Whether you’re moving for university or work, coming to the US from another country can be an incredibly stressful experience.
When you arrive, your to-do list might be so long you don’t know where to begin. Some of your most basic needs, like finding an apartment and applying for a credit card, can seem difficult or impossible when you dont yet have US credit or any payment history. 😬
However, we’ve got some good news. Thanks to several innovative startups, many of these new-resident headaches have gotten a lot easier to handle. With over 5 million people moving to the US each year, these companies saw an opportunity to help a lot of people by solving these problems.
Here are our 7 favorite genius services to help you get settled!
🏠 Get approved to rent an apartment with Nova Credit
The most difficult barrier to renting a house or an apartment, is not having any US credit history, which most landlords require for approval.
Your landlord wants to make sure you’re financially responsible, so if you don’t have credit, often your only other option is to pay several months of rent in advance or thousands of dollars in extra deposit money. Even if you can afford the huge up-front cost, there’s a chance you may still not get approved.
But what if you could use your credit and payment history from other countries? Nova Credit, a Silicon Valley startup, is helping people do just that. Through their extensive global partnerships, Nova Credit uses your credit and financial history from your home country and generates a “global credit report” you can give to your potential landlord or apartment complex.
Nova is also partnering with other companies, like American Express, to serve immigrants and expatriots. American Express now allows you to apply for a credit card without any US credit history.
The one catch? Currently, Nova only serves customers from Canada, the UK, India, Australia, and Mexico.
One of the most important things you can do as a new arrival is to start building your US credit history ASAP. To do so, you need to get a credit card.
However, you can’t apply for most credit cards without a Social Security Number. For the few who do have a SSN, many are not approved because they have no credit history. Without these, your main option is often a Secured Card — a slightly inferior credit card. It requires you to drop a large cash deposit in advance (to protect the bank if you don’t make your payments) and limits you to $200-$500 a month, making it slow and difficult to build good credit.
Fortunately, startup companies Deserve and CreditStacks now offer access to great, no-fee credit cards. Both use your educational and employment info to qualify you, so you don’t need to worry about lacking US credit or a SSN.
If you’re a student, we recommend Deserve Edu, which has the perk of including a free year of Amazon Prime in addition to 1% cashback on all your purchases.
If you’re a relocating professional who is looking for a higher credit limit, but no annual fee, your best bet would be Deserve Pro or CreditStacks, which include great cashback benefits as well. You can apply and be approved before your move, so you have a credit card waiting for you upon your US arrival.
Whether or not you’re planning to buy a car, it’s handy to have access to one. You never know when you’ll need a vehicle to pick-up groceries, run errands, or explore your new city.
Traditional car rental companies only let you pay by the day (which gets expensive!), require you to make a trek to their closest office, and won’t rent to you if you’re under 25 — so they’re not an option for most students.
However, carshare companies offer something different: vehicles scattered around your city that you can unlock just by tapping a button on your app, starting at $7-8 per hour with only a 1-hour minimum required.
Maven is a newer company in fewer cities, but requires no annual fee and has features that others don’t, including in-car WiFi.
Zipcar is in nearly every major city in the US — it’s not actually a startup anymore — but they do charge a fee to be a member on top of the hourly rate: $15/year for students and $7/month for professionals. Also, if you’re under 21, you’re required to be a student to join, and you are only allowed to rent cars that are parked on your university campus.
Just like with a credit card or apartment, getting a low-cost auto loan can be difficult or impossible without US credit history (and for many students, without a social security number). But most new arrivals don’t have thousands in cash saved to buy a vehicle outright, especially after considering all the international moving expenses.
Lendbuzz and Boro are lenders that specialize in international arrivals, and offer incredibly low rates to visa holders and immigrants to purchase a new or used vehicle. Auto payments are also a great way to start building one’s US credit history.
Also, if you have a non-car expense you need money for, Boro also offers personal (non-auto) loans for international students that can be used to cover books, tuition, vacations, medical emergencies, and more.
🚀 Get your US Driver’s License or ID card ASAP with YoGov
Yep, that’s us! 👋 We obviously can’t finish an article like this without mentioning what we do, since most of our customers are foreign arrivals 🙂
A little background: By law, every new resident is required to get a state ID card or state driver’s license immediately upon arrival. California, for example, is one of the strictest states and requires you to get one within 10 days of landing! While tourists are legally allowed to drive with an international license, any US resident, unfortunately, is not.
To get an ID or start the process of getting a license, you need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, DMV wait times can stretch 2-8 hours if you don’t have an appointment — and appointments can take *months* to get.
YoGov solves that problem with our Express DMV Appointment service. We search for last-minute cancellations and openings to get you a reserved DMV appointment within 1-2 weeks. On the day of your appointment, it’s usually pretty quick, and you can be in and out in less than an hour. Since DMV requirements can be confusing, we’ll also give you a simple checklist of everything you need to bring on appointment day.
If you want your state driver’s license, there are additional hoops you’ll have to jump through 😞 Even if you have a valid international license, you are required to take a written knowledge test and a behind-the-wheel driving test to drive legally in the US as a resident. Rental cars are not allowed for the driving test, and you must be accompanied with a licensed driver over 21, which means you’ll need to ask someone for a big favor.
To help new arrivals who don’t have access to a valid car and licensed driver for their road tests, we have two great services: our Road Test Concierge car and driver service for experienced drivers who already passed their written test, and our Express Driver’s License packages for people who haven’t started the application process. We’re also partnered with local driving schools for those who need lessons or practice before they’re ready for their driving test.
What other awesome services have you found? 🤷🏻♂️
We’re always on the lookout for additional companies and services that help make relocation less of a headache, so let us know in the comments if there’s a company we should know about that isn’t on this list!