How To Adjust To Life in the USA

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What is the difference between Visa and I-94 expiration?

A visa is a permission to enter a foreign country. Citizens of most countries generally require visas to enter the USA. A visa validity is the period from the visa issuance and visa expiration date. As long as the visa is valid, the holder can apply at the US port of entry to enter into the country. If your visa has expired prior to your visit to the US, you will not be admitted into the country. If your visa expires while you are in the US and you want to apply for its extension in order to stay legally in the country, you should apply for extension of stay or adjustment of status, ask us how.

An I-94 is a form denoting the Arrival-Departure Record of aliens used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). At the time of entry into the US, an immigration officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines whether to allow you to enter the country and for how long you can stay during a particular visit (length of stay). Your I-94 form contains a specific date (or D/S – duration of status) until which you are authorized to stay in the US.

So, the takeaway is, your visa expiration date has nothing to do with your authorized length of stay, you should keep an eye on both of them.

Keep an eye on expiration of your documents!

It is important to know when your documents expire:

  1. Visa expiration: This is the last day you can enter the USA from abroad.
  2. I-94 expiration: This is the last day you can legally be present in the USA.

Please keep in mind:

  • For people on B1/B2 visa: I-94 expires 6 months after you entered the USA or sooner.
  • For people on H1B and other visas: Look at your visa approval letter and your I-94 stamp.
  • Work permit usually is valid for only 1 year. New work permits for people on asylum status last for 2 years.
  • Green card: Some green cards expire within 2 years; others expire in 10 years.
  • Travel document: Check the expiration date.
  • Driver’s license: Often expires on your birthday. Driver’s license usually is valid for 5 years.

Before your immigration documents expire, see an attorney to extend your legal status in the USA. If you would like to get a legal advice or help from the Law Office of Natalia Malyshkina, please call us today.

Don’t lose your documents – Always keep a copy!

Losing your identification documents can be a big problem. We recommend making copies of all your important documents and storing those in a safe place. It is best not to carry all your important identification documents with you at once. If you have lost your documents or your documents were stolen, you can contact the police to make a report and contact your embassy to possible get a replacement of your documents.

K visa – marry within 90 days

If you came to the US on K-1 visa – fiancé(e) of a US citizen you must marry within 90 days from the date of entry to the United States. Fiancé(e) status automatically expires after 90 days. It cannot be extended. You should leave the United States at the end of the 90 days if you do not marry. If you do not depart you will be in violation of U.S. immigration law. This may result in removal (deportation) and/or could affect future eligibility for U.S. immigration benefits.

What is social security number and how to get it?

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and people who are legally present in the USA and may have the right to work.

The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an independent agency of the United States government. Although its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes. The Social Security number has become a de facto national identification number for taxation and other purposes.

Immigrants need a Social Security number to find a job in the USA, get legally paid, to pay US taxes, to open credit cards, sometimes to obtain the insurance etc.

How to get a social security number

If you are an immigrant, there are two ways you can get a social security number:

  • You can apply for it in your home country before coming to the United States when filing an application for an immigrant visa (when you are coming here to live with your US citizen spouse or close relative).
  • You can visit a Social Security office in person. At the office, you will need to prove your identity (passport, green card) and work-authorized immigration status (your immigration paperwork). Social security offices are located in most cities and towns. You can locate the closest to you here: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

For more information about social security number, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/.

What is driver’s license and how to get it?

If you are a visitor in California (over 18 years of age) and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid.

If you become a California resident, you must get a California driver license within 10 days. Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit which residents usually use.

People who are in the USA illegally, can apply for California driver’s license as well. Information about you will not be shared with US immigration. This type of driver’s license looks different from driver license of legally present residents.

You can prove that you are in the USA legally by showing your current visa, I-20 student documents, letters from immigration stating that your asylum or green card case was accepted for processing. You can also bring your work permit if you already have one.
You may be required to take a vision exam, written test and driving test to obtain California driver’s license. You may be able to take written test in your native language, so check with your local DMV if you can take the test in your native language.

For more information on how to get driver license, California ID or register your vehicle, please visit https://www.dmv.ca.gov.

How to open a bank account?

Having a bank account in the USA can be useful to pay your bills and to pay for your purchases without international transaction fees, establishing a good credit history in the USA, renting or purchasing a home, and keeping your savings safe. Usually, everyone is able to open a bank account in the USA. Our clients rarely have issues with opening bank accounts. You can open a bank account even if you are temporarily in the USA on a tourist visa.

What is credit score / credit card / cash card?

A credit score is a numerical expression based on a level analysis of a person’s credit files, to represent the creditworthiness of the person. A credit score is primarily based on a credit report information typically sourced from credit bureaus. Lenders, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers and to mitigate losses due to bad debt. Lenders use credit scores to determine who qualifies for a loan, at what interest rate, and what credit limits. Credit scoring is not limited to banks, other organizations, such as mobile phone companies, insurance companies, landlords, and government departments employ the same techniques. Having a good credit score in the US is extremely important!

A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) as a method of payment. It allows the cardholder to pay for goods and services based on the holder’s promise to pay for them. The issuer of the card (usually a bank) creates a revolving account and grants a line of credit to the cardholder, from which the cardholder can borrow money for payment to a merchant or as a cash advance. A credit card also differs from a cash card, which can be used like currency by the owner of the card.

A cash card can be any card that you can insert into an ATM or other cash dispenser, or a prepaid credit card, or a card with a preset cash value from a particular store (Costco or Subway), which is read by a cash card reader and used to pay for products or services at that retailer.

Pitfalls of retail store card and other credit cards issued by stores

Be aware that Americans love using credit cards, sometimes you can see a person with 10 or more credit cards in their wallet. Some buyers can be impulsive and shop owners know this well. Because of this, every time you get to a cashier to pay for the goods, he or she will offer you to open a credit card with the store, be it Macy’s, Ross, Kohl’s or any other. And to sweeten the deal they will tell you that if you open one they will offer you a 20% discount or more on the entire purchase. Sounds exciting, isn’t it? But be careful, first of all, the fees they will charge you will be several times higher than a regular credit card, second of all, this is a card you can use only inside this specific store, it is not a Visa or Mastercard credit card. Another thing to take into consideration is that if you don’t pay it off on time, the penalty is exorbitant and the store will report it to the credit bureau, therefore it will reflect negatively on your credit score. A good amount of credit card is considered to be 3-5 cards, the golden number being 3.

List of language schools and universities in San Francisco

Our law office can provide a list of local language schools upon client request or you can search local language schools via the internet. Schools are priced differently depending on your status in the USA (visitor, resident or other). There are different requirements to be accepted to schools. For more detailed information, you should contact each school separately. Schools start academic year at different times. For more information you can talk to school’s counselor.

Students – keep your I-20 Form current

Form I-20 is a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Students must keep their I-20 current and up-to-date at all times during their stay at the university. Changes to your program (major/academic program or source of funding) or changes to your biological information (name or citizenship) must be reported and you must submit an I-20 Request to obtain an updated I-20. It is a Department of Homeland Security’s requirement that foreign students possess I-20s that most accurately reflect their biographical, address, financial, and academic information. This is particularly important if you will be traveling and renewing your student visa.

How to evaluate your foreign diploma – Morningside

Often, our clients choose to evaluate their diploma(s) by an independent provider of academic evaluations. This is needed to determine their equivalency in the United States. Each evaluation includes essential information required by USCIS, such as the name and location of the institution, the degree earned, and the date of qualification. Upon request, specific coursework completed by a candidate can also be referenced in an evaluation report. The Law Office of Natalia Malyshkina has been long working with Morningside Evaluation, a leading provider of academic evaluation services, thus we recommend it to you. For more information on this matter please visit https://morningeval.com/.

Online communities and groups

We know how hard it can be to start a life in a foreign country, US is no exception. As immigrants ourselves, we recommend to newcomers to join online communities on social networks such as Facebook, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki or any other were people from your country tend to spend time and socialize. There multiple dedicated groups on each network. For example for immigrants who speak Russian language, if you use Facebook, we would recommend you to join Russian Ladies – Bay Area, or any other group where your nationals are members of. Socializing is a very big step towards living in a foreign country. You may also attend some networking events or meetings.

SFWAR – San Francisco Women Against Rape

San Francisco Women Against Rape is a non-governmental organization that provides resources, support, advocacy and education to strengthen the work of all individuals, and communities in San Francisco that are responding to, healing from, and struggling to end sexual violence. At SFWAR, they believe that no single individual, organization, foundation, or business alone can stop the epidemic of sexual assault, but by responding as a whole community, we each bring our piece of the solution. SFWAR is a women of color led, volunteer-based organization that has provided rape crisis services to survivors of sexual assault for over 30 years. If you suffered from sexual abuse and are looking for help or counsel, please get in touch with SFWAR. For more information you can visit their website at http://www.sfwar.org/.

Police – Do not be afraid to call 911

Sometimes the best way to keep yourself safe is to call the police — especially if you feel like you’re in immediate danger or you’ve been injured by someone. If you have any doubt about your safety, you can call the police — even if you haven’t been physically hurt or touched in any way.

What Can the Police Do?

While you may be hesitant or afraid to call the police, they may be able to help and protect you when you need it the most. Police may:

  • Stop the abuse long enough for you to escape to a safe place.
  • Give you a temporary restraining order, or if not, refer you to the right court agency where you can ask for one, depending on your state.
  • Arrest your abuser.
  • Help you document the abuse, including taking pictures of your injuries and interviewing witnesses.
  • Help you find further assistance in your community by connecting you to a local domestic violence shelter or agency.

Don’t hesitate to call 911 or your local police department if you are in danger. Police in the US is different than in other countries, and they are here to protect and help you.

Thank you for taking time to read the Guide on how to adjust in the USA. If you have additional questions, please call us.