Fresh Off The (Desi) Boat.
Stepping on the land of hope and liberty is a dream for all who are born with a human heart and mind. The excitement encroaches all spheres of ones mind the day he/she starts preparing for it. There are hindrances, road-blocks and cumbersome paper works to be done to get the visa (no matter what type) to enter into this country. The hopeful he or she gets relaxed and relieved when the visa is through. But NO! Thats not the end of it. The struggle and responsibilities increase exponentially starting from that day onwards.
Dreams come true is always valid for guys with guts. The land of hope and opportunity gives you all that you want if you deserve it. You need to be brave, adventurous, willing to accept challenges and posses high energy to fight back. The career path is very bright here, but always exposed to intruders. The socio-cultural differences make one feel suffocated in the beginning. The extra liberty does attract newbies towards the wrong destination. Most important thing that an alien faces here is that he/she is all alone that means a lot.
The non-immigrant visa lets one into the country for a certain period of time. The person must go back to his/her originating country (country of citizenship) on or before the visa expires. At the time of entry for a non-immigrant alien, INS officers provide the I-94 form that is the proof of validity of the aliens existence in this country. The I-94 form indicates how long the person can stay in this country legally.
The INS officers always posses the right to refuge entry of an alien into this country. So the person should be very clear about what he/she is going to do in this country. Upon asked he/she should be able to explain properly about his/her intentions. There are cases where people have been refused and sent back to their countries (rare though). If the INS officer needs more clarification, then they may detain the alien for some more hours until they get the proper supporting evidence.
It is really a hardship to go through all this after a continuous flying for hours. In some states they have more custom rules and dont allow some items like plants, seeds and some food items. So be careful about your pack, both hand luggage and checked luggage. You may be asked to open the baggage before the custom officers. Once you pass through all these you are allowed to enter the country. Now you must know where you are going to and who is there to pick you up from the airport.
Hell lot of a job. Alas, you are relaxed to be in the land where you wanted to be. The struggle starts now. If you already have a project, you are going to join work the next day. The new country, where the culture is totally different, people walk on the right side, the day starts when it is evening in some of our home countries. The very first day you join your work place, you wanted to prove yourself to impress your boss, but this damn jet-lag made you drowsy. Dont worry, every one understands this.
If you are here through the Big Brothers companies like Satyam, Infy, TCS or their cousins like Birlasoft, Wipro etc then you have fewer headaches. If you are through a Desi consultant, then depending upon your MOU, you have to complete certain formalities on your own.
1. Apply for a SSN (If your visa permits).
2. Find a permanent place to stay (no company gives more than 2 weeks free accommodation)
3. Prepare yourself for the interview (if you dont have a project at hand)
4. Open a bank account
5. Buy a cell phone
Applying for SSN is pretty straight forward. Find out the location of Social Security Administrators office for your city and use google maps or yahoo maps to get the direction. They have well defined forms for applying for a new SSN. That takes a while to get the printed copy of SSN. Keep it in a secured place and thats a great deal of information about you.
Finding a place to stay might be a little tedious job. You can seek help from your friends or can again use your most versatile friend - Internet. If you are single, then look for a shared apartment very near to your work place or near train station or bus stop.
Find enough time to prepare yourself for interview if you dont have a project.
The next job would be to open a bank account. It is not difficult to open a bank account with savings account. But without sufficient credit history you may not be able to get a checking account and credit card. Here comes the advantage of being an employee of Satyam, Infy etc. They normally provide some assistance in opening a bank account (I am not pretty sure).
Buy a cell phone, but dont do it in a hurry. Of course, it is necessary to have a cell phone when you are in US. But you should carefully select the carrier as well as the plan for your cell phone. Once you get into the agreement with a carrier, it is difficult/expensive to terminate the contract before it is over (normally 2 years). If you are so desperate, then better go for a prepaid cell phone to start with.
Carry your passport with you as you wouldnt have any other source of photo identification and it is necessary to open a bank account, apply for SSN, buy a cell phone and even cashing a cheque. Later you may go for a driver license or a state photo id.
Sometimes it will be very pathetic to accept a denial from any service provider. That may happen with you at the beginning. As you dont have enough residential status and credit history in this country, it will be difficult to get a credit card, cell phone at good rate, car loan etc. But it is not at all impossible.
When a guy arrives in this country for the first time, definitely he/she is not going to have any previous business transaction done in his/her name in this country where in money payment was involved. So this country does not know his/her payment pattern, that is how prompt the person is in paying his/her dues and how often he/she delays the payments. If he/she delays then for how long and so on and so forth. All these factors decide his/her credit history. There could be three distinct states of someones credit history Good, Bad and Ghost. A ghost credit history is referred to something that has not been established yet. It is always better to have a ghost history than having a bad credit history. So when you go for renting an apartment, they would run a credit check for you and may say that you have a ghost credit history. Thats nothing to worry, because it is always better than having a bad credit history.
But it will be a difficult job to obtain a car loan with ghost credit history. If you really want to have a car very soon, then you may have to build up some credit score quickly. In order to do that, you may opt for secured credit cards from your bank and purchasing through that credit card and not forgetting to payback in time. That will help you build up the credit score. I had heard that the utility bill payments are accounted for credit score, but I dont have a sure answer for this. The other important thing is that the credit score gets affected by each and every payment you make, so it varies every month.
My sincere advice,
Dont open too many bank accounts.
Dont open too many credit/store cards.
Dont make too many enquiries into your credit score.
Never make any delays in payment.
Dont mishandle any document that has your date of birth, SSN, address etc. Either keep it in a secured place or destroy it properly.
Stay secured and stay happy.