Moving to America requires a great deal of paperwork. Certain documents and procedures are necessary to begin life abroad, including a social security card, renter’s insurance, and consulate registration. Here are some tips to make the process as painless as possible.
1. Social Security Card
An American Social Security Number is often necessary to open a bank account, to obtain a driver’s lisence, and for other important paperwork. To obtain one, go to the Social Security Administration website (www.ssa.gov) to find the office nearest to you. If your visa does not authorize you to work, you cannot obtain a social security card. You will need the following documents:
• Work Visa (student, intern, or employee visa will also work)
• I-94 form (delivered with the visa, given to the immigration officer upon you arrival into the United States)
• SS-5 form (available in these administrations [-??]/government buildings (?), or available for download on the internet)
The Social Security Card –official proof of your social security number – is free, and you will receive it within a month.
The social security system of the United States is very different from that of France. In the United States, your social security number is mostly used to report your salary to the government and to determine if you are eligible for retirement benefits. This number will also be necessary for many types of paperwork, as it will be used by both private and public organizations to identify you, and for filing taxes. It may be required for travel, in addition to a visa and passport. However, in contrast to the French system, medical insurance is not free to those with an American social security number (for more information, see our “Healthcare” section). Nonetheless, obtaining a social security number is important for navigating life in America.
2. Renter’s Insurance
Renter’s insurance, which covers damage or loss of your personal property, is a smart investment for any person living in rented housing in the United State. Many renters assume that their landlord will take care of any problems, but most landlords’ insurance actually only covers structural damages to the building itself – and many landlord policies don’t even go that far if the damage is caused by the tenant. Costing between $10 and $20 a month, renter’s insurance will cover:
• Natural hazards (hail, windstorm, smoke, explosion)
• Water damage from failure of plumbing or appliances
• Liability protection (if someone in injured in your apartment, the insurance will usually protect against lawsuits or medical bills)
The actual items covered by the renter’s insurance vary, but usually include furniture, clothing, books, electronic equipment and appliances, and glassware.
The costs of a renter’s insurance policy can be adjusted depending on how much coverage you desire. By paying a premium (a slightly higher charge) you may receive greater replacement cost coverage or coverage for hazards not included in a standard renter’s insurance policy (such as earthquakes or flooding). Insurance costs can be lowered by paying a higher deductable – the amount that you pay for the lost or damaged goods before the insurance company will begin to pay. Finally, some insurance providers offer discounts to people who already have their auto insurance. It is a good idea to compare several insurance companies, to find the one that will best fit your needs.
3. Consulate Registration
Simple, free, and optional, registering at your local Consulate is strongly recommended if you will reside more than three months in American. This registration allows your government to keep count of expatriots, and makes it easier to get in touch with the consulate in case of need. In addition, this registration is necessary to receive a national ID card or to register on an electoral list (which is necessary to vote from abroad).
To complete the registration, you must be able to prove your identity, French nationality; and residence in the specific consular district (with driver’s liscense, utility bill, etc).