A week ago today I started my brand new shiny role in the US of A.
After waiting for longer than expected in British Columbia (thanks to post offices being closed Friday and Monday for Easter – damn holiday loving Canadians) I arrived back in the United States on Tuesday evening ready to start my new job on Wednesday morning.
But before I could do that there were several further administrative hurdles to leap.
Wednesday morning at 9am I found myself at the back of a queue of mainly Spanish and Korean speaking individuals, waiting like I was for the Social Security office to open. After waiting in line and being issued with a number in the hundreds (how!?), I waited again inside for 30 minutes before speaking to someone.
A hot tip from me to you if you’re applying for your Social Security number is bring ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION. Although it may not say it on the website – you MUST HAVE your birth certificate to get a Social Security number, along with your passport and your brand spanking new visa inside (no visa…no SSN).
I raced home to my apartment (thankfully only 10 minutes away) and brought my birth certificate back. It was a very short wait again and I was asked a series of questions by the chatty window dweller and filled out yet more paperwork. Australians in America forums had led me to believe that I would be given my number on the spot (a number that you need for every employment form ever) and I was told that was incorrect. Not only can they not issue it on the spot for “security reasons” (what?) but because I had had my visa activated for literally less than 24 hours I wasn’t even showing up in the system. I was told I could come back in a few days, line up again and get it given to me verbally.
Next step was a bank account which I needed to be able to get paid direct deposit by my company.
I raced into the office and was welcomed by the new team. At lunch I walked up to the nearest bank (CHASE) and had an incredibly frustrating conversation that went like this:
Me: Hi I’d like to open a bank account with you today. I *just* got my visa and moved here, and have nothing with my address on it except this receipt which shows I applied for my social security number.
Chase: let me check. (Checks with supervisor) No I’m sorry we can only accept an American license, lease or bills.
Me: Really? I sublease and my phones a prepaid. There’s nothing else?
Chase: bank statements could work!
Me: From Canada?
Chase: oh…no. Only from America.
Me:…if I had an American bank account…why would we be having this conversation?
I was stuck.
It wasn’t until a few days ago that I mustered the mental strength to go back to the Social Security office to wait in line again (this time I got there at 8am and was 5th in line, I was out of there at 9.05am…I had figured out the system!) where I was given my Social Security Number. This triggered a bunch of other paperwork I was able to finally fill out and submit to my company including:
-An I-9 (employment eligibility paperwork)
-Health insurance coverage (work handles it thank god – I have never hated the letters HMO and PPO in groups…but if I have to hear the words deductible an copay one more time…)
– A W4 tax form (again…highly confusing and navigated by lovely co-workers)
Next step was again a bank account. I had heard a rumor (through bitching at people about CHASE) that Bank of America was nice to immigrants and would open account for you without a piece of mail. The rumors were true and after a two hour discussion at the bank (where I confirmed as suspected that I have NO credit history in the eyes of America and would have to build it up again from the ground up and that my highest credit card limit would likely be $100…useful!) FINALLY just this morning I was able to hand in the last document in to ensure I am included in the next payroll.
I do not know how non-native English speakers do this. Much of the last week has been a blur of gibberish words. I thought moving to Canada from Hong Kong was a leap. Canada is at least a commonwealth country and has a healthcare system I can wrap my head around.
Never the less, you continue and jump the hurdles as they come at you.
On top of navigating all of this has been integrating into the company – everyone is awesome and I have definitely drunk the company Kool-Aid (especially when I learned I was getting a free gym membership and a brand new phone + free food truck lunches on Tuesdays)
I say this again – moving to a new place is not easy. But now that the paperwork dust has settled – I have to say – I feel rather accomplished.
And in typical LA fashion – tonight I’ll be attending a last minute viewing of ‘The Get down’ with a Q&A with Baz Luhrmann after.
No big deal … Hollywood!