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Your checklist for moving to the United States
With a little preparation, you can take the headache out of moving to the States and have a smart, stress free move.
Coming to terms with leaving friends and family behind and wrapping up loose ends to prepare for your move leaves little time to deal with the admin stuff of moving abroad. Some items, like redirecting your mail, are easier than others — like opening a bank account in your new home country. With a little foresight and lots of lists, your to-dos don’t have to be daunting.
Even if you consider yourself a laid-back traveler, it’s worthwhile to give our lists a once-over before you move to the United States — because we all forget things in the excitement of a life-changing decision.
Step 1: Must-do items
- Passport. If your passport’s expiration date is within six months of your travel, consider renewing it before you leave.
- Driver’s license. Make sure your photo ID is valid and current.
- Visa. Apply for your visa, and carefully read its entry and entrance conditions.
- Buy your plane tickets. Organize transportation to the airport, and let friends and family know your departure details so they can say goodbye before you leave.
- Money. Take cold, hard cash in case you need it when you land.
- Personal documentation. This includes your passport, birth certificate, wedding certificate, adoption certificate, resume or CV, academic paperwork, driver’s license, insurance policies, will, trust records, bank statements, investment documents, immunization and medical history and shipping documents.
- Copies of personal documentation. Leave copies of your personal documents with family or friends at home, and scatter the rest among your belongings. They’ll come in handy if the originals are lost or stolen.
- Phones and electronic devices. Don’t forget your laptop, notepad or iPads
- Adaptors. Depending on your destination, your home country’s sockets may not be compatible with those in the States. Buy an adaptor at home so that you can use and charge your devices right away. If you’re traveling with numerous electronics, invest in a powerboard. That way, you’ll need only one adaptor to charge all your gadgets.
- Give your contact details to family and friends. Provide the important people in your life with enough details to contact you, if needed.
- Advise the government of your move. Depending on how long you’re leaving and if you are from a country where voting is mandatory, you’ll need to advise government departments of your departure to avoid penalties for failing to vote or show up for jury service.
Step 2: Tying up loose ends before you leave
- Packing. Pack what you don’t need or schedule those items to be shipped to your new location. Grab a storage facility or leave furniture with family and friends. Sell anything you don’t need, and put your earnings toward your relocation fund. Also, check with customs on what is and isn’t permitted in the US.
- Redirect your mail. And cancel subscriptions.
- Cancel ongoing bank transactions. Think about Spotify, your Internet and cable plan, gym, phone and travel cards. You may need to cancel insurance on your car, home, income or life too.
- Assign someone to take care of outstanding matters. This could include legal matters at home.
Step 3: Set up your finances
- Set up bank accounts. You might be able to apply for savings, transactions and term deposit accounts online before you leave.
- Apply for a credit card. Read eligibility requirements for applying for a credit card in the United States.
- Advise your financial institution at home of your move. To avoid your bank blocking your account for suspected fraudulent activity, let them know your plans. If your internet banking or transactions are linked to your local mobile number, update it to link to your international number. Or make sure you take your local number with you on roaming so you aren’t locked out of your funds.
- Request credit references from your bank. You’ll need this information to obtain a visa, rent a home or apply for a loan.
- Obtain the Bank Code Number/SWIFT code of your current bank account. These codes allow you to transfer funds from your home account to your US account with an international money transfer and have cash available when you arrive.
- Advise the tax office that you’ll be abroad. Pay any necessary taxes for the financial year.
- Obtain tax documents for the US. If you’re required to pay tax in the US for the financial year, look to the IRS website for the forms you need to file as a foreigner.
- Sort out your student loans. If you have a student loan, learn your options for paying it off while abroad.
- Clear outstanding debts and bills. Or organize regular payments to avoid a bad credit rating on your return.
- Obtain a loan. If you think you’ll need the extra money, learn how to obtain one when you land.
Step 3: Update your utilities
- Notify home utilities and pay off outstanding bills. Water, gas, electricity, sewer and trash — let each servicer know that you’re leaving your home to avoid getting hit with an unexpected bill. If you’re renting out your home, change your billing address for all utilities to someone who can manage your affairs in your absence.
- Set up new utilities. Once you’ve arrived and have a permanent place to stay, don’t forget to organize Internet, phone plans and insurance.
Step 5: Update your accommodations
- Organize accommodation at your new home. And get the address too — or at least a PO box you can give to family and friends.
- Close out your current accommodation. If you rent, let your landlord know about your move. End your lease, pay off bills and final rent and get your deposit back. If you own a home, consider hiring an agent to rent and oversee it until you return.
Step 6: Keep in contact with friends and family
- Set up Skype or WhatsApp. Give your friends and family your username and account details for easy staying in touch.
- Know your time differences. To make it easier to organize your Skype chat dates, naturally.
- Turn roaming on or get an international number. Give your number to family and friends so they can contact you.
- Keep a physical, written record of your details. Includes phone number and address, in case you forget. (It is something new, after all.)
- Get addresses, phone numbers and Facebook contacts. You never know who you’d like to send a postcard or present to or say hello to on a whim. It’s also good to get people’s birthdays, so they know you haven’t forgotten about them while on your adventure.
Step 7: Stay ahead of your work
- Notify work of your resignation or move. Provide ample notice to your employer that you’ll be leaving.
- Employ migration agents and recruitment agents. They are worthwhile investments to help you settle in and find work.
- Obtain references. Inform your work references of your move in case they need to be contacted. Get their email addresses to avoid the difficulty that comes with calling different time zones. Also, ask if they have any leads for work in your new home.
Step 8: Sort out your insurance
- Sort out insurances at home. Cancel insurance coverage you’ll no longer need, and look into new providers in the US.
- Take out travel insurance. This can be with an insurer at home or in your home country with a nonresident travel insurance policy.
- Take out health insurance. Your visa might require you to obtain minimal health coverage.
Step 9: Prepare for flight
- Passport. Sounds silly, but you don’t want to accidentally pack your passport into your check-in luggage. Make sure it’s on you so you can clear customs when you land.
- Understand the weather at your destination. If you’re traveling far, the weather might be quite different from the weather you left in.
- A good book for the plane. A long journey is inevitable.
Tips for getting settled in easier
- Contacts in your new home. See if any of your friends or family know someone in the States who can help you when you first arrive. It’s always good to have a network you can turn to.
- American slang and lingo. Familiarize yourself with a few common phrases to avoid embarrassment and confusion.
- Travel from the airport to your accommodation. Know how to get from the airport to your place to stay. You’re jet-lagged enough.
- The US transportation system. Familiarize yourself with the transport system, what station/area you need to go to and how ticketing works. Also, know when public transport ends at night.
- Contact details of your embassy in America. Keep these on hand in case you need it.
- United States law. Familiarize yourself generally with American law to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Wi-Fi hotspots. When you first land, it’s likely you won’t have Internet access, so it’s good to know where you can access the Internet to keep you connected.
- Driving laws. If you plan on driving, understand general road rules and see if your license is valid to use in the US. Understand that Americans drive on the right side of the road.
- Download a rideshare app. This could be handy for the first few weeks to help you get around while settling in.
- Prescription medicine. Make sure your prescription medicine is up to date and bring copies of any medical certificates you might need to provide to medical professionals, whether they’re for ongoing conditions or prescriptions.
Things to know before you arrive
- Learn the weather of your destination — you’ll want a nice umbrella, sunscreen, or both — depending on where you land.
- Tipping is customary and ranges from 15% to 25% of the cost of the bill (including tax) based on the level of service.
- Get a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) so you can work and pay taxes as a foreigner.
- Learn which public holidays your employer recognizes. Not all holidays are required to be observed.
- The number for emergency services in the US is 911.
- Know your clothing and shoe size in the US system, so when you’re out shopping you can find pieces that fit.
- Prepare to convert from the metric system to the Imperial System for weights and measures.
- Some people find food portions in the US to be much bigger than in their home country, so keep that in mind while grocery shopping or ordering a meal.
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