Planning a move can be stressful—but the tension is ratcheted up to another level when that relocation is to another country like the United States.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer logistics of an overseas move, don’t worry. We’ve made a timeline that will give you an idea of what you need to do and when you need to do it to make your move as smooth as possible.
- Take a look at what programs are available in your area of study and see what their required standardized tests are, e.g. SAT, GRE, IELTS, or TOEFL.
- Research available scholarships from private, corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.
- Address any existing health issues and medical needs.
- Schedule any necessary procedures or surgeries.
- Consult a tax specialist in your home country and begin the conversation about what paying taxes in America will mean for your finances.
- Consider accelerating certain income like dividends, selling your stocks, or possibly deferring recognition of the income until after you move to the U.S.
- Learn about the schools in the city you’re considering moving to by looking at the schools’ report cards. (Learn more about that here.)
- Consult school websites to see a list of where students went to college the previous year.
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- Apply for your Social Security Number at the same time as your immigrant visa.
- Take stock of your expenses, and make sure that you know what debts you’re currently responsible for. If you can pay off any outstanding debts now, that’s ideal.
- If you have an outstanding student loan, you may be able to arrange a grace period of lower of payments while you’re abroad.
- If you see any recurring payments for services or subscriptions you rarely use, consider cancelling them now. It’ll save you time down the road, and the extra money will certainly come in handy as you save for your move.
- If you’re considering applying for the O-1 extraordinary ability visa, the K-1 fiancé(e) visa, or the marriage-based immigrant permanent residency visa (also known as the green card through marriage), it can require this much time based on the lengthy and complicated application and review process.
- Check if your company will pay for your work visa and any legal fees.
- For H1-B visa applicants, search for a job with a company willing to file the application for work authorization. H1-B applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree, a job offer from a company, and to collect a significant number of documents which need to be submitted to an immigration attorney by early to mid-March.
- For O-1 extraordinary ability visas applicants, start compiling a report of all your accomplishments, international prizes, and letters of recommendation.
- For student visa applicants, research application requirements for target schools.
- Determine your housing budget and needs.
- If you’re moving for work and your company has an American office, speak to coworkers about their experience living in the United States.
- Ask if your company has any pre-existing relationships with moving companies, brokers, or real estate agents.
- If you’re moving for school, research your campus and off-campus housing options.
- If you’re planning on buying a home, open a bank account and credit card with a bank that operates in the United States in order to build a credit score.
- You will have heard from the programs you applied to, so make a decision on which program you’ll be accepting admission to. You’ll need to pay your enrollment fee.
- Apply for housing through your institution.
- Book travel to and temporary accommodations at your institution of choice.
- Contact your employer or school regarding health insurance options.
- If you’re self-employed, contact your current health insurance provider and ask about coverage while you’re abroad.
- Consult an insurance expert in your home country to discuss international plans.
- Review your foreign investments and understand how foreign holdings are taxed and reported to the IRS.
- For parents, if you have selected the school you want for your children, follow the registration process specific to that school.
- Convert your credit card into a U.S. credit card if possible. (This will also help you start to build a credit score.)
- For students: prepare to apply for a student visa.
- Consult with people who have already gone through the same visa process you’re starting. They can be a great resource for information and expert advice.
- If you’re moving before a lease is complete in your home country, examine the agreement and identify if there are any penalties for moving out early.
- If you’re moving for work, see if your company will pay for moving expenses, temporary accommodations, or apartment broker fees.
- For students, review the types of on-campus and off-campus accommodations.
- Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). F-1 students will need to request an I-20; J-1 students will need an DS-2019. You may also need to submit a copy of your admission letter, the identification page of your passport, a copy of your I-94 arrival record, as well as proof of pre-payment of processing and shipping fees.
- Unless you are transferring from another U.S. school with an unexpired entry visa, you will need to apply for your actual student visa with the US State Department. (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from this, but still need a COE.)
- Visit your dentist and ophthalmologist, if necessary.
- Reach out to an international tax consultant in the U.S. and talk to them about your specific immigration and financial circumstances.
- Sign you or your children up for English language classes if necessary.
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- Contact your bank or credit reporting agency, and request credit references like length and payment history of accounts.
- If possible, start a U.S. bank account. This will be easiest if you’re currently a customer of an international bank. An international bank may be able to start the process of opening your U.S. bank account.
- Determine whether your organization will allow pension contributions while you’re abroad.
- F-1 and J-1 visa applicants need to have a valid passport, acceptance letter, COE from their educational institution (I-20), financial documents, and proof they have paid their I-901 Fee to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the visa appointment. Applicants also need to be prepared to show they do not intend to permanently immigrate to the United States after their academic program is finished.
- Accept or reject housing assignments given by your educational institution and pay any relevant deposits. If you are waitlisted or have rejected your housing assignment, apply to alternative living arrangements like International House or research other off-campus housing options.
- Let people and relevant organizations know that you’re changing your address.
- Organize temporary accommodations if necessary.
- Double-check any paperwork and the information on your student visa.
- Ensure your travel arrangements are all squared away.
- Renew and fill any medications or prescriptions.
- Evaluate how much you own in foreign bank accounts. If you have more than $10,000 in a non-American bank, you have to report the foreign accounts to the IRS every year.
- Buy any school supplies you may need.
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- Gather paperwork you’ll need to apply for credit cards or loans in the States: Government-issued ID, credit history, bank statements, and proof of income (typically a current pay stub or tax return).
- Call your utility providers, notify them of your move date, and arrange for service shut-off. This includes your internet, heat, water, gas, electric, and trash collection services. Pay off any outstanding balances at this time.
- Call your bank and notify them of your move date.
- Obtain your current Bank Identifier or SWIFT code.
- Contact your local tax authorities, notify them of your move date, and see to any outstanding tax bills.
- Ensure that all your visas are correct and that you have all relevant paperwork for entering the United States.
- If you haven’t secured housing, try checking local Facebook groups or Craigslist, asking landlords about other units, and even taking a walk around your desired neighborhood.
HSBC commissioned this article. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HSBC.