The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted travel and immigration to the United States. Please refer to this article for the most up-to-date information and links to official sources.
Moving abroad means staying on top of an ever-growing to-do list.
Paradoxically, big-ticket items like “find a job” or “rent an apartment” can feel easier to tackle than the multitude of tiny, nagging tasks.
Tying up those loose ends is especially important where finances are concerned. Making sure you settle old debts, transfer critical accounts, and, of course, notify the tax man about your move may not be quite as inspiring as dreaming of your new home and career, but seeing to these matters will save you money and set you up for financial success in your new home.
We prepared a checklist of the most important financial tasks to take care of before you move abroad. With a little planning, you can arrive in the States financially prepared, and fully ready for your next chapter. International banks can also be a great source for information and advice when it comes to getting your financial ducks in a row before you move to America.
- 12 months
Take stock of your expenditures. If you have any debts, make efforts to bring them current, and arrange automatic payments so you don’t fall behind after your move overseas. If you can pay off any outstanding debts before your departure, that’s even better.
If you have a student loan in your home country and will be overseas for a limited time, you may be able to arrange a grace period of lower payments while you’re away from home.
If you see any recurring payments for services or subscriptions you rarely use, consider cancelling them now. It’ll save you time down the road, and the extra money will certainly come in handy as you save for your move.
If you have any questions about financial planning, finding employment or housing overseas, be aware that many U.S. states offer Immigrant Guides which connect you to a wide range of information and services. New York and California’s are especially robust, and can assist you after your move.
- 6 months
Call your bank and ask to convert your credit card into a U.S. credit card. If you’re a customer of an international bank, if you’re able to, begin using it and building credit six months before you relocate, as this is the minimum amount of time needed to establish your U.S. credit score. Having an American credit score will make obtaining a loan, renting an apartment, and other financial tasks much easier.
If you rent a home or apartment and your lease extends beyond your departure date, examine your agreement for any restrictions around moving out early. Some landlords charge penalties for breaking a lease, but many landlords will waive fees if given several months’ advance notice before vacating, or if you find a subletter. Speak to your landlord about your options.
- 3 months
Contact your bank or credit reporting agency and request a record of your credit history. Although not all American lenders accept foreign credit references, they may help you obtain small loans and secured credit cards.
If you can, set up a U.S. bank account before you leave. This will be easiest if you’re currently a customer of an international bank, as they may be able to start the process for you. Call and ask about their options for expatriate customers.
Now is also a good time to contact the administrator of your retirement/pension plan and ask if you may still contribute after moving to the U.S. Some, but not all, plans allow this. You may also be eligible for Social Security, the United States’ national insurance program, after working and paying taxes in the U.S. for 10 years, but most Americans need to supplement Social Security with personal retirement investments.
- 1 MONTH
Call your utility providers, notify them of your move date, and arrange for service shut-off. This includes your internet, heat, water, gas, electric, and trash collection services. Pay off any outstanding balances to those providers at this time.
Call your bank and notify them of your move date. This will prevent your bank from freezing your account if they see unexpected activity in the States.
Obtain your current Bank Identifier or SWIFT code. This will allow you to transfer funds from your home account to your U.S. account upon arrival. Make sure to ask your financial institution any questions surrounding how to transfer funds.
Contact your local tax authorities, notify them of your move date, and address any outstanding tax bills. It’s also a good time to make note of U.S. tax resources: The USCIS has a guide for immigrants filing taxes in the U.S. here, and if you’d like to enlist the help of a professional, search for an IRS-certified Enrolled Agent or a Certified Public Accountant licensed in your state. Also, gather paperwork you’ll need to apply for credit cards or loans in the States. These necessary documents may include a government-issued ID, credit history, bank statements, and proof of income (typically a current pay stub or tax return). Scan documents as a backup.
HSBC commissioned this article. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of HSBC.