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Your first year in the USA: tips and tricks for a fresh start

“I wish I had known that before!” Anyone who watches popular TV programs on immigration will have heard this sentence many times. To help you avoid the typical pitfalls of the first few months after moving to the USA, we have compiled a list of the most critical to-do's and tips for your new start in America.

Before you move

Before you set sail for the USA, you must ensure you get your residency permit. We have outlined the main steps for you.

Apply for a Green Card

The Green Card has immense significance if you wish to immigrate to the United States, as it grants you permanent resident status, including indefinite work authorization.

As a Green Card holder, you have the freedom to choose your place of residence within the US and pursue any employment or business opportunities. In addition, the Permanent Resident Card paves a path for you to US citizenship.

Among the various routes to the Green Card, the Green Card Lottery stands out as the easiest and most accessible method. Unlike other pathways, such as work- or family-based US immigrant visas, the Green Card Lottery does not require a sponsor or a specific job offer.

Green Card USA

Don't miss this opportunity to make your American dream come true and register for the Green Card Lottery!

Submit your immigrant visa application

The DS-260 form is an integral part of the US immigration process. Once you have won the Green Card Lottery, you will either have to complete the multi-page application yourself or have it completed by your US immigration consultant from The American Dream team.

In the DS-260 form, you provide the US government with essential details about yourself and your biography, laying the foundation for your American dream.

Take the Green Card Medical Exam

Before you can set foot on US soil as a Lawful Permanent Resident, you must take the Green Card Medical Exam. This critical step ensures that you do not pose any health risks to the USA.

The examination by a US Embassy-contracted physician will check your general health and the presence of immunizations and infectious diseases.

Read our guide to the Green Card Medical Exam.

Interview at the embassy or consulate

The Green Card interview is a rigorous process in which US officials assess your eligibility, background, and overall ability to live in America. They will ask you questions about your family, work experience, reasons for moving, and more.

It is important that you are honest, consistent, and prepared. The interview ensures that only those who are truly committed and suitable get the chance to call America home.

If you pass the interview, you will be issued with an immigrant visa. You must use it to enter the US before your visa expires. This is usually within six months of the visa being issued.

Read our Green Card Interview Guide.

Embark on the activation journey

Your activation trip is when you enter the US to activate your permanent resident status and kick off the production of your personal Green Card. Therefore, an activation trip is the final confirmation that you now have a permanent place in the American community.


You will need a US mailing address to send your completed Green Card. You can use the New York office of The American Dream for this purpose if you have booked the VIP rate.

Congratulations on your Green Card! You can now organize your move to the USA at your leisure!

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

After emigration

Receiving your Green Card is just the beginning of your immigration to America. Your first steps in the United States will ensure a creaseless transition to your new life.

Don't panic if things don't go smoothly in the first few weeks and everything seems confusing. You're on your way to fulfilling your American dream, and a little chaos is usual at the beginning!


Our immigrant stories will give you insight into the typical initial challenges after moving to the US.

Apply for a Social Security Number in the USA

When you arrive in the US, the first thing you need to do is apply for a Social Security number. This and the accompanying Social Security card are essential for getting a job, accessing government benefits, and many other things in the US.

Contact your local Social Security Administration (SSA) to submit your application. Once you have applied, it usually takes one to two weeks to receive your card.

Read our guide to the Social Security number

Search for an apartment or house in the USA

You can take your time looking for a permanent apartment or house in the US if you first stay in temporary accommodation such as an Airbnb, holiday home, or hotel.

Consider factors such as location, budget, and proximity to work, schools, and essential services. We recommend using a local estate agent to make the process easier.

Read our guide to finding housing in the US

Read our guide to buying a home in the US

Beware of fraud

Beware of rental scams on the internet. Never send money to anyone without checking their legitimacy. If you don't want to work with an estate agent, use local networks instead, which can provide valuable information about flats and houses.

Open a bank account in the USA

If you are staying in a hotel for the first few weeks but need a bank account, it is best to speak to a small cooperative bank (credit union) in person. The rules for opening an account (e.g., permanent residence as a prerequisite) are often less strict there.

Take your Green Card, passport, and social security card directly to the bank to speed up the account opening process.

Read our guide to opening an account and banking in the US

Job search in the USA

If you do not yet have a job in the US, first adapt your resume (CV) to US standards. Then, start networking through professional associations, online platforms like LinkedIn, and job fairs, if applicable.

You can always look up which occupations are in high demand in the US at any given time at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read our guide to working in the US

Read our guide to the application process in the US


Shortly after moving, you should be open to starting in a position that may not be what you dreamed of. It is common to work your way up quickly (or at your own pace).

Driver's license in the USA

If you live in the US, then sooner or later, you will need to exchange your home country’s driver's license for a US driver's license. The rules for exchanging vary by state. Check with State motor vehicle services to learn the laws in your US state.

Read our guide to the driver's license in the US

Building creditworthiness and financial stability in the US

Without a good credit history in the US, it is difficult to get a proper credit card or loan. However, building credit can be a lengthy challenge. Here are a few tips to get your credit score up and running quickly:

  1. Start with a secured credit card. These cards require a cash deposit, which is a credit limit on the account. If you use it responsibly, you can switch to a regular credit card in a timely manner.
  2. Always pay your bills on time.
  3. If you already have an American Express card in your home country, you may be able to transfer your credit history to the US to get started with a “real” credit card right away.
  4. Check your credit report regularly for suspicious activity and take immediate action if there are any irregularities.

Remember that building your credit score takes time. Be patient and make responsible financial decisions.

Read our guide to credit history in the US

Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

Tax return in the USA

The tax year in the US is different from that in many other countries, and it is essential to understand the tax filing requirements.

Read our guide to the US tax system

Health care in the USA

Comprehensive health care in the US is generally a private matter. Therefore, consider purchasing appropriate health insurance. Here's how you can go about it:

  1. Determine your health care needs. Consider factors such as age, pre-existing conditions, and regular medications or treatments you may need.
  2. Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace (often called the "Exchange"). This was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  3. Explore the different insurance options. Pro tip: Employer-sponsored plans typically offer comprehensive coverage at a lower cost.
  4. Familiarize yourself with health insurance terms such as premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and out-of-pocket maximums. This will help you understand the costs associated with each plan.
  5. While you're working toward starting long-term coverage, consider purchasing foreign health insurance to cover you in the meantime.

If you need to cut costs in the interim, consider using community clinics in an emergency. These often offer affordable services or have a flexible fee schedule based on income. You should also find out about discount schemes, online pharmacies, and generic medicines to keep your medication costs down.

Legal and immigration issues

You must know your rights and responsibilities as a Green Card holder.

Your rights as a Permanent Resident include:

  • The right to live and work permanently anywhere in the US
  • The right to work or start a business in any profession
  • The right to sponsor certain family members to also receive a Green Card
  • The right to travel outside the US and to return
  • The right to apply for US citizenship after a certain period of time.

Your duties as a Permanent Resident include but are not limited to:

  • Following all US laws (federal, state, and local)
  • Filing an American income tax return
  • Supporting the democratic form of government
  • Renewing your Green Card every ten years (unless you have gotten US citizenship)
  • Maintaining your residency in the US

Keep all immigration documents neat and handy, and carry your Green Card with you at all times if possible.

Integration into the American community

Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming experience. However, with its diverse population and hospitality, the US offers many opportunities for immigrants to feel at home.

Here are some tips to help you make friends and find your way around during your first year in the USA:

  • Learn English: Most communities have organizations that offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Many of these classes are free or inexpensive.
  • Libraries often offer free events and workshops that are a great way to meet people and develop new skills.
  • Sites like or Facebook have groups for every interest imaginable. Join a group based on your hobby or interest.
  • Volunteering is a way to give back and meet people in your community. You will learn about American values and often form close relationships with other volunteers.
  • Learn about local customs and norms. This can help you avoid misunderstandings and feel more confident in your surroundings.

The first year in the US can be emotional for immigrants, but it also offers many opportunities and experiences that will change your life for the better! We are rooting for you to achieve your very own American dream and are here to help you through the immigration process!

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