After the immigration papers have been processed and you step off the plane for the first time, your journey in the United States is just beginning. Adjusting to living in a new country can be challenging, but there are four things you can do right away to give yourself an advantage as you make your new start.
1. Get a license to drive.
America is unique in that the country is so vast and cities are so spread out that it can very restricting if you are not able to drive. This can make it more difficult to get a job, and many places require a driver's license as a main form of ID. The easiest way to start the process is to enroll in driving school. You can get a license as an adult without driver education, but schooling makes it much easier. If you were a proficient driver in your old country, completing the course should be simple, but the education can help you to learn any laws that might be different than you are used to. Many driving schools offer classes in Spanish, so if English is not your first language, you can still enjoy the benefits of a complete driver education.
Before you begin any in-car instruction, you will need a learner's permit, which you can get by taking a simple test at a local driver's license office in your town. After you've completed your lessons, you can skip the waiting period that normally is applied to teenagers or those who do not take driver's education and get your license much sooner than you would otherwise. When you pass the test, you can take your results to the driver's license office, along with proof that you are legally able to live in the United States, your passport, proof of address, and any other official documents. They will process your application and send you an official license by mail.
2. Learn English.
If English is not your first language, you are not required to learn it in order to immigrate to the United States. But taking English classes will help put you on the path to success. Most employers prefer people who are fluent in English, and it will be easier for you to do basic things like shop, attend worship services, rent a home, or pay your bills. Adult English classes move through material quickly and give you plenty of time to practice you new language skills. In a survey of recent immigrants, 85% say that learning English was important for finding good employment and doing well as a new resident.
3. Get a bank account.
Setting up a bank account with a local bank is one of the best things to do—it helps you to establish your financial independence. Talk to several banks before making your decision. American banks charge fees for some types of accounts. If possible, try to find a bank or credit union that does not charge a fee for a checking account. If you're used to a different type of currency, take some time to discussing basic financial wellness practices and budgeting with your bank agent when you go to open an account. Some banks have financial planning professionals who can help you adjust to using, spending, and saving a new type of money. Don't forget to ask about exchange policies and methods of sending money home to your old country if you are still trying to support family. You might also receive foreign checks and currency from family abroad—these can be difficult to exchange, so talk to your banks about the best method for receiving funds from other countries when you open your account.
With the right preparation, you can enjoy your new life as a legal resident or citizen of America. Talk to a driving agency near you to get started on your first step: a driver's license.