The three most common things you need to get done when moving to the US from abroad for the first time. 

From getting your social security number, opening a bank account, and getting your driver’s license, here’s the step-by-step guide to help make your relocation as easy as possible. It’s our goal to make the entire process quick and painless for you. This post has been put together by the YoGov Experts team.

Here’s what this post covers for you:

  • How do you get a Social Security number in the US?
  • How do you get a bank account in the US?
  • How do you get a driver’s license in the US?

We’ve selected the 3 most common things you’ll need when establishing yourself in the US. We’ve intentionally left off getting a phone plan and getting wifi. There are tons of posts already covering those. Also, this post does not cover getting Department of Homeland Security authorization to work or study in the US. Rest assured, we’ll but we’ll be covering that in a future post.

How do you get a Social Security number in the US?

Your Social Security number helps the US government accurately keep track of your wages and earnings. You need this number to get a job, collect Social Security benefits, and get some other government services. It’s important to note that you must present all original documents when visiting the Social Security Administration. Photocopies or notarized copies are not allowed.

Prove your immigration status to the Social Security Administration: You must show your current US immigration document. This can include Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card) with your unexpired foreign passport; I-766 (Employment Authorization Document) or I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) or admission stamp in your unexpired foreign passport.

If you’re an F-1 or M-1 student, you must also show your I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). And if you’re a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show your DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status). For the full list of requirements for work authorization, visit the Social Security Administration checklist right here.

Fill out and print your application: You’ll need to fill out and print this form once you’ve ensured you have the correct documents authorizing you to be able to work.

Take or mail this information to the Social Security Administration: If you have time, it’s best to go to the Social Security Office in person. This will allow your number to get processed even quicker. You can look up your nearest Social Security Office right here.

getting a social security number in the us

How do you get a bank account in the US?

Now that you’re authorized to work, you’ll need to get your money deposited somewhere, ideally a US bank account.  We’re not going to give bank recommendations here, but we will share with you the general tips for getting a bank account. Each bank’s process will vary slightly. Each bank has its own conditions for foreigners to open up a US bank account.

Have two forms of original ID’s: Your passport is a must and a secondary form like a student ID or a driver’s license is also important.

Have all of your immigration documents: Bring all of your legal documents, including your work, student, or visit visa.

Have a US address: Most, if not all, banks require a physical US address to open a bank account. If you’ve recently moved to the US, then the best way to do this would be a copy of your lease agreement or a piece of mail to your new address, if you’ve happened to receive one. Alternatively, you could try a school or work address as well.

Make an initial deposit: Every bank requires some initial deposit to open up an account, although this can be as low as a few bucks.

getting a bank account in the us


How do you get a driver’s license in the US? 

OK, so hopefully by now you’re set up with both your Social Security number and a bank account, and now you’re hoping to get a local ID, which in the vast majority of cases would be a US driver’s license. Most states have this as a requirement too: If you establish residency in a state, you have a certain number of days to get a local driver’s license if you plan on driving. This is to ensure that you understand the local rules of the road and can safely obey driving rules. Even if you don’t plan on buying a car, a local license is important to have.

Get a driving permit: You’ll need to apply for a license, take a written test, and get a driver’s license photo taken in person. Most states allow you to book an appointment in advance, but often appointments can be a month or two away. If you’re in a hurry for an appointment, you can book an express DMV appointment. On this first in-person visit: 1) Make sure you bring cash or a debit card, since many DMV’s will not accept a credit card for payment; 2) Make sure to bring your proof of address, your passport, and your immigration documents; and 3) Make sure to study for your written test.

Take your behind-the-wheel test: After you get your driving permit, you’ll need to schedule a time to take your road test, also known as your “behind-the-wheel test”. This is when an examiner judges your ability to drive safely. For this, you’ll need a car that meets specific state requirements (not a rental car, for one) as well as have a licensed driver accompany you. If you need a car and driver, our road test concierge service can help. Alternatively, you can ask a friend if they’re willing to take a few hours of their day off to help you out.

Once you pass your road test, you’ll get your permanent license mailed to your address. So, it’s important you have access to the address you’ve put down on your license application. Here’s our ultimate guide to passing your road test which provides helpful tips and insights into what the examiners are looking for on your road test.

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