What to do when arriving in the US?

Welcome! Arriving in the US is so exciting! But there are a lot of things to do for a newcomer in the USA. The information below is by no means an exhaustive list. Also, it may not contains latest updates from immigration. So you should definitely explore beyond this site. However, it will get you started with first important steps. That way, you can focus on your kids and the new school year with peace of mind.

Employment Verification Letter (EVL)

You will need this to purchase or rent a home and open a bank account. This will serve in lieu of a U.S. credit history to show that you are a financially qualified applicant.  This letter should include your :

  • Start date in the U.S
  • Length of service with your company
  • Salary and any moving or living allowances that your company is providing to you.

It should be on the company letterhead and be signed. Moreover, it should include the name and phone contact information of a member of the U.S. staff (your boss or HR representative for example). This contact should be able to confirm by phone that you are employed in the U.S. offices.  You may need several copies of this letter : for your landlord, the bank, the utilities company etc. Be sure to have as many as you need.

Open a bank account.

This is one of the first things you need to do arriving in the US. With it, you will be able to pay and collect money, and to build your credit score. You will need

  • Your EVL.
  • A copy of your home country banking statements, paycheck stubs, and credit card statements for a few months.
  • A photo ID such as your driving license or passport
  • A credit card from home
  • Some cash in U.S. dollars (tip : always carry some cash with you in the US)

 You will be able to open a checking account with a debit card even before you get your Social Security number. Once you have your Social Security number (this will take about 4 weeks after arrival), you will be able to apply for a credit card as well. All the above may vary with each bank. Here is a list of the largest banks in America. Check with your bank what they need to open a bank account for an expat.

 Get your Social Security Number and Card.

It will be useful for many things. For example, it will allow you to work in the US. You will have to wait 10 business days to go to a Social Security office. It is very important that your full name appears exactly the same on all of your official documents (passport, I-94, driving license, and EVL).  Any discrepancy can result in a much longer waiting period to get your Social Security number. If you are married, your spouse will need your original marriage certificate, as well as the other documents mentioned above. For more info visit Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers

Get your driving license.

This will serve as a regular ID for pretty much everything. You will need :

  • Your home country driving license.
  • If your license is in your home country language only and not in English, we recommend that you obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). Do this while you are still in your home country. This document is a recognized translation of your home country driving license and should be carried with your home country license at all times until you get a State license in the U.S. If your license is already in English, you do not need to get an IDP.
  • Your Social Security number
  • Proof of New Jersey residency.

Go to the Motor Vehicle Commission site for full details. Use your home country driving license and IDP until you get a state driving license.

Other important things to have :

Here is a very important tip : be sure to gather your medical records as well as school and medical records for your children including their immunizations for school registration.  If you use any prescription drugs, be sure to fill the prescriptions and bring these with you in case there is a delay in finding a doctor in the U.S.

To go further down the things to prepare when arriving in the US, please visit : Bienvenue aux États-Unis, Consulat général de France à New York, Immigrating to the US as an Expat [Full Guide], Association des Français du New Jersey, Association des Français de New York.

Follow the links for more tips for parents, or to discover the French American Academy’s community