Moving to the U.S.
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Moving to the U.S.
Moving to
the U.S.

Start preparing early for your move. There will be many decisions to make and numerous things to take care of prior to your departure. These are some things to think about prior to your move.


Credit Report from your Origin Country
This is extremely helpful in the application process to rent housing. If this is not something that is common in your origin country, then any documentation that shows your payment history on a house payment, rent, credit card debt or anything else will be helpful. You are trying to show that you are a good risk as a tenant—someone who pays their debts in a timely manner.


In some situations, a letter from your bank stating how long you have been a customer, what your credit “rating” is, any past history with loans you have taken, for example, can assist you throughout the settling-in process here.


Deposits for Rental Housing
Plan to bring enough money to secure a rental property equal to two month’s rent; one month for the security deposit and one month for the first-month’s rent. In some instances, amounts equaling two month’s rent have been required for the security deposit because of lack of adequate credit history here.


Documents for School-Aged Children
School records are usually required when registering your child at a new school. Often, copies will not be sufficient, and records with a raised seal will be necessary. All documents must be in English or translated to English. Complete and accurate immunization records are required to enroll your child into a school in California. Doctors and dentists’ records are also helpful to have.
Click here for PDF for CA Immunization Requirements for Child Care.
Click here for PDF for Immunization Requirements for School Age Children.


Important Documents

There are numerous documents that you should bring with you. Do not pack these in your luggage or with your household goods move.

  • If married, original marriage certificate
  • Driver’s license from home country
  • Employment verification Letter (stating salary and start date)
  • Birth certificates of your children


Click here for Document Checklist.

SSA = (Social Security Administration)
SS# = (Social Security number)


If you are a non-U.S. born client coming into the United States to work, our services include accompaniment to the local social security office if policy permits. Applying for a Social Security card is a relatively easy process, if you are patient, and provided you bring all of the required documentation, the completed SSA form Click here for SSA Form and follow our recommend guidelines.


The U.S. Government mandates a personal interview for anyone who is applying for a SS# for the first time and we strongly suggest that you wait at least 24 hours before applying from the date of your arrival so that the U.S. Homeland Security Department has had the proper amount of time to share your data with the SSA.


Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. This process has been automated. You will need to prove your legal-visitor status to the Social Security and can access the form online after your legal entry into the United States. To access the form, click here. Bring a copy of this to the Social Security office.


Click here for documents you will need to apply for a SS#.

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).


ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a U.S. filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.


Click here for information on obtaining an ITIN.

One of the first items on your “to do” list, is to open a bank account locally. You may open a checking account at any bank; however, it is recommended that you use a bank with international banking relationships. This simply makes it easier to transfer funds and obtain services that you will need to conduct banking between your origin country and the United States. In the United States, many routine payments are made by check, especially rent payments. With on-line banking and debit cards, the use of paper checks has been reduced, but it is still necessary to have a checking account.


To get an idea of the different types of checking and savings accounts offered, most banks will have a web site. We do not recommend any bank over another. A couple of suggestions for information gathering are Wells Fargo and Bank of America.


In general, to open an account you will need:


  • Photo identification (passport)
  • Additional form of identification (credit card or driver’s license)
  • A minimum of $100 to deposit into the account–cash, travelers’ checks
  • United States mailing address (It may be possible to use your new work address temporarily; check with your employer first.
  • United States phone number
  • SSN – you may open an account without one

This can be a challenge! Most United States banks, lenders and landlords do not accept your wonderful credit rating from your origin country. So, you are starting all over here.


You will be able to get a loan for your car, but it will be at a higher interest rate. You will be able to get a credit card from some banks, but it will be with a lower maximum amount than you would get with a good credit history here in the U.S. Some banks will not issue a credit card until you have had an account with the bank for six months. Others will issue a credit card only if you keep a minimum balance in your checking account. These are questions to ask before you open a bank account.


Check out your company’s credit union. Credit unions have historically provided the best rates for car loans and they may recognize your good credit from your origin country.


Start buying everything you purchase on credit. For instance, if you go to a department store to make some household purchases, fill out their credit card application and put your charges on it. Then, pay your bill promptly. You are now establishing a good credit rating in the United States. After six months of this, things will get a lot simpler.

A drivers’ license is the picture identification most commonly used in the United States. If you plan to drive a car in California, you will need to apply for a California Driver’s License. An International Driver’s License is not valid in the state of California. Visitors can drive using their driver’s license from their country of origin as long as it is not expired.


You will need to have your Social Security number before starting the process to apply for a drivers’ license. You will need to take a written test and a driving test. Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website to access the DMV Manual, take online practice tests, and make an appointment.


California Identification Card
If you do not intend to drive, you should apply for an identification card. A regular ID card is valid for six years.

Purchasing a car in the United States can be a confusing process. Here are some web sites and services that can help you facilitate the process.


  • Expat Ride – You can arrange for your car before or after your move to the U.S. ExpatRide provides car financing for new and used cars to individuals without a U.S. credit history./
  • – This is a good web site to use when determining what kind of car to purchase. It also gives a lot of information on how to negotiate with car dealers and financing tips.
  • AAA Vehicle Purchasing Service – If you become a AAA member you can use the Vehicle Purchasing Service.
  • Costco – This is available to Costco members. The service is similar to the AAA program, but Costco does not provide financing.
  • Gulliver Car Connection Center – This is a website for purchase of used cars.

Most United States insurance companies will not give you credit on your driving record from another country. This means that when you find an insurance company that will write a policy for you with no United States driving experience; it will usually be at a higher rate than someone who has a good United States driving record.


If you would like a referral to an insurance broker, please contact your Relocation Dimensions consultant. Once you obtain car insurance, consider joining the California State Automobile Association (AAA) for their roadside service. It is inexpensive and a real lifesaver when your battery dies because you left the lights on, or your car breaks down on the freeway.


AAA is a great resource for things to do and see all over the United States. Once a member, you can obtain all kinds of maps and books on traveling in the United States free of charge.

California law states that children must be properly restrained in an appropriate child passenger restraint system in the rear seat of a motor vehicle, until they turn 8 or grow to a height of 4 foot 9 inches.

Click here for information on choosing the car seat appropriate for your child.

If you are moving from another country and would like to purchase a U.S. cell phone, most of the companies require that you have a Social Security number and sign a two year contract. If you need a cell phone right away, AT&T offers a “go phone” service, where you can purchase a phone and prepay a flat fee per month with no contract. To start this type of service, call 1-800-343-6100 or click here.


You will need to have a debit or credit card to order the phone and start the service.