Practical Things to Remember When Working and Living in the US

It is easy to get caught up in all of the H1B visa rule changes and political rhetoric, but if you have been approved to work in the US on an H1B there are some very practical things to remember as you prepare.  Most of these issues have to do with the fact that your visa is a temporary work permission and that you are technically a non-immigrant (even if planning to apply for a green card).

What this means is that you have a three-year expiration date on your visa (extendable to six years), and unless you manage to get permanent residency you have to home.  Also, your visa can be revoked at any time, so there is always some level of uncertainty. Because of that, you should be careful about making long term financial arrangements or large purchases.

Here is checklist for quick reference that may help you when making life decisions here in the US:

Transportation

Even if you are being paid a high salary you may want to avoid buying a car (or at least an expensive one).  Even if you can sell it quickly, you may not get a fair price for a luxury vehicle. The best scenario is living close enough to work that you can use public transportation and avoid buying a car at all.

If you want to drive somewhere for the weekend or on vacation, it is very inexpensive to rent a car for a few days to a month without the commitment of car ownership.  To drive in the US, you will need a valid license from your home country, passport and in some states an International Driver’s Permit, which you can get in your country before you leave.

Housing

Buying a house may be difficult to do without a US credit history, even if you can show proof of income to get a loan.  And if you need to change jobs or location selling a house can take months in some cases. It is better to wait until you have permanent residency and have settled into one city.

Renting is definitely the best way to go, and you should try to avoid a lease longer than one year.  There is a chance that you would want to transfer to a different job or city, so you don’t want to be locked into a long-term lease and risk losing your security deposit.

Bank Accounts and Investments

Of course, you will want to have a US bank account for deposits and withdrawals, but you should avoid illiquid or long-term investments.  In case you leave the US it may not be easy to instantly sell those and close the account, so keep it simple.

Travel

With an H1B visa stamped in your passport you can freely travel anywhere in the US when you have free time or vacations.  You are also permitted to leave the country and re-enter anytime before the expiration date of your H1B visa.

Keep it Simple and Flexible

By following these tips, you can save money and keep your options open, which the first few years in the US may be best.  If you decide to go for a green card, you could make more commitments and investments in the US, but the H1B is really a temporary work visa and it should be in the back of your mind that you will eventually go back home.

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  • December 10th, 2018
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