Moving to the USA

Moving to the USA

19-24 minutes
Your immigration to the USA should be carefully planned. 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 following tips and tricks,
you should be more than well-prepared!
Green Card Lottery

Take the chance of living in the USA and apply for the official US Green Card
Preparing to move to the USA
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 learn what needs to
be done. Ideally, you should take care of the following things early on: 
Organize housing or a temporary accommodation in the USA
• Plan your move well: Do not skip any steps and make a plan for your
current and future home before and after the move
• Collect the most important documents and have them translated into
• English skills: Refresh your English skills before you go

Can i move to the USA if i don´t speak english?
Do you wonder 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. Students 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 skills 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 benefit of these courses is that they are inexpensive or
even free.
Which documents do I need?
There a few required documents and forms that you should 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: 
• Personal identification card and your passport are required
• Get an international birth certificate (issued in English) for yourself and for
every member of your family
• Bring the original copy of your marriage or divorce certificate(s) and an
English translation 
• If you are a single mother or father, you should bring your original custody
declaration and an English translation
• If you have not yet closed your bank account in your home country, then
you should not forget to bring your important bank documents including account
number and transfer information

• Don’t forget to bring your tax records and other important financial
• Have your job application documents (resume, cover letter and work
recommendations) translated professionally into English
• You should make sure to bring your school transcripts, school and
university degrees and any proof of further education with you – in original and
an English translation
• If you are still studying or just recently completed a university degree, you
should have your credentials evaluated and recognized by an accredited
• Visit your doctor before you go and get an international vaccine record for
every family member and have all important medical records translated into
• If you already have a job interview or a job contract, you should not forget
to bring these with you
• Furthermore, if you have a driver’s license, it is advisable to get an
international driver’s license
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.

Moving to America
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 take to the USA? You must
also decide if you want immediately sell your home or rent out.
A well-meaning tip: Separate yourself from your possessions. Most of it is
unnecessary baggage. 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
Electronic devices and furniture
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 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
• High transportation costs
• American safety, bumper, theft prevention and emission standards
• The high cost of importing it into the USA and customs
• The requirement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have the bottom
of the car thoroughly cleaned by a special steam jet cleaner
• According to American requirements, your car may be modified, sent back
or even destroyed
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
Moving companies and moving costs

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 into 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.

Last check before you depart
• Do you and all family members have a valid passport and visa?
• Have you already had all your documents translated into English, packed
the originals and more than one copy?
• Have you already sold your apartment/house or found a new tenant?
• Have you registered your departure with local authorities (if necessary)?
• Have you canceled all your running contracts like, for example, cell phone,
electricity provider, internet or any magazine subscriptions?
• Have you informed the financial authorities of your departure (if
• Have you informed your pension plan of your departure?
• Have you purchased travel insurance?
• Have you hired a moving company?
• Have you informed the post office of your new address?
• And lastly: Have you already booked your flight?
Housing or temporary accommodations

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
Arriving in the USA
The most important hurdle 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 kid’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:
• Social Security Card
• American driver’s license
• American bank account
• Credit History
• Health insurance
• Pension plan
• Housing/temporary accommodations
Social Security Card
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:

• Passport
• Lawful Permanent Resident card (Green Card order entry stamp I-551)
• Birth certificate
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.
American driver’s license
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 USA
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 good 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 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.
Americans who have no health insurance must pay for their own medical care. It
is no surprise to hear that most people who file bankruptcy in the United States
do so because they got sick or had an accident and were not able to 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!
Pension plan USA
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
US, the age of retirement for people born after 1960 is 67 years. It is not unusual,
however, for people above the age of 67 to keep working. You should check with
your home country 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.
Bank account USA and credit history
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:
• Passport, driver’s license in English or any other form of picture ID

• Green Card (Lawful Resident Permit)
• Mailing address in the USA (your bank card and all further information will
be sent to this address)
• Telephone number and email address to reach you
• A letter with your name and address
• Social Security card
• 100 to 200 US Dollar to open the account (in the best case, you should
have American Dollars with you since many banks do not exchange foreign
currency for USD)
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.
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 it 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:
• Credit card use: If you pay your credit card bill in full at the end of the
month, you will have good credit history
• Debt or unpaid bills or the on-time payment of all your bills will affect credit
• Debt, insolvency or bankruptcy
• The average age of all your accounts: That is why it is important to open a
bank account as soon as possible
• Number of credit cards
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 on time, your credit history score will be positive.
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