Wednesday 26 March 2014

You want to wake up in the city that never sleeps? This post is for you.

The land of the free: but it isn't easy for new arrivals
From time to time, I get emails from readers of this blog who have found it by Googling something like "moving to New York" or "life on Long Island" and want to ask me for some tips. These emails are always slightly apologetic in nature, but believe me, I am only too happy to be of use to people who are moving abroad and I'm just delighted that my blog is helpful in any way.

I often wish I'd done a bit more research myself before I moved to New York - it would have saved me from a few nasty surprises. I'm eternally grateful to several bloggers who did help me in those early days too. I actually used the moving company recommended to me on this blog, and in turn recommended it to another blogger who was moving back to the UK.

This week I've also been asked to contribute to an Expat Tips page from foreign exchange company HiFx, which might be useful for those of you moving abroad generally. (They also do a currency converter on the website, which is handy for those of us who get paid in dollars).

Here then are my top five practical tips for Brits moving to New York State. (This is assuming you really are at the beginning of your moving research and don't know anything much yet.)

1. Be aware that you can't buy a car in NY without having insurance - and you can't get insurance if you don't have a New York driver's licence. You will need to take your test at the first available opportunity....and this can pose a problem too, as to apply for it (through the Department for Motor Vehicles) you need a...

2. Social security number. This is key to doing virtually anything in the States. Of course, those who are going out there with a job will get one fairly soon after arriving through their job, but if you're not working, you might want to think about applying too, as soon as you can. (This will also depend on what kind of visa you have.)

3. Getting a credit card is also very difficult, as you won't have a credit record in the US (credit rating companies don't share data between countries, which you would think might benefit them -- after all you could have a terrible credit record at home, and no-one would know...).  You have to build up your credit record gradually; it took us over a year to get a card, and even then with a very low limit. In the meantime, you will get very fed up of constantly having to explain to people like Gap that you can't apply for a store card. You can use your UK cards, but they'll have exchange rate commission. Do your research: there are a few that don't, like the Post Office credit card.

4. Kids don't start school until 5+ in New York; a year later than they do in the U.K. There are, however, plenty of preschool/ pre-K options and indeed there is a movement in NY to make "universal pre-K" available to everyone ie. you wouldn't have to pay. Be aware that summer holidays are very, very long (10-12 weeks), so if you are working, you need to sort out some kind of childcare/camp option for the summer.

5. If you want to get a job once out there, you first need a work permit from the Department of Homeland Security. This again depends on your/your spouse's visa type. The Doctor was on an academic (J1) visa, so for me to be able to work, I had to write a letter stating that I was not going to be working to support my husband, but to have money for "leisure activities" (!) Luckily this was accepted, and I was able to get a job, for which I am eternally grateful.

This was a sponsored blog post.


Cal said...
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Expat mum said...

The whole Social Security number thing is a complete pain isn't it? I remember having to take my passport with me for ages when I first arrived because I didn't have photo ID (a driving license) to back up my checks. Some people had never seen a passport before (seriously) and we'd have to call a manager, blah blah blah. Right pain.
(Sorry - the deletion was me - signed in with my ten year old's G account!)