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    Thread: USA Practicalities


    1. #1

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      USA Practicalities

      Hi all

      My wife's (very large) US employer is expecting us to move over to WA in the summer. They'll be handling all the visa issues. I'm familiar with the area, we've already met realtors and visited schools etc.

      I'm interested in learning more about the other practicalities of moving - getting a car, converting driving licences (taking tests?), registering for taxes, getting phone lines and internet accounts and that sort of stuff. I think the employer guarantees a line of credit to help us with a mortgage but beyond that I'm working in the dark until we receive a formal offer.

      I look forward to reading about your experiences.

      Thanks

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    3. #2

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      Hi and welcome ,

      Firstly make sure the company more than matches what your wife and you combined get in the UK. Although you should get a work permit (assuming she get's an L1 visa - usual company transfer visa), finding work can be tough, you are expected to have a minimum of a bachelors degree for jobs not much higher than stacking shelves in Walmart! Madness I know! Other things to take into account are healthcare, repatriation package (for the whole family if you decide to go back home AND if the company decides to sack your wife (it can happen!)), place to stay for the first few months to give you time to find a rental home, shipping costs for your home goods, money for buying new electrical goods (most electrical items don't work unless they are dual voltage), hire car upon arrival (probably x2 as public transport in most areas is non existent or bad!), ideally sign you up for an expat package with a company such as AIG/Travelguard....etc. I am sure there is more, but it's all I can think of off hand.


      Healthcare - THIS IS THE BIGGY HERE!!!!
      Make sure they pay for ALL health cover. Here the norm is some comes out of your pay packet depending on which option you choose (prices vary depending on how good the cover is, ours (2 adults, 3 children) has ranged from almost $1000 a month to $350 at the present company). On top of the monthly amount you have copays (excesses) which have to be paid with each doctors visit, prescription etc. Hence why I said to make sure the company covers EVERYTHING!

      You will have to pay higher deposits for everything. Deposits for homes vary (ours was 3 months deposit or which we got 2 months back after 12 months, but 6 months isn't uncommon). Deposits for utilities, cable, mobiles etc are the norm too. Mobile phone plans are a lot higher here as they cover a lot larger area, for an iphone currently it's around a $400 deposit (with credit history less than a year), $199 for the phone, tariffs start at around $80 a month. Insurance is a lot higher too (car, home etc), usually renewable every 6 months not 12.

      Erm....cannot think of anything else right now. If you have any questions, just ask :)
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    4. #3

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      Thanks for the prompt response. What's your experience with acceptable photo id etc? Did you re-take your driving test and if so after how long?

      I have a tv production background although to start with I think I'll be looking after the kids and home. I was thinking of trying to do some volunteering.

      All the best.

    5. #4

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      Your welcome :)

      The best ID I have found is a US driving license. You are required to get your license within 30 days of arrival, see here. US driving tests are a lot easier than UK tests, the norm is a multiple choice test and then a simple driving test, but this can vary from state to state. I read the driving manual the night before and got full marks on the written test and only one point on the driving test for not indicating when doing a 3-point turn.

      If any of your kids are in elementary school, they are always after volunteers :) Also there are lots of websites such as www.volunteermatch.org listing volunteer positions. Depending on how old your kids are they could sign up too, it's the done thing here ;) My eldest was nominated for the National Elementary Society not long after we arrived (she had just turned 11) and part of the application was to list voluntary positions!!!

      If you have any other questions just ask :)
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    6. #5

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      That's very useful. Thanks again. I took the practice test 5 times and passed each of them without too much head-scratching.

      Aside from health insurance are there any things that (looking back) you think "if only I'd known that when I arrived I'd have saved time/effort/worry"?

      Her company has houses which they'll let you stay in for a few months while you're looking for rental or a place to buy. They're also supposed to offer a shipping container so at some point all our gear will turn up (minus the electrical kit that won't transfer over).
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    7. #6

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      TBH we had prepared pretty well, we moved over as my husband was offered a job and sponsored for a visa so we had to research everything ourselves. The only thing I wish we had considered better was getting a bigger container and bringing EVERYTHING! We got rid of a lot of things such as Christmas trees and decs, only to end up spending a fortune rebuying them at a higher cost!! And other things such as some of the kids toys, only to still be reminded by the kids that they miss them and wish we had brought them over.

      Things that we did straight away when we got here was open a bank account, make sure the bank has plenty of branches/ATM's as most charge to withdrawn cash at other banks. We were going to open an account with HSBC to discover that they only had branches every 50 miles or so. In the end we initially went with Wells Fargo, although they then decided to start charging for accounts after about 6 months so now we bank with Chase and find them to be pretty good as far as American banking goes (it's way behind UK banking in a lot of respects). It's worth opening a secured credit card too to start building up a credit history, make sure you add your SSN's to it once you have them as that is the way a credit record is created.

      After 10 days your wife (maybe yourself if you are entitled at that point) will be able to go and get her SSN, before that it's unlikely you will be 'in the system'.

      Make sure you check the catchment area of the schools of your choice first before renting, the nearest school isn't always the one that they will go to, we live within walking distance to an elementary school yet our kids go to a school over 6 miles away, thankfully a better school ;) I assume you won't get a choice at first if your wife's company already has places to live. You may find your children start at one school and then move to another if you rent in a different catchment area. How old are your children? Do you know what schools they will go into? Elementary, middle or high?

      As far as renting or buying, definitely rent first! It will give you chance to get to know the area better and decide if it's for you. Also without a green card or at least a submitted green card application you may find the rate of interest on a mortgage is a lot higher, also unless you have a huge deposit you will need a years credit history behind you too.

      HTH
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    8. #7

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      We'll have one in each. Fortunately most the schools in the district we may end up in aren't closed and the only ones that are are in the nice(r) bits! I've met 3 administrators who were all lovely.

      Renting is on the cards but there's a shortage of properties that'll take the dog.

      I've seen plenty of Chase branches around on the West Coast so that's a good call. I did also hear something about the employer guaranteeing any mortgages so you can get on the ladder without having a US credit history. Any issues with opening accounts for cable/telephones etc aside from the enormous mobile cost or is it just the deposit?

      All the best
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    9. #8

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      Depending on the size of your dog you may get away with an increased deposit and having to pay to have the carpets steam cleaned when you leave, it's worth suggesting to the realtor. A friend is renting a house which started of as 'no pets' and they managed to persuade the owners to change it as they had a small dog. It's worth a try.

      We heard of employers guaranteeing mortgages, never come across a company that does or someone who has had that happen.

      We didn't have any issues with opening utility accounts, deposits had to be paid to each, the biggest being for electricity which is $141 (refunded after 23 months). We didn't even have a SSN by this point, we just had to give our passport number.