 volts. Most electronic devices will require an adapter, which can become annoying. Some devices, like vacuum cleaners, coffee machines, hair dryers, microwaves, stoves and washing machines are not adaptable or require an additional transformer. Maintenance of these devices can also be more expensive because replacement parts may not be available in the USA. Overall: leave your electronic devices at home and buy yourself new ones in the USA.
Most of your furniture can be left as well. If you no longer need certain pieces of furniture, you should sell them or leave them behind. Most housing in America has a kitchen included and some even have electronic devices already installed. Moreover, most bedrooms have walk-in closets. So, you can save yourself the time and effort and leave your large wardrobes behind!
Devices that rely on batteries, like smartphones, laptops and computers can be used without problems in the USA. All you must do is buy a new battery charger with an American plug.
It is hard to separate yourself from your car, isn’t it? This decision is not easy, but also not cheap. Below are the reasons why you might want to leave your car behind:
Nobody wants to leave their best friend behind. It is possible to bring your pets with you to the USA, but you must follow certain guidelines. Four-legged friends like dogs and cats are required to have, for example, a health certificate in English from their veterinarian that is not older than 30 days. It is important to keep in mind, however, that each state has their own regulations. Please inform yourself of the regulations and then decide what is best for your four-legged friend.
Once you have a good idea about which possessions you want to bring with you, you can start searching for a company to help you with the move. The more you want to bring, the more expensive it will be. Some Green Card holders pack all their belongings into one container and have it shipped over while others are able to pack everything they own in suitcases for the flight over.
Make sure that you organize how your belongings will be transferred to your new home. Some people hire a company to move their boxes and some pick-up their belongings on their own in order to save money. If you hire a haulage company, they will take care of the customs declaration forms for you. Depending on how much and what you want to bring with you, it may be worth the price to hire a company after comparing prices and getting estimates. Make your move as easy as possible by planning ahead.
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If you do not have any family or friends in the USA with whom you can stay with, then it is advisable to organize accommodations before you move to the USA. You may choose to rent or buy an apartment or house before you move. Searching for an apartment in the USA is relatively easy and depending on where you decide to live, rental prices are reasonable. Of course, housing prices vary greatly and it is more expensive to live in popular areas.
At the very beginning, you should try to stay flexible by renting your house or apartment on a month-to-month basis rather than signing into year-long rental contracts. Then you have the possibility to move again if desired.
Alternatively, you can always live in a hotel room while you search for the perfect place to live. Many hotels offer discounted prices for longer stays. Keep in mind that you might not have enough room for all your moving boxes in a hotel room.
Tip: Storage spaces are everywhere in the USA and rental prices are usually fair. If you need time to find the perfect place to live, you should consider renting one.
The most important hurdle to jump is setting your feet on American soil and once that is done, you are home free. New beginnings, however, include completing a few organizational things. Ideally, you will have a few weeks before your new job, studies or child’s school year starts. You should use this time to explore your new home as well as getting a few bureaucratic things done in the USA.
The following things should be included on your list of things to do:
Applying for a Social Security Card should be at the top of your to-do list when you arrive in the USA. Firstly, it is a rule that all immigrants apply for a Social Security number and secondly, the Social Security Card is an important identification card. The Social Security Card is your identification and proof that you have been issued a Social Security number. Without this card, you cannot work in the USA and in most cases, cannot do many things like open a bank account.
In some cases, the Social Security Card can be applied for at a US consulate in your home country. It is much easier, however, to apply for one in the USA. There are many Social Security offices all across America where you can do this. The staff at the Social Security Administration will help you fill out the application. You and your family members will need the following documents to apply:
Your Social Security Card should arrive around two weeks after applying.
Tipp: When applying for the Social Security Card, it is not a problem to give a temporary address, like a hotel. It is common for Americans to move often during their lifetime.
Depending on the US state, you may use your foreign driver’s license for a certain amount of time. As a general rule, twelve months because that is how long you are allowed to rent a car as a foreigner in the USA. It is important to inform yourself of the rules for your country. Having an international driver’s license is not strictly required, but it is recommended.
A driver’s license in the USA holds a lot of value. It is an important proof of identification in America and you should get one as soon as possible. Similar to the Social Security Card, it is a central identification document.
To get a driver’s license, you must pass a written theoretical exam and a driving test. Each state has different requirements.
If you do not have or want a driver’s license, it is possible to apply for an alternative identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Health insurance is a very complex topic in the USA. For many people moving to the USA, especially from countries with universal healthcare, it is very important to understand what options you have. It most cases, it is recommended to contact an expert who can advise you.
In general, Americans pay for their medical care either directly or indirectly through their health insurance. Do not be surprised if you are required to make a payment when visiting the doctor. This is very common in the USA and it is known as a co-payment.
Healthcare in the USA is expensive. Therefore, it is advantageous to have an employer pay it for you in full. Some employers pay only part of your health insurance and you may be required to pay for the rest. This is called a premium.
In the USA, healthcare is a combined system of private and state-funded insurance. You may compare prices and find private health insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Medicare and Medicaid are two federally-funded health insurance programs for certain groups of people:
Medicare is a federally administered health insurance program for Americans over 65 years old as well as for people with disabilities or end-stage renal disease. The program is financed by taxes, premiums, etc. Older American citizens or foreigners with a work or permanent resident visa who have paid at least 10 years long into the Medicare system qualify to use it.
Medicaid is a health insurance program for low-income residents including families with children, pregnant women, and disabled or older people. The program is a joint effort funded by taxes from both the federal government and individual states.
Around a third of all Americans have their health insurance provided by either the Medicare or Medicaid program.
In many cities and communities there are so-called clinics or community health care centers which provide free or low-cost medical care.
If you do not have health insurance, then you must pay a fine. Americans who have no health insurance must pay for their own medical care. It is no surprise to hear then, that most people who file bankruptcy in the United States do so because they got sick or had an accident and cannot pay the extremely high medical bills.
But do not worry: Even if you have no health insurance, American law forbids any hospital or doctor refusing to treat you in an emergency.
You have already worked for a long time in your home country and paid into the state-funded pension plan. Now that you are moving to the USA, you may be wondering what happens to your pension and if you qualify for the pension plan in the USA.
The American pension system is called Social Security or officially, “The Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program” (OASDI). Most people rely on this federal program funded by taxes for their pension plan in America.
If you live and work in the USA, you must pay into the Social Security fund. Nevertheless, it is also advisable to apply for a private pension plan fund. In the United States, the age of retirement for people born after 1960 is 67 years. It is not unusual, however, for people above the age of retirement to keep working. You should check with your home country about what happens to your pension when you move to the USA. After you have worked in the USA for at least 10 years, you are eligible for Social Security benefits.
After your arrival in the USA, you should open an account at an American bank as soon as possible. This is made easier if you already have a Social Security Card. Check which banks have the best rates or are nearest to you and make an appointment with a bank clerk.
Banks in America are really not so different from other banks around the world. American banks provide different accounts for customer needs such as savings, checking or business accounts. If you want to build your credit history, you should open a checking account. Before doing so, you should call the bank and make an appointment. The bank clerk will let you know what documents you need, but you should go ahead and prepare the following documents as well:
When you open your account, you will get a debit card which can be used as an ATM card as well checks, if desired. In the United States, you can find cash machines called Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) almost everywhere in the USA. Just like in most countries, you must pay a fee if you withdraw cash from an ATM that does not belong to your bank. Debit and credit cards are the most popular forms of payment in the USA. It is very advisable to get an international credit card. When opening your bank account, you should also request to receive a Secured Credit Card to help build credit history.
After opening an American bank account, you can begin to build up your so-called credit history. You might be thinking, “Credit history, what’s that?”. Your credit history is a record of your financial past and is important in the USA if you are looking to purchase a house or car, apply for a new credit card or make any sort of large purchase or investment.
Credit history is based on the following criteria:
With a Secured Credit Card, you have the ability to take out loans and build a good credit score. Unpaid bills are bad for your credit score. If you pay your rent and electricity bill, for example, on-time, your credit history score will be positive.