Life in USA guide for Newcomer, Buy Car, Insurance, Rent Apartment

Start life in USA by opening bank account, secured credit card for history, driving license, Kid school enrollment. Get account opening, rental move-in bonus.

Written by Anil Gupta
  By Anil Gupta          Updated  11 Jun, 19


Life in USA

Welcome to America. If you are coming to USA for study on F1 visa or on work permit like H1B or L visa, we have all the starter information for you here on this page.

Your life start up guide immediately after entering USA is listed in the order of preference to start your new life in USA. There are lot of things that may differ in united states as compared to your own native country. So, please give your self some time to settle down and take my words for granted that you will love this place.

If you have moved to USA from an Asian country like India, China or Philippines, you will experience an entirely new world in USA. The meaning of developed country is understood as soon as  you step out of any US international airport.

Lets start with morning of your Day 1 in USA.


#1 Open a US Bank Account

Open a checking and a savings account in the choice of your bank. Most famous and big banks are Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo.

Checking account does not pay any interest on your money. Instead, you will be charged a monthly fees if you do not qualify for fee waiver. You can skip opening a current account and can only opt for Savings account at this time.

Ask your bank to open a ‘Secured Credit Card‘ for you along with savings bank account. You will need to deposit some dollars like $100 to $300 and you will get the same credit limit too. Do not forget to ask for account opening BONUS. Yes, most banks offer $100-150 account opening bonus in US. See the power of US economy!

My personal favorite credit cards are

  • Amazon Credit Card as it gives you $50 Gift Card instantly upon credit card approval. You also get 3% Back at purchases.
  • Discover Credit Card – Offer $75 bonus after approval and after making first purchase.

Since you are new to USA, you do not have any credit history and most banks will NOT open a new credit card for you. It takes about 4-6 months to create any useful history for a newcomer.

Also, you should sign up for Amazon Prime Free Trial (US full service) or you can get Amazon prime $5.99/mo for EBT deal if you have a US Medicaid card.

The most lucrative offer though is Amazon prime student 6 month free trial for international students on F1 visa.


#2 Apply SSN

You should locate a nearest Social Security office and apply for SSN immediately if you are on a work visa or have entered using a Green card.

Social security card is needed to start employment and getting paid. Most US employers pay you bi-weekly which means that you will get paid 26 times from Jan to December.

At the end of US financial year, you will be able to file your tax returns using free online software like e-file, TaxAct, HR Block or TurboTax.


#3 Get Rental Apartment

You can easily get a rental apartment within a week of landing in USA. Its a mature market and everything is available online with few clicks.

Your home search should focus on school ratings 1 to 10 and try to get a living place closest to the top ranking education center. We have used GreatSchools to find school ratings given by parents.

  • – Shows apartment, homes along with school ratings (pulled from GreatSchools site) right there on same page.
  • and are popular websites for apartment search too. Note that both are owned by same company! is another website under same umbrella for students looking for accommodation near their university.

TIP: Each apartment rental website offers a move-in bonus based on demand and supply. Most apartment communities also offer a lease sign up bonus as first month rent free.

Do not forget or feel shy to ask for move-in bonuses. Its common in US.

Also, if you have a friend already living in any rental community, they can get a referral bonus if you give their referral and then you both can share it.

#3 Kid Enrollment In School

The quality of education in US state operated schools is very good. If you are coming from India, China or any other developing country, you will feel the difference immediately.

Most of the new expats coming to US send their kids to local government operated schools unless you have extra dollars to spend on private schools.

You should have searched for an apartment based on school ratings and hence, you will have an assigned school automatically based on your address. You can simply visit the school with your lease/rental agreement papers and your child can join school the next day. It is as simple as this and as fast as you can blink.

Each state has its own independent school district and is funded by the house or property taxes that you pay.

Schools do not pay any enrollment bonus money and if you are yourself a kid studying in US, you can safely skip this step :).


#4 Get Driving License

You can drive in USA on your home country license if it is valid and is in English. Each state has different time period though.

I still recommend to get state driving license as early as possible even if plan to not drive or use your foreign license. Buying car on visa is easy but you may want to wait for couple of weeks before you can take the plunge.

I strongly advise to apply for a driving license as soon as possible to start your driving history. The sooner you get license, the lower your car insurance rate will be. Car insurance in USA is charged per month and can vary between $100 to $300 for newcomers.

Once you finish the above tasks, your life in USA will start running smoothly. Do not apply for each credit card offer which comes your way in Walmart or other stores as applying reduces your credit history points.

Credit Karma Account – Free Credit History Score

Credit karma is a website that offers free credit score reporting. You will be able to sign up for this account after about 3 months of using a card like Amazon Credit Card.

They validate your identity using your SSN number and would open your account only after verification. Your SSN data takes time to be added to various credit score managing companies like Experian. So, wait for 3 months and then create an account.

Send Money to Home Country

Once you are settled and ready to send money to your home country, you have plenty of options available. I will list them based on the maximum conversion rate offered consistently by money transfer companies:

  1. Remitly
  2. Ria Money Transfer
  3. Transfast
  4. MoneyGram
  5. Xoom

You can also do a direct money transfer from your bank like Bank of America or Chase to your native country but it is not recommended as they do a ‘Wire transfer’ which will cost you much more than using the above given money sending services.

Study Visa - F1 USA

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