Moving from India to US – part I – the preparation

India to USA
India to USA (Source: http://pixabay.com/)

 

Before we begin, here’s a disclaimer: this is NOT a post to help you get a visa or a job in USA. This post will help with the things that come after. After you’ve finalized your move to the US.

Me and my family (dear husband and two little princesses, then aged 5 and 2) moved to USA in late 2012. For the first couple years, we lived in beautiful Tennessee. In the middle of 2014 we moved up north to Washington state. All along this time, we learnt a lot of things about moving from India to US (and also about moving from one state to another within the US). Well, we did make our fair share of mistakes, but we did learn from them too.

One of my dear friends is planning to make this move in the coming months and he asked us to share our learnings. That’s how this post was born. :-) This is an effort to consolidate our learnings so these can help others who are going through a similar phase in their lives. 

Once I started writing, I realized I had so many things to share about this topic! So I’m going to break the gynormous list into three parts

  1. Part 1 – Preparation
  2. Part 2 – Travel
  3. Part 3 – Getting settled  

Here goes part 1 of my list. These points below should help you prep for your big move:

Things to do 1 month (few weeks) before the departure:

 

  1. Make your travel documents ready. You need a valid passport and a valid visa for each of your family members, including babies and children. Make sure you have these done. Print your tickets, itineraries for travel.
  2. Make sure you have some accommodation booked for at least the first few days. A hotel room with a kitchenette is probably best, specially if you would be arriving very late in the night.
  3. Make your important documents ready. Here’s a quick checklist
    1. yours, your spouse’s and your kids’ birth certificates
    2. your marriage certificate
    3. your, your spouse’s and kids educational documents 
    4. your and your spouse’s work related certifications if there are any
    5. immunization records of your kids. Do make an attempt to get your kids’ up-to-date on immunization shots as per the regulations of the State you’d be living in. But if you are roughly there, it’s perfectly alright. When you do come to US, you have to get their records updated and there are always some shots that they end up getting here. So if the kids aren’t overdue on any shots, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just make sure you get their medical records though. That paperwork is necessary.
    6. invitation letter / offer letter of the new job you’d be taking up in US. (College documents if you are coming for studies instead of a job)
    7. Driver’s license for you and your spouse – at least one of you should plan to have a valid 4 wheeler driving license before you come to US. As you might be aware, in some cities in the US it is harder to get around if you don’t have a vehicle. When you move here, you’d be looking for a house, may be visiting the school for your kids etc, as you try to get settled. So being able to go around the town becomes very important. You can easily get a rental car, but you do need to have a valid driver’s license. Most states here will allow people to drive on their country’s (foreign) driving license at least for a period of time (like 6 months or a year).
  4. Start researching online for houses:
    1. Deciding on the locality:
      1. In US, each public school has a specific area (zone) that it serves. For your kids to be able to attend a certain public school, you’d have to live in that school’s zone. So if you have kids who are of school-going age, then first you’d need to decide on a good school which you’d like your child to attend.  http://www.greatschools.org/ is a great place to start researching about schools and deciding on your favorite one. Once you determine the school, you’d be able to narrow down your house hunting to that school’s zone. ( A word of caution – even if a certain community’s website has your favorite school as a nearby school, you’d want to double check with the community’s leasing office as well as with the school before finalizing your apartment. Also, you’d want to check if the school bus serves the community or not. For homes that are less than 1 mile from the school, there are often no school buses. )
      2. If you don’t need to worry about kids yet, then you might want to narrow down your house location based on distance to your work place. 
      3. http://www.point2homes.com/ can help understand the overall lifestyle / income groups, crime rates etc of a specific city.
    2. Once you’ve narrowed down the locality / city you’d want to look at some apartment complexes (communities) in that city.  http://www.apartmentfinder.com/,  http://www.zillow.com/ are some good places to start researching. 
      1. When you do like something, make a note of the phone number and during the business hours of that place, book house tours for the first week of your coming to US. 
      2. When you do go for the house tour, don’t forget to carry your passport as the leasing folks do need an ID. Also, don’t just look at the floor plan, look at the neighborhood too. Grocery stores, pharmacies, kids play area, parks, Indian stores are some of the places you’d be frequently visiting. Figure out how conveniently some of these are located to the community complex you are considering.

Things to do 2 weeks before the move:

  1. This is the time when you wrap up your shopping and packing. Before you try stuffing the entire BigBazaar into your bags, check with your airlines for allowed baggage weight. Take into account how much each person can carry in check-in as well as in overhead luggage. Try to stick within that limit, if you would like to avoid paying per extra bag. :-)
  2. Here are some of the things you should plan on bringing from India, because most of these are not commonly available (some of these can only be found in Indian stores), while the others are costlier if purchased in the US vs back home:
    1. Pressure cooker – buy an extra pair of the rubber ring and may be an extra whistle, if you can.
    2. Rolling pin(belan in Hindi, latni in Marathi) for making Roti / Parantha etc.
    3. Travel adapter / converter for your Indian electronic items – this will help your Indian phone chargers, laptop chargers etc connect to the power outlets / sockets here in the US.
    4. Homemade spice mixes – you do get most spice mixes in Indian stores here, but if you have a family favorite, it will be good to bring a packet of it with you. Do make sure you pack it extra well though. Most Indian spice mixes have things like turmeric in them and they can get some nasty stains on your clothes. Put it in your checkin luggage only, do not carry it with you in overhead luggage. 
    5. Clothes according to the season – some parts of the US get very hard winters. So depending on the time of the year and the place you are moving to, you might need to shop for some special clothing pieces – jackets, gloves, boots. Research online to check the weather conditions and prepare accordingly.
    6. Medicines – If any of your family members takes any routine medication, make sure you get supplies to last through the initial month. Each medicine should have a prescription with it from a doctor. The bulk of these would need to be packed in check-in luggage, but if you do need something while traveling, make sure you carry a copy of the prescription with you in your handbag. Also, we Indians have some favorite over-the-counter medicines that we take for common cold and stuff. Visit your family doctor & pediatrician and get a prescription made for common ailments – cold, fever, travel sickness, stomach upset and sore throat. Pack the medicines and the prescription together.
    7. Coloring books and crayons, story books, some board games etc for your kiddos. Sitting in an airplane seat for 8 or more hours is grueling. Specially for kids. How about making the trip an adventure? Give them something to be excited about and entertain themselves with throughout the long journey. Coloring books & crayons work great for my girls. Go for something that is appropriate for your kids.
    8. Travel accessories for the grown ups: Traveling is going to be at least slightly uncomfortable for you too. Things like travel pillows, noise canceling headphones and eye masks can help make things a little easier. 

I guess I’ve covered most of the prep pieces in here. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below and I will answer them as best as I can.

Hope these lists help you prepare well for your travel. Keep watching this space for the next part which will come up soon.

Take care,
~Varada

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