Below we are trying to list the most common information you might need during your Training program. If you have any additional questions, please ask your main contact.
:: First day of your arrival
___ Inform your parents and agency that you arrived
___ Validate/activate your program/Sevis status
As you might know already please activate your program right after your arrival with your US sponsor (listed in your DS form).This is very important and should not be postponed. The program needs to be activated in order for you to apply for the Social Security Card number.
The US sponsor needs at least 2-4 days to activate the program with the SEVIS system.You should only apply for the Social Security Card number 7-10 days after arrival.
Just for your Info: SEVIS status details
Pending - when you get your DS form until you arrived in the US and after you completed the information at the US sponsors "check in" link.
Active - after the US sponsor received the updated information after arrival and inserted the up-to-date information
Concluded - after the end of your program
Terminated - If you do not arrive at work or leave your employer WITHOUT getting from the employers/manager the OK (via email) that you can leave in GOOD STANDING. If this happens this will stay in the record for several years and might effect any future visa application of you or any close family member.
___ Activate your Travel Health insurance (if not already done so)
Make sure your Travel insurance is activated. In some case the company that provided your Travel Health Insurance for the duration of your program needs to activate your insurance right after your arrival. In other cases they might have told the insurance company your arrival date when they bought the insurance. In this case no activation is required. Please check the status with the company that provided you the insurance.
IMPORTANT: You can not be in the US without an active Travel Health Insurance!!!
___ Get a phone chip or buy a cell phone
If you have a good unlocked cell phone in your home country, TAKE IT WITH YOU to the US. Now seek out a provider which offers you a good deal on a NO CONTRACT voice and data plan. Make sure that making monthly payments or buying credit is easy and can be done in different places. As you have no social security card number and/or no credit history, you will not be able to get a contract without paying a deposit of several hundred dollars. As most contracts have a min duration of 24 months and high contracting breaking fees this is not a good option for you. You may ask your local contact what he/she thinks is the best to do.
___ Open a bank account
Ask the employer which bank you should use. Go to this bank and open a "checking" bank account. Opening hours are most likely Mo-Fr 9AM-4PM. Take all your papers with you and at least US$ 50 as you need to make a deposit in order to get your account activated.
___ Secure long term accommodation
Please view the information under the topic "How to secure long term accommodation after arrival".
:: Prepare for the day you will apply for your Social Security Card
___ Take copies of you documents
Go for example to the a supermarket and take 2 copies (one for the employer and yourself) of your passport, DS form*, I-94 form and any other "important" document.
___ Get a mailing address from your manager where the Social Security Card can be mailed to.
Make sure you ask your manager which address you should use in the form in order to have the REAL Social Security Card mailed to you. As it can take in some cases several weeks until you receive the PAPER Social Security Card, it might not be good to indicate your current accommodation address as you never know if you will be asked to move to another accommodation location. After the manager receives your real card he/she should give it to you or mail it to the address you are living at.
___ Find a Social Security Office close to you
Click on this link https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp and enter your zip code. It will give you the closest offices to your address and the opening hours.
___ Get the I-94 number
No paper version is required anymore. Click on the link for more info ::view::
To get the I-94 number click on this link https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/ and after that click on "Already Visiting & Need Proof of Visitor Status?". Complete the form to receive the number. After you got the number, please give it to your main contact at the employer as they need this for the payroll system. If you do NOT provided this number to the employer they will have to pay a fine of at least US$1000.
___ Complete the Social Security form
If you did not get the form before click on this link http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5.htm and print at least the last page. Make sure your complete the form with the main information corectly as it has to be the same as the info provided at your port of entry.
___ Ask your manager to write a short letter confirming your current employment.
*IMPORTANT: (Mostly) only important if you work at another employer/work site location than outlined in your DS form. If you do not have the letter and/or the office requests a DS form which includes your current work site location, please try first to go to another Social Security office as not all offices request those documents. If you can not find another office please contact your US sponsor to request a new DS form with the up-to-date work site location/employer.
:: Day 7 - 10 - The day you will apply for your Social Security Card number
____ Applying for the Social Security Card
After about 8-10 days after arrival (you could go earlier if you must) go to the closest Social Security office and take the following:
__ a second photo ID from the home country (driver license, student card, etc.),
__ I-94 number,
__ DS form,
__ The form: http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5.htm and maybe a __ letter from the employer confirming that you are employed.
The Social Security Card number will be available via phone first after a few days. In some cases it can take some time. Only you can call to collect the number. If there is a problem only YOU can solve the issue.
IMPORTANT: Why does it take in some cases longer to get the number or why is the Social Security office saying that they can not give you a number with the information provided to them?
When you enter the US you will be given a white paper (I-95 form) which you need to fill out correctly. The immigration department takes this paper and enters the written information into THEIR computer system. This can take a few days and that is why you should wait at least 7 days before you apply for the Social Security Card number.
___ Get the receipt and go home.
___ Take a copy of the receipt and give the copy to the employer.
___ Wait a few day until you call the number on the receipt and see if the system generated the number. If yes you can get the number over the phone.
___ Communicate the number to the employer as soon as it was given to you.
The paper card will be delivered in a couple of weeks but the number should be given in a week or two after arrival (sometimes it takes longer).
How to secure long term accommodation after arrival
As a normal procedure, Trainees need to secure long term accommodation for 12 months by themselves.
Permanent housing is always easier to find it once a participant is already in the US and can actually visit places being advertised for rent and then decide on which one to select. However the search for a permanent housing should be initiated while the participant is still in his/her home country
This can happen in following way:
Option 1 (in most cases NO signing of a lease required):
They talk to other Trainees and colleges after arrival and see if anybody has a room to rent in an existing apartment. I strongly recommend this option for Trainees that arrive without other new Trainees as the Trainee often does not need to sign a lease. Besides colleges from work other possible flat shares and/or apartments can be easily found on http://www.craigslist.org/ section housing.
Here are some guidelines:
When looking for housing, it is best to use http://craigslist.org/. Visit the website and choose the state and then the city your program will be in. Then look for the HOUSING section and click on “rooms & shares”. You can specify the town or the neighborhood if you know where you want to live. Use Google Maps to help you locate a town or neighborhood and see how far it is from your work place. Have in mind that you should be looking into renting a room in an apartment or house, or looking for roommate opportunities. You most likely won’t be renting or leasing the entire apartment or house for yourself as they are very expensive and require an application process.
When emailing people that have posted ads on Craigslist, please follow these guidelines:
- We advise you not to say in your first email that you are coming to the United States from abroad. The recipient of your email might believe that your email is SPAM.
- Say you are RELOCATING or MOVING to xxxx (name of the city). You may also include the name of the company where you will be working.
- Say you will be arriving on mm/dd. And will be staying in a hotel for a few days, while looking at different “room” options.
- Ask if the room for rent is still available and if you can schedule a day and time to meet with the person and visit the place upon your arrival
- Do not forget to ask if the utilities (gas, electricity, water) are included in the monthly rent and if not, ask how much it approximately is.
- Ask if they have internet connection and how much it is.
- Ask if there are any other expenses not included in the rent
Note: this means that the best thing to do is to make reservations in a cheap hotel/motel/hostel near the company and near the places where you are performing your housing search in, for at least 2 days, up to a week, to make sure you have enough time to make arrangements and check out the places that were advertised as available for rent.
Credit history/credit check:
Most likely the person renting the room will ask to check your credit record/history and since you have not lived in the US for an extended period of time you do not have one. You must explain to them that you are on a J-1 cultural exchange (internship or training) program and you can my contact information as the person in charge of your program. I will serve as your reference.
IMPORTANT: You should not arrive to your host company straight from the airport. The standard procedure is that participants look for a temporary place to stay in the close proximity to the company (hostel, motel) and then the next day (or a few days later) arrive to the company.
Option 2 (requires signing a lease):
They can also go to real-estate brokers if they want to invest enough money in a studio or single bedroom apartment or two bed room apartment if they have at least another person to share the apartment. Often 4 people try to share a two bedroom (two people share one bedroom) in order to get a nice place for reasonable money. This option requires to sign a 7 or more common a 12 month lease.
Possible issues when trying to sign a lease: Trainee has no Bank history. Trainee has no US credit history. Trainee has no US rent history. Trainee has no Social Security Card number Trainee has to US work history. Trainee has no US person that could be a guarantor on the lease.
Despite those issues often it is possible to get a lease to sign but often only if the Trainee is willing to pay 2 or 3 times the normal deposit which reflects a security for the management company and/or owner. The real-estate broker can support often quite a lot with this approach. In some locations Trainees need to pay a brokers fee for the services.
What do we suggest for the house hunting process:The Trainee needs to have a US cell phone so that people can call him/her back.The Trainee needs to focus on that topic (house hunting) from day one as it might take a couple of days until he/she/they find a place he/she/they like, can afford and that is willing to rent to him/her/them. The paperwork (lease, first payments) might also take a few days. Only the credit check which is a kind of mandatory might take about 3 days.
The Trainee needs access to a certain amount of cash to pay deposit and first month of rent when agreeing to rent the accommodation.
Whatever happens with the house hunting task, the Trainee needs to leave the employers accommodation if provided after the communicated time frame (after for example 7-10 days) or whatever the arrangement is. They can not just say "I could not find anything yet and therefor have no place to stay. So I stay with you." In case they did not secure long term accommodation and/or can not move in yet, they need to arrange themselves or with other people or go to a cheap hotel until they find something. If the Trainee focuses on this topic full time after arrival, the Trainee can find something in about 5-8 days.
About using my Travel Health Insurance
The main thing you need to do it to CALL the insurance (you should have a number in the US) BEFORE you go to the doctor. The insurance will authorize your visit and should indicate at least two doctors for you. This way you should not have the need to pay for the consultation and to claim back the money you paid. Their might me a small non refundable deductible (US$ 20-50) for any incident depending on the insurance plan you got. This info should also be in your papers, email or in the US sponsor online system.
About the total amount of working hours during the Trainee program
The industry you be trained in might be an extremity seasonal business. If so, depending on the city and/or hotel you might be getting a lot of working hours during the high season and during the low season on the hand you just might receive a minimum amount of hours.
This is completely normal and every employee (including the Trainees) needs to understand and be ok with it when signing up for a position inside the Hospitality industry.We also want to point out that a regular employee (not Trainee) will have FIRST priority from the manager to receive a minimum of working hours. That has something to do with receiving benefits like (retirement money, etc.) which a Trainee is not receiving due to the nature of the program. So if you see that a manager is giving certain employees more hours than you are getting you will know why. During the low season, we suggest that you communicate to other department managers that you are willing to work ANY hour (if this is the case) that becomes available. Repeat communicating this in case nobody gets back to you. Be pro active instead of just waiting for you to be called. If you perform well this should give you extra hours.
During the program you will not be able to work outside the employer in order to earn extra money. Please prepare yourself financially to cover your expenses during the low season as you will earn much less due to less working hours
What should I do if I want to leave the US for a short visit during the Training period?
Ask the employer for a written authorization that you can travel.
Contact you US sponsor and ask how is responsible for this kind of request.
Mail your DS form and employers authorization to the US sponsor with the request to authorize you leaving the US for a short visit.
Mail also a pre-paid, pre-addressed return envelope. Because the U.S. postal service can be very slow, we suggest top do it alt least 3 weeks before your travel.
When leaving the US make sure you reenter the US BEFORE your visa expires. You can not enter the US without a valid visa. If your visa expired, you need to apply for anew visa in your home country.
Please note that there is always a risk for you not to get a new visa or that US immigration does not allow you to reenter the US again. As you have limited time in the US we suggest you stay inside the US for the duration of your program.
Paying taxes and tax refund
Everyone working in the US needs to pay taxes and needs to file a Federal Tax Return. If the employer does not automatically deduct the taxes from your paycheck it is your obligation to pay the taxes.
At the same time, though, you are eligible for a refund of the taxes you paid for Social Security and Medicare. In this regard, please inquire about Form 843 (for FICA), and Form 8316 (for Social Security). I am not sure whether these forms must be sent in together with your income tax return or later on.
You can file your taxes online for free, use a Software or use a company like Taxback.com for example.
By around end of March the Federal Tax Return form for the previous year needs to be mailed/send to the IRS.