My journey of immigrating to the United States: From decision to reality

Expat life
08 Sep 2023
10 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

When my family first made the decision to relocate to America in mid-2019, we didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the adventure that lay ahead of us.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed and how much we’ve grown both as individuals and as a family since then. There were undoubtedly challenges along the way, but the rewards of living in a new and exciting country made it all worth it. 

As I reflect on our decision to move, I can’t help but think about how different our lives would be if we had decided against taking the leap. If you’re considering embarking on a similar journey, I hope our story can provide you with some insight and guidance as you take your first steps toward a brighter future.

How it all started…

In mid-2019, we made the decision to relocate to the United States after spending a wonderful decade in Dubai. Initially, we settled in Jersey City, NJ, drawn by the vibrant atmosphere of a big city and the proximity to the countless attractions and energy of NYC. The view across the river, with the financial and creative hub of the world on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other, filled us with excitement and wonder every day, and that feeling hasn’t diminished with time.

As we set off on our journey to the United States, it was an exciting and hopeful time for us, courtesy of an expat package. However, as we settled in, we soon realized the true realities of this new country.

The hard-hitting reality check of moving abroad

The cost of living here was noticeably higher, especially after taking into account various Federal and State tax deductions. It was quite different from the sense of prosperity we had experienced in Dubai, and we found ourselves adjusting to a more average middle-class lifestyle.

Amidst the adjustments, the emotional and physical distance from our home in India became apparent. It was a new and poignant realization, something we hadn’t quite felt to the same extent during our time in Dubai. As we embraced our new life in a different part of the world, we couldn’t help but miss the closeness we once had with our loved ones back home.

The time zone difference added another layer of complexity to staying connected with family and friends. Our days and nights seemed out of sync with theirs, resulting in a limited window of time to communicate.

Occasionally, we’d make spontaneous calls at odd hours, which could sometimes lead to some amusing moments, like wishing someone Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary a bit too late due to the time difference.

Moreover, beyond just the weather, the cultural aspects, the overall vibe, and the concerns and issues faced by people around us were vastly different from what our loved ones back home were going through. It often felt like living in a separate dimension altogether, making relating to each other more challenging.

Yet, we believe that with time and effort, we can bridge these gaps and maintain strong connections with our family and friends back home while embracing the opportunities and experiences that this new life in the United States has to offer. It’s a journey of growth and adaptation, and we are determined to make the most of it while cherishing the memories and love from our roots.

Tips on adjusting to life in the United States

Moving to the United States was a deeply personal decision for us, and we understand that everyone’s reasons for making this move are unique. In our case, we chose to take this step later in life, driven by the pursuit of better work opportunities. Our journey has been shaped by our individual experiences, and we value the fact that everyone else’s path is just as distinctive.

The United States offers an abundance of opportunities and attractions, but we also recognize that it may not be the perfect fit for everyone. Adjusting to a new country and culture as a migrant and expat can bring about various challenges and changes.

Having gone through this transition ourselves, we know firsthand the mix of excitement and uncertainty that comes with being a new migrant in America, especially when it comes to financial matters. We want to share some common financial challenges that new immigrants often encounter and offer potential solutions to help you thrive in this new chapter of your life:

Establishing a credit history

This is a crucial step for your financial journey in America. It opens doors to various essential transactions like renting an apartment, securing a loan, or obtaining a credit card.

As a new migrant, you might not have an existing credit history, which can pose challenges in qualifying for credit.

The good news is that there are practical solutions to help you get started. Consider applying for a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. Secured cards, backed by a cash deposit, can be more accessible for newcomers.

By using the card responsibly, making small purchases, and paying off the balance in full each month, you can gradually establish a positive credit history and pave the way for your financial success.

Opening a bank account

Navigating the process of opening a bank account as a new migrant can indeed present some hurdles, especially if you don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN) or a permanent address.

However, please don’t worry as there are supportive solutions available. Seek out banks or credit unions that cater to non-residents or recent immigrants; some of them are more accommodating in this regard.
Additionally, certain financial institutions may accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as an alternative to an SSN when it comes to opening an account.

This way, you can still access the banking services you need and take steps towards securing your financial foundation in a new country.

Navigating the United States tax system

Embarking on the journey of understanding the US tax system can undoubtedly feel overwhelming, particularly when you have income sources both in the US and your home country.

A helpful solution is to seek professional tax advice from experts who are well-versed in the tax rules for new immigrants. These knowledgeable professionals can provide invaluable guidance on tax filings, deductions, and any tax treaties between the US and your home country. With their assistance, you can navigate the complexities of the tax system with greater ease and confidence, ensuring you stay compliant and make the most of the available benefits.

Managing the high cost of living

Transitioning to a new city or state in the United States may bring about a change in the cost of living, which can be notably higher than what you were accustomed to in your home country.

Start off with a budget that carefully outlines your income and expenses. By doing so, you can gain a clearer understanding of your financial situation and make informed decisions. Prioritizing your spending and seeking cost-saving measures can also be incredibly beneficial.

For instance, consider sharing accommodation with roommates to reduce housing expenses, utilizing public transportation as a more economical option, and exploring budget-friendly stores for your shopping needs.

Remember, adapting to a new financial environment takes time, and it’s completely normal to make adjustments along the way.

Healthcare costs

The reality is healthcare costs in the United States can be a concern, especially if you don’t have immediate access to employer-sponsored health insurance.

Explore various health insurance options available to you as a new immigrant. Take some time to research government programs and private insurance plans that may fit your needs and budget.

In the interim, you might also consider purchasing a short-term health insurance plan to provide some coverage until you have access to more comprehensive benefits.

Student loans and education expenses

Facing the expenses of education, especially when your children are attending school or college in the US, can be a challenging situation.

To help ease the financial burden, consider researching various scholarship and financial aid opportunities specifically designed for international students. Encouraging your children to apply for grants and scholarships can make a significant difference in offsetting education costs.

Remittances and currency exchange

Sending money back to your home country to support your family or cover expenses can sometimes be expensive due to currency exchange rates and additional fees.

However, there’s a solution to help you save on costs. Take the time to compare different remittance services to find the most cost-effective options available.

If you find yourself needing to send money to India, just as I do, you can consider online money transfer platforms like Instarem can be a great choice, as they often offer competitive exchange rates and lower fees, making it easier for you to support your loved ones without breaking the bank.

By being proactive and exploring these alternatives, you can ensure that your hard-earned money goes further in helping those back home.

Finding employment

Embarking on a job search as a new migrant in the United States can understandably take some time, which might lead to temporary financial challenges.

Actively network within your community and leverage online job platforms to explore various employment opportunities. Being proactive in reaching out to potential employers can be beneficial in finding the right fit for you.

Housing and rental challenges

Lack of credit history and rental references can make it extremely challenging to secure a shelter.

One option is to offer a larger security deposit to potential landlords, demonstrating sincere commitment and responsibility. Additionally, seeking support from a co-signer, like a family member or friend with good credit, can greatly enhance your chances of rental approval.

Cultural adjustment

There is no denying that the process of adapting to a new culture and financial system can present emotional and mental challenges.

So, reach out to local immigrant communities or cultural organizations for support. They can offer valuable guidance, share their own experiences, and provide a strong support system during this period of adjustment.

At the end of the day, it’s going to be a whirlwind of excitement and at times, overwhelming emotions…

In this exciting new chapter of your life as a migrant in the United States, remember that your financial journey is uniquely yours. Your experiences will be influenced by various factors, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

As you navigate through this financial adventure, take proactive steps to manage your finances with confidence. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance whenever you need it; there’s no shame in asking for help along the way. Be patient and kind to yourself as you adapt to this new financial landscape.

Know that with responsible financial habits and unwavering perseverance, you have the power to conquer any challenges that come your way. Embrace the journey, and with time, you’ll find yourself thriving and flourishing in your newfound life in the United States.

Remember, you’ve got all it takes to make your dreams come true, and I’ll be here cheering you on, supporting you every step of the way.

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About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.