Relocating to America from Pakistan on H1B
I got a job offer from Yelp around April 2017. That means I had to relocate to San Francisco Bay Area. Today marks my 7th month since my first in the US and so far it’s been a roller coaster ride. It was my second relocation after we relocated to Thailand from our homeland Pakistan. The reason to write this blog post is to help my country mates who will arrive in the US on H1B visa.
I relocated with my wife and son. With H1B, you can usually arrive 10 days before your petition start date so I arrived in states on September 22nd, 2017. Thanks to Yelp for giving me a healthy relocation bonus that helped be getting settled but there were still a few challenges those I would love to list:
Temporary housing challenge
The difference between my first relocation and this one was that we were not provided with temporary housing instead we got a relocation bonus so we either had to stay in a hotel or Airbnb for the first few weeks. Since I am lucky to have a wife who loves to cook and feed us home cooked food everyday, I preferred airbnb with a kitchen and never regretted that decision. We took an airbnb for almost 10 days in San Francisco considering it will give us enough time to get permanent housing but we were wrong, terribly wrong :). That led us to get another airbnb that we took for 15 days in Oakland, CA. To tell you the truth, Oakland time was a bit difficult because it was in downtown that gets a bit sketchy and noisy in the night. We found housing by then but the move in date was November 15th so we had to find another apartment for a month. Thanks to airbnb that helped us again to get a 1Bedroom apartment in San Francisco near Dolores park. On November 15th, after almost 7 weeks of my first entry to the US, I got a permanent house in East Bay and loving it so far. One important thing to note is that you can’t get a house without Social Security number so apply for one as soon as you can.
This challenge didn’t hit us that badly. Apparently, most of the Americans love IndoPak food so it’s easy to find a Halal food restaurant in almost every block of San Francisco(although the food quality varies a lot). Secondly, there were various grocery shops where you can easily find Halal Meat, Pakistani masalas and almost every type of dessert. It’s even easier in Eastbay where there is an Indian or Pakistani grocery store in almost every market.
American health care system took us sometime to completely understand. The countries where we live, having a healthcare plan before going to the hospital is not required. But here in the US, you have to have a healthcare plan if you don’t want to cost yourself thousands of dollars in case of emergency. Fortunately Yelp provides us with pretty good health care options that made the things a lot easier. Must check these things with your employer before signing a contract. Usually there are two types of plan PPO (where you have to pay some amount out of your own pocket and you can consult any doctor within the insurance company’s network) and HMO(where you have to choose a primary care physician(PCP) and you cannot consult any other physician without the recommendation from your PCP). PPO usually costs you more than HMO so I would recommend study about these two options before arriving to the US.
I lived in Pakistan most of my life where tax percentage was between 7 to 10 percent. In Thailand, it was around 15% but here in the US, it’s much more than that(make sure to check your bracket before accepting an offer). Secondly, please note that if you are married, your tax rate will almost be 10% lower than single dudes. But… you can’t change your status to married until you become a resident alien(that happens after 183 days of your first date of entry in states). So first 6 months will be tough in terms of taxation but after you file your first returns(between January to April every year) and get a refund, things will get easier.
Things to do after arriving to the US
There are a few things you need to do before you can enter in the system.
Get a Social Security number as soon as you can. Please note that there is no limit on number of days on this. I applied after 2 days of arrival and I got it within a week. You need Social Security number if you want to get a house, healthcare plan, life insurance, a bank account, internet connection even a mobile phone plan.
Get a bank account as soon as you can. I have a Wells Fargo one and it’s good so far. You usually need a proof of employment, an identity or any other debit/credit card for any other bank in the world.
Start looking for housing as soon as you land here. Bay area is a bit expensive. In Eastbay you can expect $2000 to $2800 rent for 1Bedroom apartment and $2600 to $3400
All in all great experience so far. Highly recommended area for relocating.
Special thanks to my friend and mentor Zaki Shaheen for all the support he gave us.