Part 3: You’ve Arrived, Now What? Five Tips for an Easy Transition
You’ve arrived in your new home, ready to get going on your new life in the U.S.! Now that you’re south of the border, there are a few things you’ll want to take care of relatively quickly, to ensure your transition is smooth and as easy as possible. Here are 5 tips that can help get you off on the right foot.
1. Buy a Car – If You Didn’t Import It From Canada
If you didn’t bring your car from Canada, chances are you’ll need some wheels to get around. Getting approved for a car loan or lease can be a bit tricky as a Canadian new to the U.S. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to work around this and get a car that suits your new needs and lifestyle.
- Find an expat-friendly car dealership. There are some dealerships – particularly in cities that host a large number of expats – with programs in place to help Canadians buy or lease a car in the U.S. Many European car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, Porsche and Mercedes, have special programs for foreigners.
- Use an expat car leasing/financing service. There are some companies set up exclusively to help expatriates finance or lease a car in the U.S., though they may charge you a premium as a foreign national. International Auto Source and ExpatRide are two companies that can help arrange a car loan or lease for you.
2. Get Your U.S. License and Registration
Whether you’ve bought a U.S. vehicle or you imported your car, you’ll need to register it, and make sure you have a valid license to drive it.
To register your car, you’ll need the original title of the vehicle, your driver’s license, bill of sale (if the car is new), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection documents (if you imported your car).
You may also need to show proof of your U.S. auto insurance (if required), as well as proof of vehicle safety and a smog inspection certificate if you’re bringing your car from Canada.
Visitors to the U.S. can typically continue using their foreign license for a certain amount of time (which varies from state to state). After this time, you’ll need to get a U.S. license. Don’t worry – coming from Canada you don’t need to take another test. You can simply exchange your Canadian license for a U.S. license of the state you’re moving to.
When it comes to transportation, rules, regulations and procedures tend to vary from state to state. So get in touch with the relevant state agency responsible for transportation (i.e. the Department of Motorized Vehicles, commonly known as the DMV) for the exact documentation you'll need to hit the road.
3. Insure Your Home and Car
While car insurance isn’t mandatory in every state, it’s highly recommended you get it. For the most part, car insurance policies are structured in a similar way to those in Canada, so shop around and compare rates, coverages and deductibles to get the policy that’s best for you. You can usually combine your home and car insurance with one insurer to get a discount on rates.
When it comes to homeowners and renters insurance, policies are also fairly comparable to what you’ll find in Canada. What’s different, however, is the mandatory flood insurance required if you live in a high-risk flood area. While this insurance is not federally required if you live in a moderate-to-low risk flood area, it’s still available and strongly recommended. To understand whether your new home is located in a high-risk flood area, visit the FEMA Flood Map Service Center.
4. Obtain Your Social Security Number
If you’re authorized to work in the U.S., you’ll need to get a Social Security Number. Social Security Numbers are used to report your wages to the government, and determine your eligibility for Social Security benefits.
To get one, you’ll need to complete an application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) and provide two original documents proving your identity, immigration status, work eligibility and age. Eligible documents include your visa, work permit or Employment Authorization Document (EAD), birth certificate and passport.
You can apply in Canada before going to the U.S., or wait until you arrive to apply in person.
5. Get Your U.S. Cell Phone
Here’s where that lack of a U.S. credit history may cause some headaches for you once again. That’s because you typically need to have a credit history in order to get a U.S. cell phone plan. Since it will take a while to establish your history, you’re likely not going to wait until that point to get your phone. And since using your Canadian cell phone plan will be flat out too expensive, you’ll need to find a better option.
The easiest thing to do is to get a prepaid plan with a U.S. provider – such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or any of the other companies that do business in the U.S.. Chances are, you’ll be able to use your current phone and will simply need to change out the SIM card and purchase a plan that requires you to pay in advance for your data, calling and text usage. It’s typically easy to reload your plan online, so it’s not too much hassle. Depending on the plan you get, it may even be cheaper than your traditional post-pay plan.
Another option, which you might be required if you don’t have a Social Security Number, is to pay a security deposit of $500-$1000. This is normally refundable after 12 months, once you show a record of consistent payments. This is the phone company’s way of getting their customers to establish a positive credit history before they take on too much risk.
Once you’ve taken these 6 steps, you will be well on your way to becoming truly settled in the U.S.. Next, it’s time to look ahead to planning your future as a U.S. resident. Take a look at the next post for more!
More from the Moving to the U.S. from Canada Series:
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.